I believe some of you have got this feeling too - the feeling of being left behind in the race for success. The feeling of not creating something great or at-least not being part of something great. The feeling will be different for different people - like finding a perfect life partner, living in a nice house, earning a PhD, driving a nice car, enjoying the best vacation etc.
For me it is - Am I reaching to my true potential? Am I working on things that will have an impact on people lives one day?
These questions were so serious to me that I started worrying about “wasting time” and “missing opportunities”. I thought I should be a workaholic. I remember reading somewhere on the internet about Bill Gates saying about his teenage years -
“it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success.”
I bet he would have got the same feeling I’ve got too.
And this feeling became intense after seeing people posting about their cool side projects on Hacker News, seeing people doing great things with latest tools and libraries etc etc. I felt everyday that I am not meant to be a programmer.
It was not easy to change this mindset. The first thing I did was to focus on things that matter. Whenever I am going to do something, I ask this question myself - “Does this thing really matter to my life?” And if the answer is yes, I will do it by all means. And if its no, its strictly a no-no.
This strategy worked well for sometime. But then I started feeling kind of burned out. Coding became “work” for me and I started to worry about missing my daily deadlines and todo list. Again the cycle repeated. I started to feel the same thing I felt days ago - I am running out of time. I stopped working. I discarded my side projects. I moved out of my room.
Slowly I forgot all these things. I stopped thinking about success, programming etc. I hiked a lot. It became clearer to me that I am at my true potential when I let things go. I enjoyed hiking because I enjoyed hiking! Nothing else.
When was the last time I enjoyed writing code?
I have to enjoy coding. This means I have to enjoy the process, not the end result of it.
Washing the dishes to wash the dishes.
The joy is not seeing your side project in Hacker News front page. Yeah, it helps. But the real joy comes from knowing the fact that you’ve created something out of vacuum.
Also how about devoting my life to something greater - devoting my life for children, spouse or an idea that will make this world a better place. Dedicating my life to something bigger than me will take all my thoughts of failure away. And it will help me to focus one and only one thing.
I am not saying that these ideas will work for everyone. But these two things - enjoying the craft and dedicating your life to something bigger than you - are helping me tremendously.