Stuck in Neutral

Broken Glass Just over a year and a half ago, I hit a point in my career where I felt a change was necessary. What was once enjoyable became a chore, since I was not learning and innovating enough. And as a software professional, being in such state for a prolonged period of time is a death knell for our careers. We either keep moving forward or become obsolete.

After spending several years in the same role, its easy to get into a comfort zone where many things become automatic. With comfort come feelings of security and, if we are not careful, complacency. So, if security is one of human basic needs, then how do we achieve self-actualization in a position with limited, if any, possibility of growth?

Back to Cruising

Last year, I moved on and accepted a software development position with a medium-sized company in a challenging and innovative field. Now, I feel like I am back on an upwards learning curve. Leaving my consulting gig of 8 years and venturing out of my bubble was not easy, but now seems like an obvious and necessary step in personal development.

While making this career change last year, I accepted several basic truths, or, at least, what I consider now lessons in common sense. Accepted is the key term, because these truths are what I had always known, but perhaps not always followed. Measuring progress, proactively going out to industry events and meeting new people, and taking charge of my situation allowed me to breakthrough and make the necessary move in my career.

Truth 1: Progress is Tangible

And, as such, it is always measurable. Promotions aside, if we are not getting new responsibilities or learning new things over time, then, perhaps, a change is required. To track progress, keeping a simple To Do - Doing - Done list of my daily tasks allows me to focus on important things.

Every several months, I evaluate what was achieved and what progress was made. If I cannot see progress, then none exists, and some corrective action is required. Thus, maintaining periodic self-evaluations and following up on them helps to avoid rut for prolonged periods of time.

Truth 2: To Overcome Fear, Step Out of the Cave

Comfort and security are some of the basic human needs. After performing the same role for a significant amount of time, its easy to get into a comfortable bubble and out of touch with the real world. Who knows what three-headed monsters lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules.

Luckily, we don’t have to slay Geryon in order to get his cattle. Hackathons, conferences, and networking events are organized in big cities almost weekly. Nothing breaks routine and deadlock like meeting new people and listening to their ideas and fresh points of view. Likely, the people at these events are just as eager to meet us. Their viewpoints and feedback might kickstart our sidelined project or even present an unexpected opportunity. Going to a few of these occasions helped me commit to the necessary career change and led to an exciting project.

Truth 3: Breakthroughs Are Made, Not Given

One of the biggest fallacies I discovered in my youth is the perceived notion that any hard work will be rewarded. When I was twenty, I lived on my own and did jobs such as demolition and concrete removal to pay bills. If you want to know what its like to feel exhausted, try swinging a 10 pound hammer at the wall for a few hours.. ..Do it for a day, and you might make a hundred bucks. Not sure if that is an appropriate reward for inevitably wearing out your joints by age of thirty.

And yet, I think demolition was also the easiest job I ever had. What’s hard is to develop a sledgehammer of mind that breaks through perceived glass ceilings and allows us to reap the social reward that comes with building a successful career and business. Going out and getting customers is hard. Satisfying them is even harder. Constantly improving at what we do is hard. Producing more than we take back is harder still. Initiating meaningful change that impacts our whole lifestyle is often the hardest…

And yet, I think that kind of hard is what gets rewarded. I am still working on it. Ask me again in a decade.

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