We live in a complex world

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Not about my normal stuff, I think I’m feeling a bit down from not having much of a social life out here – had a friend in town likely sparked that a bit. Life’s complicated. We don’t live in a nice neat linear world where the good guy wins because the author wants it to be that way (or talks about how they should have written the series differently after making billions).

The world we live in is complex. Seemingly random decisions can impact the rest of your life. A flip of a coin over which grad program to go to, a roll of the die to pick between 4 jobs after college, living with all new people my freshman year at Pitt, even the decision to go to Pitt over anywhere else were all fairly haphazard and without much of a plan. I went with a lot of gut feelings with those choices. They’ve all lead me on pretty crazy and interesting adventures. If I hadn’t lived on the 9th floor in Tower A I would never have ended up living with 5 girls my Junior Year and none of the adventures all of my friends had there would have happened.

We don’t like complexity. We like to think that the path that we’re on was the one we were always destined to be on. It’s very nice and easy to look at the complex history of technology, science, and society to think that our current culture was pre-ordained in some manner. So many different choices could have dramatically altered where we are now. Just one of those decisions I mentioned above would likely have altered my life and everyone I’ve met since dramatically. This thought really struck me while I was watching an Episode of Cosmos. Essentially the entire German lens industry hinged on a SINGLE arbitrary moment of kindness from a Prince and soon to be King.

We punish people that remind us of complexity. Think of all the times people talk about “Flip-Flopping” in politics. You get punished for changing your mind because you’ve learned more. When I’m at my most arrogant I like to think that I’ve been really consistent with my thinking since as far as I can remember, but I know that’s not true. I’ve learned a lot and met a ton of new people, there’s no way I could NOT have been influenced and changed what I believed about a topic.

All these thoughts have been rattling around my head because they are essentially making me ask, yet again, what do I want out of life. I have a good job, I’m buying a house, I have a great wife, but what do I want?

I’m working on learning programming so I can start a company, it’s slow going, but it’s going at least. I want to write a book, but that’s even slower going – I’m finding with my current schedule I don’t have time to do both, let alone have a life outside of spending time with my wife’s friends. That being said, I think I need to do some soul searching on where I want my career as well as my social life.

Any thoughts?

How you feel at work

We know that work sucks most of the time. The question is why? My wife and I have been pondering this question quite a bit lately because of her high levels of stress. She’s basically working all the time and has little expectation of being rewarded beyond a raise and the yearly bonus everyone gets based on the performance of her company. Being on call 24/7 with tools that consistently go down as a new employee immediately creates problems. No matter what you do you feel like you’re a failure. This is where the quality of your manager can really step in to make you feel better about the job you’ve been doing. According to a Danish study this is what causes work driven depression, not the amount of work you’ve left to do. I completely agree with this. I know that I’ve gotten depressed when I’ve had minimal work to do and had been successful with my work because I had a bad manager (he was giving raises to the women in the group he obviously had a crush on). When your managers have poker faces and basically treat you the way they expect to be treated, no awards, recognition, and more work with less time for a job well done are causes of serious workplace depression.

The article doesn’t really provide many ways to address these problems. However, from my experience I know that there are some definite ways to address this type of depression. First, look for co-workers that inspire you and can motivate you. Get peer recognition and make sure you recognize your peers that you feel are doing exemplary work. In many cases companies have spot awards – use them regardless if there’s money associated or not. The recognition really makes people feel good. Furthermore, as more of your peers begin to show recognition it will actually put pressure UP to your manager to do the same. The manager will be the aberration of the group and will likely want to conform, especially if manager sees improvement in the organization.

Work with cross-functional teams. You are more likely to get rewarded when you work on projects with larger scopes. This provides several benefits for you, first you learn more about the organization than just your silo. Second, you are able to see how other leaders treat their people and if you like how a leader in a different group treats their people, you should consider moving in that direction. This will enable you to develop new skills and potentially learn the skills you need to get into a job you find more interesting and full filling.

Finally, if you don’t find something that makes you happy at the company you’re with leave. Not without another job lined up, but start looking for the types of jobs that you want and try to find out what type of manager you’d rather work for. In many jobs you can move around enough to learn what you like and what you don’t like. I suggest moving around within a company, then looking elsewhere. Develop the skills you can while you’re at your current job and try to find something you’re excited about.

Many of the people I’m connected with on social media, such as the KBMOD crew have been able to do this, but not all of them have been able to. I hope they’re able to do this soon, I know that my wife will be doing the same over the next few months. Work takes up too much of your life for it to suck that badly. Move on, if you had a failing review a company would do the same with you, why shouldn’t you do the same if you’re company’s failing you?