I went from a broken guy who didn't want anything in his life to the happiest man in the world that enjoys his job and doesn't take anything for granted. When I look back at my life 10 years ago, I always want to go back and talk to myself. There are so many things that I would say to a younger me.
The period from the 2008 till 2014 was the worst period of my life. I've barely graduated from Kharkiv state Academy of Culture as a television director. A long chain of constant failures in different areas of my life led me to a depression. I was smocking, drinking alcohol, eating junk food, swearing a lot and hating all the people in the world for no reason. I looked at the world in gray colors.
In 2015, I was lucky to quit eating junk food, smocking and drinking alcohol. Instead, I've started drinking a lot of water and eating healthy food. I was able to fix all of my teeth because they were all ruined badly after 10 years of smocking. Dentists put crowns on those teeth that could've been saved, others were so ruined that the only way was to just remove them.
You probably don't believe me, but I was enjoying all of those long hours of pain that I spent in a dentist's chair. Because I knew that after the pain is over, I could no longer be ashamed of my smile. I took me 3 months, I was smiling almost everywhere after that.
As my life was noticeably changing, I've started learning English, HTML and CSS. But the topic of this article is not my past, but rather things that I do to stay motivated and happy no matter what I do.
We take so many things for granted, we stop appreciating things that we are lucky to have. You can't enjoy your job if you don't enjoy your life, so we'll talk about key ingredients to stay happy and enjoy your job.
Everyone who's reading this article is going to take something out of it. You're not going to waste your time reading it. I've collected different ideas from brilliant and smart people that helped me to become a disciplined and fully content individual.
To make this article even better, I've also included several productivity tips that helped me when I was struggling with self-discipline. Even though this article is not about disciplining yourself, but I'll touch it as well.
I put problem-solving on the first place because I think that it's one of the main attributes that a software developer must have to be a professional. If you don't have a desire to help people and solve their problems, then what's the point in your work at all?
I really love these words from Rasmus Lerdorf on We Are Developers congress in Berlin.
Development is a tool to solve real problems in a world. It doesn't matter that much, PHP doesn't matter that much, the tool doesn't matter, it's what we solve, it's what we do with the tool. PHP is just a hammer, it's irrelevant, all the tools are hammers, in and of themselves they're irrelevant, what we do with them is super, super important.
Those people that you see on social media doing language wars, complaining about one language and praising another, are completely lost. They don't see a bigger picture.
Picking up languages is the easy part, it's harder to understand the problem, come up with a working solution and implement it. People don't hire us to write code, they hire us to solve their problems because they don't know how to do it themselves.
If your phone stop working all of a sudden, you're not going to disassemble it and look for a solution to fix it. You'll give it to professionals that know how to deal with these kinds of problems.
If your work is pointless and doesn't make even a small difference in the world, you're going to burn out. According to Blind, close to 60% of developers suffering from burnout. That's a big deal in our profession.
To prevent the burnout, I often remind myself that I have special knowledge. Only few people have it. I consider this knowledge as my power. Because that's the thing I do the best. And as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.
Reminding myself that I'm responsible for helping people to improve their lives because I have special knowledge, motivates me on doing any kinds of programming tasks. And when I see a big messy chunk of code that I've written 2 years ago, I do not leave it untouched, I refactor it because I've accepted the responsibility.
I love these words from Mick Ebeling about helping others to solve their problems:
I think that's the whole point of Not Impossible. Don't sit back and wait for someone else to go do it, you gotta go do it yourself. Because if you don't, who will?
Are you going to refactor that chunk of code that is difficult to read? It's great that you didn't write it, but the author of that ugly piece of crap is not working on this project anymore. Are you going to leave it to someone else? Or, you'll take the responsibility, create a separate branch, refactor it and make a pull request. It's up to you. Just remember, if you don't, who will?
Evans Data Corporation announced the results for their Global Developer Population and Demographic Study, which suggests that there are 26.9 million developers in the world in 2021. According to worldometers.info website that keep tracks the population of the earth, there are 7,8 billion people in the world.
With this data, we can easily calculate that there only 1 developer per 290 people in the world. Well, this number is not so impressive. There might be 26.9 million developers in the world, but not everyone can work with the same languages and tools that you can.
There are 6.5 million PHP developers in the world, it's 1 developer per 1200 people. But what if a person want's to hire a PHP developer that can build a website with Laravel framework in Docker containers. Let's assume that 10% of all PHP developers can do such tasks. It's going to be only 1 developer per 12000 people.
Of course, these numbers are not 100% accurate. They could be higher or lower, we don't know. Imagine a city with population of 12000 people, and you are the only person who can create an app with Laravel and Docker. That's quite impressive that you can be so unique.
Another thing that I'm constantly doing is I always trying to work on projects that I'm interested in and programming languages that I love to work with. I know it sounds like something rare, but trust me, that's precisely what I do, and I hope you do it as well.
It wasn't always the case, there were times when I was forcing myself to do things that I enjoy doing today. All I did is I've changed my perspective, the way I look at things and think. I was lucky to come across a Joseph Rodrigues' YouTube channel that helped me to do it.
In one of his videos, he talks about this idea of self-talk. I've never liked self-talks because it never worked for me in the past, but I've decided to give it a try because Jeseph Redrigues' content impressed me. After a couple of months, I realized that things started to change the way I wanted.
