Friend, do you ever feel like you're working working working and nothing is happening? Like a game character running against an invisible obstacle?
That's how I've been feeling lately. Stuck.
There's 3 reasons this happens, in my experience:
- You're burning out
- You're working on the wrong things
- You're a lion chasing mice
And if the situation continues, you will burn out. Peak, a great book on burnout and performance, says: "Burnout happens when sustained effort yields no reward".
If you're burning out
The only solution is rest. Taking time off. Disrupt your habit triggers. Make a change.
I noticed this in Carmel over Thanksgiving. Woke up at 6am as usual, hopped on the computer, and ... just coded.
It was so nice 😍
No pressure to write, no schedule, no specific goal. Just me, my computer, and ideas for improving useAuth.
Yes I'm a nerd and I love to code. It was the lack of obligation that was nice.
You might remember my Freedom From Obligation video from last year when I took a trip to Yosemite. 2019 Swizec was right, you do need a break every quarter.
2020 killed the quarterly trip idea 😅
If you're working on the wrong things
Working on the wrong things feels like running against an invisible wall. You're pushing and pushing and nothing is happening.
You could be stuck in a hole. So focused on what you're doing that you don't notice it isn't working.
What you're missing is hard to say. Could be a bigger opportunity staring you in the face, or a better way of doing things. You won't know until you look.
You gotta take a step back and observe.
I'm reading Matthew McConaughey's Greenlights and there's a chapter on how lost he felt after first achieving fame at 23. Nothing felt right.
He took a 3 week trip to the Amazon, lived like a native, did the ecstasy, and got away from Hollywood excess. The result was a long career instead of a short flash-in-the-pan.
If you're a lion chasing mice
One of my favorite metaphors for life talks about working on challenges that are big enough for you.
A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can't live on field mice. A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride. ... So ask yourself at the end of the day, 'Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?'
The tricky part is realizing when a challenge that used to be big enough, isn't anymore. You've grown.
Your life is like a multi-variate optimization problem. A search through unknown territory.
Hill-climbing algorithms are the best solution we've got for those problems. Build an optimization function, follow the slope.
And when your slope starts to level off, when the gain between steps is getting smaller, it might be time for a reset. You're reaching a local maximum.
Knowing when to reset so you don't get stuck, that's art. Stepping off the upwards trajectory to reset, that's courage.
Deep work December
With all that in mind, I'm taking December off my friend. You can choose to join me or not, this is not a challenge.
No more emails, no more livecoding, no more blogs.
For a month I'm focusing on long-term projects. Everything gunking up the system and pulling in a million directions.
The plan is to finish Serverless Handbook, 4 chapters left, finish curating the Senior Mindset Series, write all new docs and tutorials for useAuth v1.0.0, and create something big I've been planning for January.
I'll publish daily updates on Twitter. Just to keep me honest.
If you've read so far, can you hit reply with a few words on why you read my emails?
Learned something new?
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Who am I and who do I help? I'm Swizec Teller and I turn coders into engineers with "Raw and honest from the heart!" writing. No bullshit. Real insights into the career and skills of a modern software engineer.
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