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An Observation on Age

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Hello Younglings,

Anyone who has met me is aware that I'm careering towards later life at a frightening pace. Luckily in the programming world you can surround yourself with younger people and that's a blessing. Most of my competitors and colleagues are in their 30s and that's a very interesting age. 

 

But first some Maths to set the scene....

 

I love my job and don't want to change, I have been doing this type of thing since I was aged 18, I don't aim to retire but if I did it would be about aged 65-70.

 

That means I have a career doing something I love for about 100,000 hours if I can keep programming.

 

To program productively my mind has to be in a good place (i.e. stress, anger, worry, sadness all adversely affect me).

 

Therefore to have a productive life I have to be free of these negative things for as much of those 100k hours as possible.

 

I don't think any of the above is that controversial.

 

Something I have observed in myself and others...

 

In your 20s you are indestructible and you can work as many hours as is possible. Hours worked often equated to success.

In your 30s it is much the same except you'll probably start to accrue family commitments, mortgages etc 

 

As you cross from 30s/40s your body and mind will change, in short you will no longer be indestructible. If you carry on using hours as your measure of commitment and success you will crash (I did in a small way as described here).

 

My observation is that this age is a cluster for mental issues, health issues, life changes. So here is a bit more maths...

 

That's only 40,000 hours into the 100,000 hours!

 

I've also observed that this seems common across all creative professions. We love the creative process a bit too much to be healthy.

 

What advice can I give as someone who has gone through this and is observing friends and colleagues going through the same...

  • Slow down.
  • Edit your life - Delete negatives, this could include "Friends", Family, Customers, Bosses (non-violently please).
  • Hours<>Success.
  • Success=Living Wage, Family, Hobbies, Laughter, Fun.
  • Do more things you like doing and less things that you don't like doing.
  • Be assertive.

You'll earn a lot more working happily for 100,000 hours compared to unhappily for 40,000 hours....do the maths.

 

I'm going to be doing a lecture at AGH University in Krakow on 12th Dec, it's something new and I'm quite excited by it.

There's also some interesting GDevCon and DSH Workshop news in the pipeline.

 

Lots of Love

 

Steve


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Comments
Proven Zealot

That's the longest synonym for "mid-Life Crisis" I've ever read..... 😂

 

But seriously, and unsurprisingly, I agree with everything you write here. But if I would have read this post in my 20's it would probably have had zero impact on me. Now in my mid-40's I can look at this and say. Yep. True. All of it.

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💜


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I honestly think that "mid-Life Crisis" is the symptom and the belief in our own immortality is the cause. I also think society wants us to believe that relentless hard work is the key to success. In their ignorance managers see stress and effort as signs you are giving your "all". Spend 10 minutes in the nonsense of LinkedIn for proof of this.

I guess from their perspective it might be the case, they can always replace us for a newer model after we break-down. Before you get ideas management, this is a bad thing and the cost of replacing broken humans is high!

Steve


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I am 53 years old and I can honestly say, bang-on, Prof Watts 👏

I need to work on the fifth and sixth bullet in that barrel.

Proven Zealot

The "Be Assertive" point is very interesting.

 

Another obligatory reference to Prof. Sapolsky and his studies on the endocrinology of Baboons show that social hierarchies where responsibility is shared but control is monopolised leads to huge discrepancies in stress hormones in the blood between those who can affect change and those who cannot. No prizes for guessing the polarity of that correlation. But of course any correlation to human society or working environments would be obviously complete fantasy. 😋

 

His book "Why Zebras don't get ulcers" deals with the biological effects of stress, the origins of that stress (and how humans are really efficient at generating stress with causes so abstract that it makes no sense any more in a biological context) and ways to perhaps deal with that.

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Well, I've had a good look around and I can't see the hidden cameras, so I don't know how you did it but you just stole my autobiography. Are you telepathic, perhaps? 😄

My life took a hard turn this year when I, unexpectedly and very suddenly, felt that proverbial 'final straw' and snapped. The warning signs weren't so obvious, other than my family telling me off for working too hard and predicting the inevitable, but when you don't recognise it in yourself you carry on regardless.

I now have to carefully balance my dedication to my work with free time off. I'm still a long way from getting it right - my wife takes pot shots at me regularly to express her dissatisfaction with my interruptions to family time - but I'm in better control of my workload these days. Coming to a fork in the road soon, and neither path looks right however. Will be an interesting 2020!

 

Thanks again Steve for your wisdom and honesty - your notes are revealing and enlightening, as always.

 

Thoric (CLA, CLED, CTD and LabVIEW Champion)


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Evolution has taught us to adapt to our condition, so people adapt to being miserable or working unhealthily, this then becomes the norm. Which is fine...until it isn't.

 

Thanks for your kind words man and if you need a chat you know where I am.

Steve


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Rumour has it that I've been one of the muses for this blog post. Normally I'd be very delighted but in this case...

 

In the last decades, I've slowly painted myself into a corner by doing exactly that: Using time as my commodity for growth, and trying to force things to happen through pure will power (and more time). Turns out that time is a finite resource, even for me!

 

I'm not sure how to change a behaviour that has been groomed over more than two decades. That's hard, no question. But I feel that looking at it from a business point of view might help me:

 

It's true that putting in more hours yields more outcome. At a certain point though, more hours do no longer equate to more outcome because the amount of time you're putting in takes a toll on your performance (be it your mood, your concentration, family members bugging you, etc. etc.).

 

Putting on my business owner cap, I have to admit that I'm hurting business with the way I'm working right now, and I can't have that!

 

As Steve said: Hours<>Success. Success = Success. 


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The rumour 1/3 accurate, it's actually pretty common and I was seeing it in several people at the same time.

I was talking about it to some lovely people today and they clarified another aspect to this. It's an incredible waste of talent if you lose all your experienced programmers to management, life changes, stress or worse. Software design really benefits from years of experience and the way we work removes a lot of these people from the profession.

Steve


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Steve,

 

I am so grateful to have you as a friend and I am even more grateful that I get to read your blog posts. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us. 

 

Just today, I posted this on twitter: 

 

Seems like we have been talking to some of the same people 😉

With time, I have realized that surrounding myself with supportive non-toxic people is very important. There is a saying in Spanish that translates to "tell me who you hang out with and I will tell you who you are". Your bullet:


@swatts wrote:
  • Edit your life - Delete negatives, this could include "Friends", Family, Customers, Bosses (non-violently please).

It is a hard one to do, sometimes we feel like we are trees and we cannot move. The reality is that we don't have any control over friends, customers, family, bosses, but we can choose who, how, and when we interact with them. The hardest part is to believe we can actually do this. Whenever I discuss this with others I get the "but I cannot skip that reunion, or I cannot resign, etc", I have given the same excuses myself. The reality is that those huge storms we thought would come for standing our ground and practice good self-care, rarely do turn into the storms we made in our head.

 

Lots of love back at you and for anyone reading this who is dreading the holidays: this may be your opportunity to change how you interact with others. You have no control of how they act but you do have control over how you react.

 

Love,

Fab

 



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@Rich there is 1 more time that "work time" and "family time" and that is "<insert your name here> time". Do you spare 1-5 hours a week to do something just for you?

@Intaris That looks a most interesting book and I very much agree it

@Fab On the scales of decision making it amazes me how heavy fear of change is compared to how light misery in current situation is. But you're correct, it's hard to do. Then again most of the best things in my life have been hard to do...

Steve


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