When I'm working on a project or writing articles, or doing any other job that is related to my goal, I remind myself that the job that I'm currently doing is something that I want to do every day. And I don't want to do anything else but this.
It's sound simple, but it's very effective. It changes the way you think about your job, and all of a sudden, you find yourself enjoying your work more and more. I highly recommend Joseph's channel, it's excellent in my opinion.
Another thing that might help you to enjoy your job is starting an open-source project or start contributing to existing repositories. It not only helps you to grow as a developer, but it helps in collaborating with other people and expanding your communication skills, if that's what you want, of course.
We've been programmed through motivational videos and social media that to be good at something, we need to hustle and work hard. But in reality, we don't.
Philosopher and poet Henry David Thoreau in his journal once noted the following:
Why should the hen set all day? She can lay but one egg, and besides she will not have picked up materials for a new one. Those who work much do not work hard.
Henry David Thoreau
From my experience, I've noticed that it's not about how many hours per day I'm working, it's more about what I do. I used to force myself to study new programming languages, force myself to work on projects that I didn't like. Even though I loved my job, I wasn't enjoying it many times. It's because I always though that I need to work hard to be a professional, and I didn't see another way.
If you believe that money is a net result of hard work alone, perish the thought.
Think and Grow Rich: Napoleon Hill
When I've started using self-talk, I've started telling myself that working as a software developer is an easy job for me. I've started truly believing in it, and repeating it over and over again. Once I've started believing, things started to change. I've noticed that in situation where I would be frustrated, I'm patient. In situations where I was bored, I'm excited. Just thinking in my head that I'll be working tomorrow is making me excited and happy because this is the best job on the planet Earth, and I don't want to have any other job.
When I started out to learn web development, I didn't have a nice place to work, much less to have a computer. I've used my brother's computer when he wasn't at home. After 3 months I've managed to buy my first laptop with a help of my family. It was $400 Dell Inspiron 3567.
This photo I took when I first got it from the store. On the screen, you can see I'm updating Ubuntu version to 18.04.
I was incredibly happy to work on it, even though it wasn't a mighty laptop. I'm sure you've experienced the same feelings when you bought a laptop for yourself. The own computer gave me the ability to continue learning web development and LAMP stack. It gave me enough confidence to start working on real projects and earn money.
I've worked 2 years with this machine, and during this time I didn't buy any computer related stuff. Even though I was progressing and growing, my setup didn't change. That's where I've started slowing down and not enjoying my work anymore. It's because I didn't have a reward.
I was shocked by seeing my self-discipline is slowly going away. I've started questioning my career choice, not realizing what is going on with me. So, I've started to search answers on the internet. Furthermore, I was looking for suggestions on what book should I read about self-discipline, and many people suggested "Atomic Habits" by James Clear.
This book had a big influence not only on my life but on thousands lives of people who read it. In this book, he talks about four simple steps to build a habit. They are: cue, craving, response and reward. I recommend you to read the book to understand all of these steps. Here's the note that I took from this book:
Rewards are the end goal of every habit. The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward. We chase rewards because they serve two purposes: (1) they satisfy us and (2) they teach us.
Reward, that's the ingredient I was missing from my recipe of success. I've never rewarded myself with buying new things other than buying clothes twice a year. After finishing the book, I've started rewarding myself for good habits and I removed the reward from doing bad habits, and I still doing it. I'm not perfect at it, but I'm doing my best.
Today, my workplace is not like it was 4 years ago. I was constantly buying better things to match the picture that I had in my head. This way, I was rewarding myself for the work I put in.
Now I have everything that I need to do my job and learn new things. I can open up my IDE with a browser and I never experience any lags. I can work in 3 windows in my editor to prevent constant alt-tabbing. All these benefits add up to your productivity and joy. Don't forget that you have the best job that you can possibly have.
Keep your room and workplace clean and tidy, even if you work in the office. I think that with organizing your room comes organizing your mind. You don't have to do it to enjoy your software developer job, but it will be a big bonus. At least for me, it did.
The topic of this article is actually a lot harder that I've expected. It's hard to resonate with people because it's such a big topic. There are so many things that may or may not affect your mental state. Overall, I think that if you are not happy in life, you're not going to be happy in this profession or any other profession that exist.
I've dedicated many years of figuring out the meaning of my life and studying from smart people how to be happy. For someone, happiness is just a part of his life, he doesn't need to fight for it, it's already there. Other people are suffering from depression and living an unhappy life, not knowing how to get out of it. It's different for everyone.
There are things that I didn't talk about in this article. A big part in transitioning from a depressed past was meditation. I can't stress it enough how your life is changing when you do it at least 15 minutes per day. You start noticing things in day to today life that you didn't notice before.
I might walk somewhere and just stop for a moment and enjoy watching a bird on the tree. Or just watch the full moon in the sky, for some reason, it's so enjoyable to do. I just assume that it comes from meditating for almost 2 years, but I really don't know where it came from. Because you can't really see the benefits of meditation, and you shouldn't even think about them, you simply do it without a purpose.
Another thing is eating. I haven't talked about that because I think everyone knows that food highly affects your mental and physical state. Like they say: You are what you eat. I think 50% of everything that I did to be happy came from quitting to eat the junk food. It's powerful, but again, I'm not going to talk about it, it's the most obvious thing.
Be careful how you talk to yourself because you are listening.
❤️ Thanks to Priscilla Du Preez for the beautiful photo for this post.