The well has dried up but it’s okay

You have just finished work and arrived home. In a bid to make yourself healthier again, you decided to reset your workout routine. And you thought, Monday is a good day to mark the start of your new workout routine. A quick run around your neighbourhood seemed to be the right choice.

After you’re home, had your shower and dinner, you realised you are doing everything else but the one thing you should be doing. Maybe you have to paint a piece of art. Maybe you have to prepare a new set of musical beats for your upcoming song. Or maybe you have to write an essay.

Not wanting to feel like a failure, you tried to get yourself to do that one thing. Seconds went by. Then minutes. Then hours. As midnight draws closer, you recognised the futility of the effort. There was simply nothing you can draw on from inside of you to do it.

And you know what? It’s ok.

Maybe you are really mentally exhausted and couldn’t do it. Or maybe you are really out of ideas. Whatever the situation or issue maybe, it’s important not to blame yourself for this failure. Trust yourself to deliver. After all, you have been doing it for a long time, right? The skills are there. You need to be kind to yourself and catch yourself before you go deep into that “I hate myself” speech.

And what you probably need also is a change up in the environment to put yourself in the right frame of mind to continue. In my case, it was as simple as going out of my room to get a cup of cold water, switched on the air-conditioning in my room and sit back down.

That’s how I break free from my initial writer’s block and write this. It may not seem much but I hope this help anyone who’s suffering some kind of creative block.

Knowing your why reduce odds of depression

Making goals in life is a very human thing. A goal is something that allows one to live a better life than before or to be happy. It could be as simple as, “I want to make x amount of money by x”

However, what most people failed to realise is that a goal is finite. It’s temporary. Most people don’t ask themselves what would they do next after they reached their goal. As a result, when they finally achieved it, they feel like there’s nothing else in life for them to do. They are lost. This is when the people lose hope and slipped into depression.

But it’s important not to confuse this kind of depression with clinical depression. This is a situational depression. And yes, the symptoms are alike but the point of origin is different. You can get out of situational depression by reevaluating what you are doing with your life and taking actions to redirect yourself without relying on medication.

For me, I have been diagnosed with depression. Now I know it had always been situational and not clinical. I’m grateful that I never went on medication nor was I prescribed any. I managed to get out of those episodes by changing my perspective of things in life with the help of friends and family.

And you know what?

I can’t guarantee that situation depression won’t strike again. What I do know is I can minimise my chances of suffering from it in the future.

It is by knowing my “why”. To know why I exist in the world. To know what’s my purpose and my vision of the world. You may be wondering how does those help with minimising situational depression. Well, you have to know what’s the difference between a vision vs a goal? Having a vision and working towards it is a form of infinite goal. You don’t win the vision because the things you need to do is never one time deal. Sometimes you will fall short in terms of results and sometimes you will achieve better results than previously. But you will always have something to look forward to.

It’s like life. You have a finite lifespan. You probably would die anytime between now and one hundred and twenty-five. But you have to live an infinite life. Life still goes on despite whatever happen. Right? There’s no winning life. And when you lose life? It simply means you are dead. Or in other words, drop out of the game.

So now, do you see?

By playing the infinite game of life and knowing your vision for the world, you reduce the odds of suffering from situational depression. It’s all because there’s always something for you to do to achieve that vision of yours. You don’t lose hope nor purpose of life.

I’m sure you will be wondering how the hell do I know my “why”? Or know what’s your vision. I also didn’t know my why for a very long time. All I know is I was happy when I’m left alone to do my own thing, to create something for another person that make them happy. But I always forget about that specific aspect of myself when life hits me hard. As a result, I’m always making short term goals to feel good.

It wasn’t until I discovered the book called, Start With Why, written by Simon Sinek that I found out what’s my “why” and have been actively to keep it in focus while I navigate life.

Here’s one video that I have watched which I hope can help you to figure out your “why”.

In addition, I would recommend that you check out the book, Find Your Why, written by Simon Sinek, David Mead and Peter Docker, after you are done with the first book.

Too much of anything is bad

You love ice cream. So much so that you thought you don’t mind eating it every day and having it after every meal. Before you know it, your weight increases and start to develop sickness deep inside of you. If you continued down that path, the sickness will only worsen. Heart disease, diabetes, and various other issues will crop up.

It’s the same thing as everything you do in life.

In my case, there’s something I did that affected my writing although you may not see it given that I’ve published something almost every day. But deep down, I know something’s not right.

There isn’t much inspirations or ideas floating around in my head to write about these days. I had to sit at my desk doing a whole bunch of other stuff before I can settle down to write something. Even when I do start, the topic elude me until much later during the writing process. Instead of entering into the zone or flow state, there’s a lot of writing and editing on the fly. Lucky for me, I’ve honed my writing muscles far enough that I could do both without obvious slow down.

But it’s something that need to be fixed. So I did a quick audit of what’s going on in my life.

Turns out, I’ve spent too much time consuming content. Again. By that, it could mean watching videos, listening to music or playing video games. And the latter is the one that’s main cause.

Ever since I got Nintendo Switch, it would be in my hand at least once a day for a couple of hours. Because of the amount of time I’ve spent playing first-person shooter on it, specifically Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, I’ve gotten pretty good at shooting enemies despite the weird placement of joysticks (compared to the Xbox). I am able to have the crosshair follow enemies as they moved while another finger is on the trigger button. When I first started, I’ve a real hard time doing even basic shooting.

Sound great? Yeah, it’s good that I gotten a new skill. But it came at the expense of having ideas for writing.

