Take Care Of Yourself And Touch Grass

Yesterday's post received a lot more attention than the regular ones do. There are plenty of things to talk about, ranging from my favourite comments (people telling me I'm right), the most useful comments (pointing out flaws in my thinking), and the funniest comments (Reddit fucking hates me and I think I love it).

The thing I wanted to talk about immediately is the outpouring of individuals who either sounded like they were despairing about their work situation, or who were worried that perceiving things the way I do, I would argue 'realistically', is toxic.

For those who found my writing cathartic and depressing, here are some thoughts on what to do if you are blessed/cursed with a functioning intellect that thinks LinkedIn is full of absolute motherfuckers.

I. Some Places Don't Suck

While I have not been working for that long personally, particularly compared to some of my blog readers who have worked for decades, I think I'm at least reasonably perceptive. More importantly, I don't waste a lot of time perceiving anything that isn't extremely obvious - I just find perceptive people who are much older and ask them what's up.

Plus, thanks to this blog, I suspect that I am able to channel the scar tissue of enough engineers to blot out the sun via my inbox.

For those that are worried good workplaces do not exist, I don't know what constitutes good, but better definitely exists. To quote a friend, working as a private sector director, every large organization has enough problems for them to feel gross at times, but the worst place he has ever worked was a hundred times worse compared to the best place.

If your workplace is truly miserable, it is extremely likely that you can find something better. I'm a young, non-white immigrant with a foreign-sounding name that is only smart enough to program in Python and no network when I moved here. If you are bad at finding work, I will tell you how to do it. It does not involve sending CVs anywhere.

II. Touch Grass

Whenever anyone points out that organizations are frequently stupid, there is a type of person that says "Oh yeah, smart guy? Why don't you just fix something instead of complaining?"

Given what I normally write about, I feel like this demonstrates terrible reading comprehension.

There is another type of person that despairs after listening to the person above. "What's the point in trying? Fixing things doesn't work!"

While you are taking steps to improve your working situation, it's good to think about whether you're wasting energy. I will never tell someone to give up on doing self-work and improving their happiness. What I'm trying to say frequently is to carefully look at whether the system you are engaging with wants to change, and if it does not, don't waste energy. I am making the hard soul read now that most of the readers here are probably too invested in companies that won't love them back.

The way people talk about "checking out", you'd think they actually care about data pipelines more than like, sunlight and music. The most valuable pieces of advice I got from my first mentor/manager was that I should work out more to protect my back and learn how to make desserts from scratch for dates.

III. Work Less

For all the stupid things about technology, salaries in the field are extremely high for very little work (especially if you've talked to a nurse). This is the advice that always provokes the most gnashing of teeth, but if you are young and technically talented, you can just optimize for money and then work less.

I've mentioned elsewhere that I work three days a week now. I earn the same amount I did three years ago despite that. Hey everyone, it turns out that companies really are fucking gross and I'm happier now. All the people that were like "The grass is greener, it won't really change anything?". So wrong. I still have days where cartoon plumes of smoke shoot from my ears like a goddamn train, but then I go for a music lesson.

Note: I am not in America. I'm just like, some guy on pretty average tech money in a first world country. If you have the programming sense to enjoy my spreadsheet rant then it is extremely likely there is a three-day-a-week arrangement on good money available to you.

I have just finished negotiations with another company, well-known enough that some of my readers recognize the name for the first time in my life, and there is a 20%-ish chance they'll give me three days a week, so I'm quite confident my strategy is replicable.

IV. Gratitude

There are tons of things to be ungrateful for (it's one of my favourite hobbies), but I had lunch with a recruiter recently. That was extremely funny for various reasons, but that's for another post. The important thing is that he mentioned he used to be a plumber before he was a recruiter, and it was killing him.

"As a programmer, many of the people I know feel like they don't have real jobs and spend too much time in front of computers."

"I used to wake up at 5AM to dig holes in the mud. If you ever thing about leaving tech for plumbing, come talk to me first."

I may be in spreadsheet hell, but I also had time to hit the gym before clocking in, and am not knee-deep in mud.

V. On Risk

Many people tell me that they can't afford to take a risk, and this is why I've largely not addressed what I do instead of trying to work even harder. I am young with no dependents, and frankly I am frequently extremely stupid. I'd have no right to tell someone with kids, or who didn't have the luxury of moving to the first-world, that they should take risks.

However, I do want to share two stories.

One is I had a friend who wasn't in tech at all, who has slowly going insane in a toxic workplace. We studied programming together for about three months, and he extremely rapidly (with a hefty dose of exaggerating his experience) landed an incredible job, supporting his two children and wife who was studying, then got another raise within six months. He's now earning more than he ever has, in more comfort than he has ever had. It felt like a huge risk at the time, but sometimes it pays off.

I don't have any stories from people that regretted the risks they took around work, but I tried very hard to think of one. That doesn't mean they aren't there, just that they're either infrequent or those people got fucking owned so hard that they've been survivorship-biased out of existence. Have fun figuring out which one it is, because I still haven't.

The second story is really two stories, that are wildly different but also the same.

Before I moved to my new home country, I had a cousin who had just finished medical school. There were involved in a fatal car crash before they could start practicing.

And I had another classmate in a class when I was nearing my final year of university. I invited him to stay with my family back home for a trip he had planned, but when I came to class next week, it turned out he had died in an accident while trying to save another victim's life.

All I'm saying is that life comes at you fast sometimes, and there's a real cost to being miserable too.

With our mortality made salient, the only wisdom I can offer that I am 100% confident in is...

VI. To Achieve Happiness...

Don't use spreadsheets, you absolute sons of bitches. You dogs. You curs. You scoundrels. I will throw you off a cliff, and at the bottom of that cliff will be Agile consultants.