Have a silent night, calm days and plan to rest

The end of 2017 is near and the holidays are right in front of us, making everyone slowly coming down. It’s like December is the after work time of the year. At least for those who are celebrating the new year in January 1st., but even when the new year is happening at another date, we look back at the year to see what we have accomplished. Some are evaluating the past year with some kind of scoring system to see if it was a good, bad, happy or sad year. As developer, we might even look back to see how far we went in our own progress and if we gained something at our jobs making this year worthwhile. Yes, I’m talking about the progress of a career.

We work hard on ourselves and at the job every day of the year, gain new knowledge, master some challenging problems or save company time and money by just helping colleagues or using a new code quality tool. As young developers, we see how a senior developer is doing a lot of work in just a small fraction of time while we feel uneasy or even dumb compared to them. It’s like all problems are a piece of cake to them and they seem to have an answer to everything, being dependable and the first team member who you can ask questions. If anything goes wrong, seniors take you “by the hand” and the cause of the problem vanishes into nothing. Some may even be annoyed by them. Still, at the end of the year we take a look at ourselves and realize that we didn’t come close enough to what they are and what they know. What a bummer.

As seniors we compare ourselves to other seniors, friends or even some well known names of communities and conferences and may think, that we still stuck at the same spot like last year. Maybe others got their promotions or worked successfully on an important project making them look like they rose one step closer to… Yeah, to whatever goal they aim for.

All in all, we get the feeling to stuck in our career, but what does the word “career” mean? If we compare ourselves with others, it must be the same thing for everyone and has to be accomplished in the same amount of time. Some people have to work harder than others, forcing themselves step by step toward their goals and witness that others might be much faster, giving the impression to be more competent in the same matters. So we force ourselves to work much harder, ignoring that our body doesn’t work like a machine, while we go up the stairs of our career goals. Every stair tread has the same size but for a tired body and mind, climbing the very same steps become a hurdle. Your battery need to be refilled, but doing so will cost you time. Time you need to invest into your career.

Calm down! You are chasing the goals of others, not your own. Comparing yourself to others means to have the same goals as them, but this is rarely the case. You’re not perfect and the same goes for every other person too. You only see the current career-state of others and not how they reached their goals. Even if you know about previous steps in their progress, you will never grasp how much work and effort were put into reaching a new goal. Neither do you know if all the work led to the expected results or if there even was failure before that. You have to find your own way and that path in your career has to have some silent moments and times of rest.

Resting isn’t just about health

Wasting time by relaxing while others are already planning their next career steps? Stereotype software developers are working until night time to solve problems or bugs, but real life developers should know how important rest is to us. Sometimes it just takes some sleep to solve big problems and in the aftermath, the problem, that was devouring the time of last night, isn’t looking like a big deal anymore. A good rest keeps your mind clear and will make yourself more creative in what you do. This can even be a break for a few days, a short vacation or just a good time at home. You’re not part of a car race where the fastest one is going to be the winner nor is there only just one path for everybody.

As you may have noticed, I don’t see career as a name for rising to the next hierarchy level where you have to be in lead. I even left a lead-position to become more involved in development again. Did I do a step back in my career? No, because I still make progress and thanks to the PHP community more than ever. I know when I have the strength to spend more time on something (like the mentioned night time coding) and I know when I need to settle down and take it slower, maybe even in form of a timeout. This is an important soft skill to learn on your path to whatever your next goal is. Use this season to find your way for your career and don’t forget to take some rest from time to time.

You’d Better Be Good, For Goodness Sake!

The U.S., and many other places in the world, celebrate the Christmas season during the month of December in a HUGE way. Whether you believe in the religious implication or not is irrelevant to the celebrations happening. It is a time of gift giving, sharing memories, getting families together, and being cheerful. But unfortunately these awesome things can lead to stress, and often what is being shared is not very good.

In a holiday song “Santa Claus is coming to town”, the song contains a list of things you should do as a child in order to receive presents from Old Saint Nick. The 3rd and 5th verse both contain the words: “He knows if you’ve been good or bad, so you’d better be good for goodness sake.”

“He knows if you’ve been good or bad, so you’d better be good for goodness sake.”

With this in mind, let’s take a peek at one way we can be good…for the sake of being good. Despite obvious challenges we experience in a modern society. Because being good is a good thing to do, after all.

Why are we bad?

In tech circles people tend to spend more time with tech related “things” and communication is typically remote. (Twitter, Skype, IRC, Facebook, Github, etc.) Therefore it’s too easy to mentally associate somebody with a piece of code, technology, library, or framework. Thus creating an imprint that doesn’t contain a face, personality, or a living and breathing human being with “feels”. In short, we dehumanize humans through association.

No, you are not a bad person for doing this, it is…human.

There is a saying that “Developers are lazy”, but in reality it’s actually their brain. A more proper response would be, “Brains are lazy.” Our brains constantly create shortcuts in how it associates things. By “Association” our brains automatically create internal links in an attempt to make future recognition and recollection easier. The process of how our brains create these shortcuts is nothing new. In fact these have been observed, and written about, since the days of Aristotle and Plato.

Hurting Feelings and Bullying

As a result of how our brains create these shortcuts, it often leads to poor communication leaving much to be desired. I know I’ve been guilty of responding to a question very brash, or I’ve questioned somebody’s methods in a very rough manner. Though I did not intend to be offensive, the communication tone and words I used were not “nice”. In fact my words were very harsh and could even be interpreted as bullying. While the gains achieved by expedience may seem acceptable in the short-term, eventually reality does catch up.

Again, not very good. No presents for me.

Seriously though, people lose jobs, friends, communities, and families over poor communication with others. People get into fights over it, and many other more severe things can happen because of it. This is quite serious.

Get Control

The realization of what I’ve shared above has led me on a journey over the past decade. That’s right. It is a never ending battle, and I struggle with it daily. You should too.

We humans are an intelligent species, and as such we have the mental capacity to change our bad ways. (Unless you are truly bad, then you may get coal as a present from Santa Claus this year.) Please pay close attention to how you are communicating with others. Pause prior to hitting “send” and read what you wrote. Ask yourself, “Is this constructive? Will it halt forward progress, or will it allow those reading it to think of better ideas?”

“…read what you wrote. Ask yourself, “Is this constructive?…”

By doing this I often rewrite much of my emails, and in the process calmed myself down from ranting to being productive. No, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I still make mistakes. But many of my communications are of a higher quality than in the past.


Please take this to heart, and don’t let the hectic holiday season block you from being good. Happy Holidays!