I continue to like Merlin Mann’s podcasts. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Back to Work. Being familiar with You Look Nice Today I figured it had to be good, so I jumped in without a clue what it was about. Turns out to be centered on:

  • fear
  • happiness
  • no-fluff life hacks
  • creative work

In episode 14, some things that really struck a chord with me were related to job unhappiness. It’s hard to describe my current situation to people. Most people don’t seem to get it. They seem to assume that programming is programming, and that if I enjoy programming, I should be happy programming. No. You wouldn’t question a construction worker that prefers framing over roofing, would you?

Another reason I commonly give is that “the work isn’t challenging”. But this feels like a better explanation:

It doesn’t provide the types of challenges I’m looking for.

Here a great comparison for clarifying one’s use of the word “challenging”: difficult versus stimulating. Both are important, but different.

Writing JavaScript for a user interfaces doesn’t stimulate me. It probably stimulates 99% of the other web programmers, but not me. And it’s plenty challenging. There are many things to think about, to enhance, to design for maximum usability. But no, it doesn’t fulfill me. And that’s related to another thing worth mentioning:

I’m not good at it.

Merlin says the ultimate sweet spot is finding something that is challenging (fulfilling) that you’re ALSO pretty good at. That’s what I’m shooting for.

That’s all for now. I’ll leave you with some mostly unrelated notable quotes from the episode:

“Don’t wanna crush your dream catcher.”

“If you own more than two self-help books you need to stop buying them.”

And regarding chronic self-helpers: “Is it possible that what you’re really scared of is change?”

“You shouldn’t be drinking more if you have to pee.”