Who you work with is important

You are the average of the five person you hang out with the most. The truth cannot be any further than that. It applies also to your professional life.

As humans, most of us want to conform to our social group and not be left out. To conform, we instinctively pick up on behaviours, the habits and mindset of the social group we are in. And it didn’t matter if it’s bad behaviour, habits or mindset.

For me, I had this sudden realisation that I’ve been affected by what my colleagues are doing and it’s actually quite damaging to my professional and personal development.

Majority of my colleagues are married. So their primarily focus is their family, kids especially. Therefore, they aren’t the kind who wants to put in so much hours at work or to deal with a fast paced environment. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Family is important. Spending the time to ensure your kids knows a loving environment is important.

As a highly-sensitive person who is also very introverted, I don’t like a high-stress or high pressure work environment too. I tend to take things slow and I don’t do well with toxic work environment either.

But I also want interesting challenges to solve. Who likes to go to office, sit there and do the same thing over and over again?

Yet, I realised my drive and desire to do good work has disappeared. A quick audit of my professional life has shown me that I allowed myself to behave like some of my colleagues. Pushing away work that’s not mine to deal with. Rushing home on time when there’s obviously nothing for me to do at home. And even join in a little bit of office politics for the wrong reason. So how is doing all that good for you? Best part is, I’m complaining about my work load. In the past, I don’t. I actually don’t mind challenging programming problems to solve.

In hindsight, there’s a difference between assertive with what you need and being plain mediocre with the things you do. Don’t confuse the two like I do.

And you know what? My audit also show me the biggest influencer on my recent attitude was the one I have to work with over the past year. Her bad attitude towards work has rubbed off on me. Lack of ownership is the biggest problem she has. While I had to go onsite to solve issues, sometimes caused by her failure to do a good job, she always try to find ways to push it away when it’s her time to go to work site. Initially, I turned a blind eye because I didn’t want to offend her since we had to work together on many things. My team lead had talked to me and her on separate occasions about her work quality too. However, there was nothing either one of us can do.

But recently, I had to confront her about why the stuff she does never quite seem to work correctly when you need it the most. I had done it in poor taste, as is typical of me. So it’s natural she took offence and now pretended that I don’t exists anymore. Yet, for some strange reason, I found it quite liberating. It’s like I have confronted what influenced me to do badly and I could finally move on with life.

And nope, I’m not going to apologise. I just have to deal with the aftermath.

With this, I hope you can see that it’s important for one to audit what’s going on with their work life and how are the little things affecting you. Being self-aware and conscious of your surroundings is very important. Less you find yourself sucked into a hole of negativity that you can’t climb out of.

You deserve it

When you live with low self-esteem your whole life, there are many times you just feel like you don’t deserve good things in your life. Good things like a good salary from your full-time job, a bunch of great friends, or an abundance of opportunities.

It can stemmed from constant exposure to comparison with relatives and friends in terms of education, wealth, the house you live in, the type of clothes you wear, etc. Or it could even stem from how you are talk at by people around you.

And so over time, you believe that you actually feel like you are nothing and whatever you do don’t amount to anything. So you put in less effort and feel depress. Ultimately, you find yourself making decisions and take actions that feed into this vicious cycle of diminishing your sense of worth and value.

You know what? You probably deserve that because nobody can really make you feel that unless you allow it to.

I know because I allow that to happen in my life. I allow people to tell me that I’m worthless and useless until the point where I believed them. And so my actions actually reconcile with those beliefs. It also affected how I negotiated for things in life. And the biggest pain point stemming from that is how much you are paid for the work you do.

It’s actually rather embarrassing to admit that I undervalued myself in terms of my salary because I thought that I don’t deserve the higher pay because I concluded whatever I did before landing at my current job was useless and non-transferrable. I came to believe that my short stint at my previous company meant I don’t deserve the higher pay.

And it came to bite me in the ass recently. The news and what my friends have been saying about the state of the industry and how well other software engineers are paid finally got to me. I feel like I’m finally not paid what I’m worth. And then there’s the realisation that the things I do are really too simple. Yet, I didn’t want to take on more stuff because I thought I wasn’t paid for it. Honestly, it’s an interesting contradiction to see and the motivation to do anything really takes a beating from going through this.

Now that is really a stupid thing to do.