And do you know why playing so much games created this sickness of not having ideas to write about?

Playing games, most of the time, is actually pretty mindless. Especially if it’s a shooter game where all you need to do is kill enemies, reach objectives. Rinse, rise, and repeat. So where’s the thinking in that?

But not all is lost.

The moment you realise something is wrong, you can take control back. The one thing you could do is to cut back on the amount of time you spend doing that one thing. Yes, it’s painful when you have to cut back because you have been getting all those dopamine coursing through your mind. But it has to be done in order to achieve something you want in your life.

With that, I end off with something any minimalist would say, “Less is more.”

Meet short term goal or minimise long term pain

Every day of our lives, be it professional or personal, we’ve got to deal with situations that require us to deal with it now with quick solutions or come up with a better solution and taking the time to implement it to minimise long term pain.

Ideally, there should be a balance between the two but reality tends to force us into coming up with an immediate solution to deal with the current pain. Usually, it’s because someone above you, your customer or that a life depends on it made the issue a high priority.

And it takes someone with experience in certain situation to be able to make a decision that seemingly strike a balance.

As a software creator (I don’t call myself an engineer or developer but that’s a story for another day), I lost count of the times when I have to sacrifice the solution that’s good in the long run to deal with something that the customer wants it now. And then there’s always this “we are behind schedule” speech by the management. So much so, it makes you want to roll your eyes. It can make one feel like the management is always reacting to something and not preempting and executing on a plan.

Of course, perspective matters here. More time spent in doing something means more money spent. The manpower could be better utilised to work on something else that deliver on more value (money) to the company. Not to mention, to the customer, it’s like they don’t get their money worth of goods or services on time.

However, cutting corners on a solution just so that you can deliver on time can lead to long term pain that ultimately translate to time and money wasted.

Let’s take something that I’ve experienced at work as an example.

The system my team and I are working on requires a constant patching of data in the database. It can be either to insert new records or to fix old records with updated information. As the system is still undergoing development and deployment, the data is constantly in flux. And the customer will send us spreadsheets of data for us to do matching and patching.

And instead of spending maybe a week to build the user interface and implement the business logic that not only validates the data but to allow us to upload those spreadsheets and update the database in a few clicks and change existing data all from one UI window, my colleagues have to take the time to review through those spreadsheets. Sometimes, two persons are involved. What any one of them will do is use their eyeballs to scan through the records in order to determine whether to match and update existing records or to insert. Then they will manually write the SQL scripts to insert or update the data into the database.

No doubt the scripts run fast and the database will be patched within seconds.

However, what the project lead and management didn’t take into account of the time and effort needed to validate the data manually every time, prepare the scripts and run them. And that’s not forgetting humans can make mistakes. If the data is patched wrongly, the whole system may not work as intended and then we will need to “rush” someone down to the customer office to fix that issue. Time spent at customer office is time not spent on delivering features.

And if you are someone who panics very easily, and you have to deal with such high pressured situation, more mistakes will happen.

The management of course have a defence. Their stance is that this kind of data patching doesn’t happen often. By my last count, it has happened five times since the project started and we aren’t even at the end yet. And I suspect this data patching will repeat several more times until the end of the project. How many more, I don’t know. In fact, I’ve just recently spent half an hour to de-associate the relationships between two datasets because it wasn’t patched properly. Mind you, those de-associated relationships need to be rebuild again once the data has been reviewed and cleaned up again.

I may not be in a management role but it’s obvious to me that taking the time to build that user interface and implement the necessary business logic to help us match the data, validate the data and update the database in as few click as possible is the better option here.

And given what I know about the future plans of the company with regard to this project, the current way of doing things is just not scalable. Oh, I raised the point a lot of times but I’m always overwritten. Well, mostly.

This is what I mean by meeting short goal or minimising long term pain. There are many other examples that I could think of but this is the clearest one to me.

In conclusion, always strive for the mid-point between meeting short term goal and minimising long term pain by evaluating as much data point as possible before making a decision. It’s especially the case if it’s something that affects your persona life and you don’t have a higher up to answer to. And depending on the culture of where you live and work, you can either fight to the death for what you believe to be the right course, find a compromise or swallow your pride and let the other party win. In an asian context like the one in Singapore, you are better off choosing the last approach if you are an employee at the bottom of the ladder or an underling. Or management will make your life miserable.

Time is painfully limited but…

We all got the same 24 hours.

It is easy to lose track of time when we are busy or when we aren’t being intentional about how we spend the time. For most of us, we probably are like that. And so, we would probably complain about the lack of time to do the things we want. It’s painful for us to realise one day gone just like that.

By we and us, I mostly refer to myself.

And that probably will get a certain judgmental look from highly-productive people because they are able to get more things done during that 24 hours and get sufficient sleep to repeat the cycle the next day.

But you know what?

We are all different, have different strengths and weaknesses. So it’s okay that we probably won’t be able to be as effective at certain task as another person. In fact, it’s stupid to compare ourself with another person. Always do you. If not, you are going to make yourself miserable as fuck.

What you can do is to be very aware on how we spend the time and where did we spend it on. Then seek to improve on your efficiency at doing some of the tasks if necessary. It’s important to take ownership of what you have done and your failures. And never ever complain about your lack of time.

P.S. I was inspired to write this because I found myself spending way too much time on my Nintendo Switch playing Diablo 3, watching Netflix, and then realising I got about ten books that I bought but never got around to read. But it’s the holidays season. So I guess it’s okay to let loose a little.