all posts tagged 'career'

Defensive and Skeptical

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Where I have settled in my own work is to strive to keep some meaningful part of my mindset hungry and foolish. To continue to be open to new opportunities and eager to explore them. I don’t want to end up miserly defending what I have already achieved, I want a professional life still rich with tackling interesting problems.

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Dear Self; we need to talk about ambition

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Like the programming path, the legible independent ambition path works for some people, but not you. The things you do when pushed to Think Big and Be Independent produce incidental learning at best, but never achieve anything directly. They can’t, because you made up the goals to impress other people. This becomes increasingly depressing, as you fail at your alleged goals and at your real goal of impressing people. 

So what do we do then? Give up on having goals? Only by their definition. What seems to work best for us is leaning into annoyance or even anger at problems in the world, and hate-fixing them. 

You’ve always hated people being wrong, and it turns out a lot of things can be defined as “wrong” if you have the right temperament. Women’s pants have tiny pockets that won’t fit my phone? Wrong. TSA eating hours of my life for no gain? Wrong. Medical-grade fatigue? Wrong. People dying of preventable diseases? Extremely wrong. And wrong things are satisfying to fix.

Yesterday, I was doing the dishes when I saw a mostly eaten yogurt cup laying in the sink.

As I started rinsing it out, I wondered whether I should throw it in the garbage or the recycling bin.

I thought about this quiz game that my county has on their website where they present various household items and you have to say whether it can go in the recycling, compost, or garbage.

The last time I played it, I found myself just getting mad.

Mad that I was getting questions wrong.

Mad that I can’t tell if this quiz is up to date with the latest recycling advice.

It occurred to me, while rinsing the cup, that I don’t really like learning most things for fun. I learn them because I like to ensure I have the best chance at complying with the rules.

I like passing through the hoops that were laid out for me.

I liked school so much because there was a clearly defined metric for success and failure.

But as I’m now 36 years old, success doesn’t really get defined in that way anymore.

I am glad this article surfaced in my Instapaper queue this morning, because I think it’s mostly the article I would’ve written for myself.

I really enjoyed the author’s advice on determining authentic motivation, viewing procrastination as a workers’ strike, and realizing that your taste will often outpace your abilities.

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The Engineer/Manager Pendulum

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The best frontline eng managers in the world are the ones that are never more than 2-3 years removed from hands-on work, full time down in the trenches. The best individual contributors are the ones who have done time in management.

And the best technical leaders in the world are often the ones who do both. Back and forth.  Like a pendulum.

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I Accidentally Saved Half A Million Dollars

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I saved my company half a million dollars in about five minutes. This is more money than I've made for my employers over the course of my entire career because this industry is a sham. I clicked about five buttons.

Oof, this is a very good read that hits pretty close to home. I’ve seen stuff like this in several organizations I’ve worked with.

I wonder why it’s so prevalant?

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The Year in Quiet Quitting

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As we approach the sixth month of debate over this topic, what’s interesting to me is not the details of quiet quitting, or even the question of how widespread the phenomenon actually is, but our collective reaction to its provocations: we’re simultaneously baffled and enthusiastic. To understand this complicated reality, it helps to adopt a generational lens.

Though quiet quitting has gathered diverse adherents, its core energy comes from knowledge workers who are members of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012). This is reflected in the movement’s emergence on TikTok, and in the survey data.

Indeed, a look backward reveals that knowledge workers in every previous generation seem to have experienced a similar pattern of work crisis followed by reconceptualization.

It’s probably no surprise to readers of this site that I am a Cal Newport fan, but I really appreciate his summary of the quiet quitting movement.

The interesting part of this article is how he discusses how each generation views employment. It appears every generation since WWII has a similar crisis.

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Your Career Is Just One-Eighth of Your Life

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According to the website 80,000 Hours, the typical career is just that: 80,000 hours long. That’s an almost unfathomable amount of time. But life is long too. The typical person is alive for slightly more than 4,000 weeks, and awake and conscious for the equivalent of 3,000 weeks. When you do the basic math on 80,000 hours, you discover that the average career is roughly the equivalent of 480 sleepless weeks of labor. A little bit more math, and you realize that the typical person has five waking hours of not working for every one hour of their career.

Work is too big a thing to not take seriously. But it is too small a thing to take too seriously. Your work is one-sixth of your waking existence. Your career is not your life. Behave accordingly.

I also liked Derek Thompson's advice about chasing the job you want, not the title you want to tell people you have.

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Remote Losers

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Competition legitimizes the winners. A job candidate chosen after interviewing and testing 1000 candidates is considered more legitimate and assumed to be more qualified than someone who was hired without an elaborate and intense process.

But that's not how it works, according to two studies from researchers at Oxford and The University of Gothenburg. In Does the cream rise to the top?, Thomas Noe and Dawei Fang try to determine whether the winners of highly competitive, high-stakes contests are talented or merely lucky.

My high school football coach always said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

If that’s the case, putting yourself in a position to get more opportunities is really the best way to win in a remote market.

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Four Questions To Ask Yourself Before Taking on a New Project

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  1. Do I have the time?

  2. Do I have the mental space?

  3. Is this project aligned with my values and the change I want to create in the world?

  4. Will it energize me?

I posted these questions here for a quick reminder to my future self, but you should read the whole thing to get clarity around how to answer these questions.

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Long feedback loops

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In the best case scenario, we create routines to hypnotize ourselves into repetition. We have loved ones and mentors who tell us to keep going, and help us figure out when we’re on the wrong track. We look for signs that we’re getting better, but we also understand that the process of getting really, really good at something sometimes just feels like a incoherent slog. If we’re lucky and resourceful and creative, we’ll eventually break through the membrane and find ourselves on the other side we’ve been clawing towards for so long.

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How can I make $500k/year?

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If you are not already making $500,000 compensation in your job, there are five steps to getting you there.


(1) Do everything you say you are going to do.

(2) Manage your boss and colleagues — don't make them spend time managing you.

(3) Proactively help the organization.

(4) Be positive (don't complain). Be a “yes, and” person.

(5) Report to someone making over $500k.

The summary is helpful for reference, but Auren Hoffman’s entire reply is quite useful if you would like to make more money doing what you do.

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