It’s the truth that the biggest hurdle to anything you want to achieve is yourself. You just have to believe in yourself and your ability to take on anything. If you have been doing something for years and years, honing your skills repeatedly and going for various kind of training, there’s really nothing out there that you can’t solve. All you do need is trust yourself to solve it using whatever resources at your disposal.

This was why I finally made the leap to quit my job last Friday. I feel like it’s probably time I take on something more challenging typically found in a startup environment and expanding out from just purely development role. Mentoring is something that I can consider doing. So now I am currently serving out my two months notice period. My manager, of course, is now attempting to retain me by throwing in a bunch of carrots. I will adopt a wait and see attitude to that but deep down, I really doubt the company’s ability to meet my request. Thus, I didn’t stop searching for new jobs. What is depressing is that I haven’t been getting any response from potential employers. However, I can’t give up just yet.

The key take away is this: believe in yourself, push yourself out of your comfort zone by a little and adopts a growth mindset, you probably deserve whatever good things that’s to come your way. Just ask for it, and you shall receive. Even if you didn’t, you also won the game. You won by stopping yourself from believing you deserve nothing good.

You are your own limiter

Unlike animals, humans can do a great deal of things. We have achieved far more than any living creatures on this planet. We have built civilisations and organised ourselves that no other animals do, constructed living spaces using materials we fashioned from nature. And we have even built virtual worlds and communicate over vast distances using electricity by manipulating how they move.

Yet, we are all flawed in different ways. Most of our decisions are muddied by our emotions and how we see the world. Because of that, we have people who are over-achievers at one end and people who can’t even take care of themselves even when they are in adulthood at the other end. And that’s excluding people with disabilities. Hell, even some disabled people can achieve way more than able-bodied people.

Our emotions and feelings affect our behaviours and how we interact with the world. So if you lived a life full of emotional scars and setbacks, you can either be very fearful of what life has got to offer or you become very apathetic and cynical.

In my case, I grew up in a risk-averse environment with one dominant parent who is highly-neurotic and a pessimist. You have to listen to all the negative things. And then when you go to school, you have to face teachers who, instead of encouraging you, actually speak negatively of you in front of everybody. Making matter worse, your relatives also chimed in from time to time when you do see them. So you see, when you experience such things when you are between 5 to 14, it’s very easy for you to believe the following phrases to be true: ‘you are good for nothing’,’Can’t amount to much’ or ‘he’s so stupid’.

And in fact, it’s so ingrained in me that I even tell myself those words from time to time when I do face setbacks. Even today, after having audit myself and try to take back control of my thought processes. It’s actually very difficult for me to tell myself the opposite even when I do catch myself doing it. So self-esteem is really low. Self-confidence is also lacking. And being in the workforce isn’t helping at all due to the rapidly changing situations and you have a higher rate of failure than you face in school.

You know what’s the scary thing?

You just automatically learn that it’s best to do the safe thing. Be low profile. Do what you are told. You just watch yourself do those because your psyche is too weak to take any more blows. End up, you are limiting yourself and the opportunities you can have to live a better life.

And I can tell you there are times when I’m just scared shitless for no good reason during the first few days of my job hunt. The “Apply” and “Upload Resume” buttons feel like they are out to get you. A big part stemmed from my beliefs that I can’t do those stuffs mentioned in the job descriptions. I almost wanted to resign myself to do work in a company that it’s obviously a wrong fit for me. Well, I could and can feel it in my bones. But the moment I got started hitting the first “Apply” button, the fear just disappear. It’s now boil down to whether I want to work for that company before hitting the button.

This is something I need to remind myself every time. There’s no one stopping me from doing anything I want. Only I can stop me from doing anything I want. So if I want to join some of the biggest names in tech, I can. I just have to find a way to convince the hiring managers I’m a good fit.

The curious case of missing motivation

In order for us as humans to do many of the things in life, we need to have the motivation to do them. It is mostly generated by our desire to improve our lives, to help others or to achieve something. It is also a form of energy source, so to speak. Without it, we are just directionless in life.

However, there are times when it is just not available for you to draw upon.

In my case, I really want to create something. I want to write. I want to code. However, I keep finding myself in the situation where even after opening up the text editor or code editor, I just stared at it. For minutes. For hours. And instead of crying at the blank canvas, I didn’t wallow in self-pity. I forced myself to write something. A line of code. A sentence. It doesn’t matter.

As soon as I start, it’s gone. The motivation to continue is just gone. Self-loathing sets in. Before long, I find myself back at Netflix, staring at the vast catalogue of shows to watch, only to find myself giving up at the thought of picking something to watch.

Best part is, despite all the talks and conversation I have had with my friends, I still can’t get the drive to do anything. Initially I will feel very inspired and want to achieve something. The next minute, I’m already running on empty.

It’s frustrating. And I’m not quite sure what’s going on either.

But one mustn’t give up. The ability to continue to do what you need to be doing despite running on empty demonstrate your grit ability. And I need to find out the root cause for this leakage.

Complaining get you no where, only action will

Many of us, including myself, go through life predicated on complaining and blaming the world for things that went wrong and will go wrong. Many times, we aren’t even conscious of the fact we are complaining. It’s just something that we do out of habit. In part, it could be because of how we were brought up by our parents. Another part could be because we are lazy as fuck and would rather blame the world for everything instead of fighting for a way out of our circumstances, whatever that may be.

Complaining by itself isn’t all bad. It allows us to point out the bad stuff that happened in our life and hopefully get some attention to it. However, it is bad if nothing is done with regard to the situation. It’s like you are behaving like a child. Children complain because there are really times they aren’t able to deal with a situation effectively and require adults to help. But if you are an adult, you should have pretty much figure out by now what you can do and cannot do. And some things are just best left as it is. Unless, you have lived a very sheltered life and never got the chance to mature.

But I also recognise that the complaining habit is difficult to break, especially if you have grown up in an environment where complaining is the default behaviour and that your complaining have always gotten you what you wanted. I know because that’s what I went through.

In fact, I’m guilty of some complaining even at this stage despite my best effort to be conscious of it and then seek to actively change my circumstances. I’m somewhat complaining and whining to myself about the writing situation. The good thing was I didn’t vocalise because I recognise it’s on me to fix the situation. I know I have fallen off the bandwagon with the lack of content and even my fiction writing isn’t going anywhere. No amount of complaining to people around me is going to help. Rather, I’m doing an internal complaint to myself about why I’m not doing anything about the situation.

With that, I spur myself into taking action. Forcing myself to do some writing. I even put on my AirPods and blast some music to get me prime for it. And here I am writing this entry.

The next thing I’m guilty of complaining about was the situation at work. It has gotten to a point where I’m really unhappy. Feeling that you are underpaid, under-appreciated and overwork can really do your morale in. Then, there is the lack of opportunities to develop your engineering and design skills. You are really just going through the motions. Furthermore, the fact you have to deal with colleagues that has far more years of work experience can’t seem to make technical decisions just made the whole situation untenable and unsustainable. Last but not least, you are on the receiving end of your colleagues’ bad-mouthing about work not done when it fell onto their lap due to a sudden development schedule change that you have no control of.

However, no amount of complaining is going to change my work situation. Thus, this is the time where action matters. Update your resume. Firing off emails to potential employers as part of your job hunt. You don’t even need to start with many employers. Just one will do. It’s to kickstart your momentum. Mind you, just a few months ago, I was complaining about the work situation but I didn’t do anything about it. I gave myself several excuses to stay on. I was actually comfortable with the job itself, needed the money to fund my writing, and wasn’t sure if I could get the same work-life balance that I have now for me to do my writing. Now, I feel like I have regressed in my personal growth.

And I did those things. Now I feel like I have achieved something instead of complaining and wallowing in self-pity. And I feel good about it.

A friend recently also point out the uselessness of complaining and cite me as one example. You see, I care deeply about my privacy and there are times when I really just want to go off the grid and delete every single online account that I have created and used. But instead of complaining purely about how Facebook is anti-privacy and steal all our data, I went and deleted my account. Whether Facebook keeps my account data forever or actually delete all traces of it is something I can’t control and besides the point. The point is I took action, no matter how minor or minuscule in grand scheme of things.

In conclusion, you can complain and get stuff out of your chest. However, be aware of what you are saying and doing. Don’t let complaining be the only thing you do when things don’t go your way. Take action and make the necessary adjustment.