Do you feel the same?

We all like to perceive ourselves as 100% professionals, real craftsmen, brushing up and sharpening our toolset all the time. And whole community requires us to do so: attend a conference, write a blog, learn a new language, present something at a local meet-up, tweet something interesting, write an open source tool that will be used by developers from every continent. The list seems endless.

But unfortunately reality isn’t so bright. There are high expectations to be met by every, single aspiring developer. And even if I try not to disappoint myself, sometimes I fail. I fail miserably and consciously. And in such moments of my life I know that I am 9-17 developer. And deeply inside I hate myself for that.

Untold truth

We tend to keep it underneath, showing only our fully professional face: “I don’t play computer games” they say, “I read five blog posts every evening”, “I don’t watch stupid TV series”. But in most cases this is simply a lie. A lie prepared for other people in our industry to show-off as a pure professional, a role model to admire. And the more we lie the more we hate ourselves for not living up to expectations that surround us and that we have created ourselves.

The truth is completely different. I like to laze about from time to time, there are evenings I spend on watching football highlights or CSI: Miami episode with my Wife. I try to read 10 pages of technical book every day, but there are weeks that I don’t read anything related to work. I just don’t. Instead I do play computer games or read something for entertainment (I call it off-topic books), recently I’ve finally managed to win Champions League in Football Manager with my small, favourite club – the achievement that I’ve never been able to unlock since I was 15. And I was really, really happy, despite the fact that “wasted” several hours of my life.

Stop denying

There are periods of time when we are really in “self-development” mode: we create, we read, we learn. But there are also days when a silent voice in our head says: let’s do something cool and useless. And instead of hating ourselves, we should accept that we are not ideal human beings like whole craftsmanship movement wants us to be. We should embrace moments of both types: these effective, spent on learning and improving skills but also these lazy, non-productive ones. I think that they are inevitable part and parcel of our lives, these moments of childish levity and pure joy of doing something completely useless. And they allow us to gather motivation and refill energy to start doing something valuable again.

So maybe we should accept it instead of hiding it deeply inside and bashing ourselves. It is more honest and definitely more healthy approach.

  • Kamil Gorlo

    Congrats on Football Manager trophy, nice one! 🙂

    Regarding rest of the article – couldn’t say it better. Sanity is very important and there is no need to make our lifes harder because of unrealistic goals and self-criticism.

  • Szymon Stepniak

    I totally agree with you, with just one exception – the examples you gave were not a waste of your time 🙂 Recently I took the “Learning How To Learn” class on Coursera which presented an interesting approach to learning. It mentioned something called “diffuse mode” in consolidation knowledge. In short, when you spent your time on non-crafting activities there is a background task in your brain that still processes the information you have already acquired before. It also allows your brain to clear up from the mental blockers that preventing progress. We all think that spending the majority of time on learning and crafting improves the efficiency, but actually it does not. We need to take breaks, often longer ones. And do something different.
    I enjoyed reading your blog post, well done.

    • bloggerkedar

      🙂 Bertrand Russell once said — “The time that you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”.

    • David Wang

      Garbage collection!

    • Tomasz Dziurko

      I agree and that is the main reason behind this post. I tend to bash myself for these lazy moments, days or even weeks. But finally I understood that this is how I work and instead of being disappointed about my behaviour I should enjoy these moments and prepare for next “productive” period in my life.

  • Leszek Gruchała

    You should not claim that you have “failed”. You did not!
    You are right expectations are high, but to be honest, I think aprox. 5% of all developers try to do all these things you wrote. So you do much more than others. And even if not, you do not fail because life is not about doing everything only for our professional work.
    That’s why I decided to be for my family, especially for my very young children. The only most important thing in life is your family. You can always learn something a bit later or change job, but you cannot change your family or postpone for few years childhood of your children.

    So please, you, I, they do not fail. This is called life balance.

    • Tomasz Dziurko

      Yeah, balancing work, learning, wife and children, especially young ones is the most difficult project in my life so far 🙂 But kids know what is my name, so it’s not that bad I guess 🙂

  • Admiral Firebeard

    Your fear of failing is what makes you great. Without it, you would be like everyone else. Look into insanely productive geniuses like Leonardo daVinci and you will see that they are driven by a strong anxiety and fear of failing.

    • bobthechef

      Another hilarious piece of self-congratulatory fiction. You think you’re better than everyone else? Not likely. And yeah, you know what make DaVinci tick. Get out.

  • sosonudo

    It’s called life balance. I liked your writing and feel the same way. Although I don’t think it’s specific to programming, instead to high-ambition types.

    • Tomasz Dziurko

      I think it’s rather combination of more factors: high ambitions, impostor syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome), being a part of fast growing and changing industry.

      But it’s still an issue when we constantly hear about someone publishing book or post, writing a popular open-source library and immediately compare ourselves with others.

  • Psion Ski

    All work and no play does not simply make Jack a dull boy, it makes him mentally deficient – every intelligent species has play as an integral part of their development, with more complex environments requiring more play 🙂

  • Vojtěch Hordějčuk

    Hi, nice to read. Personally, I do not think there is something bad about being a 9-17 developer. You can still be an outstanding professional. The time after people relax, regenerate, think of different areas and of their families, so they could be spiritually healthy and well performing at the work next day. Even some great composers or writers worked strictly on “9-17” basis. Thinking about developing 24/7 would make me go crazy. Learning new things should be also part of the job – if not, try to talk with your employer, why he does not consider it important. Anyway, have a nice day!

  • bmajsak

    There is another interesting twist to this story which I sadly struggle with from time to time. I call it “my own guilt system trap”. To describe it briefly – there are days when I totally don’t feel like coding or reading techie stuff. Instead I have an urge to play some games. However my inner-self is still putting high expectations that I should do something useful. This puts me in some sort of deadlock situation where I don’t do anything useful but I also don’t play. So I sit idle watching some stupid tv series or reading internets. Luckily I learned to overcome it… to some extent 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your experience, you are not alone in this journey.

    • Maicon

      Hey! I know this situation! Is exactly my case. It is better move the mouse around the icons than release me to play something or watch tv. God damn trap!

    • Mariusz Sieraczkiewicz

      Great Tomek. I am so happy reading this because it meets my need of honesty. I have a sense of meeting a real person by reading your post. Thank you Tomek. One of the most valuable posts I have read in last 5 years.

    • Tomasz Dziurko

      Yeah. I have the same problem sometimes. I sit in the front of the monitor and spend this time on doing literally nothing, just automatically browsing some sites. And neither I read something valuable nor I play computer game.

  • Steven Arnold

    Dude, spend more time with your wife and stay married. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. People who stay married are richer in the long run, anyway.

  • Vincent van Leeuwen

    Winning CL in FM with a pet team? Fucking yes! Congrats on a good and very true post!

    • Tomasz Dziurko

      It’s not pet-pet team, but nonetheless it’s a team from Poland, a country failing to qualify to Group Phase for over 15 years 🙂

      • Vincent van Leeuwen

        Sorry didn’t meant no insult. After all, I never got further than winning the Europa League with Real Murcia 🙂

        • Tomasz Dziurko

          Sigh, I’ve posted wrong image 🙂 No insult detected, be cool 🙂 Correct image below. BTW: Murcia and Europa League… nice!

          • Vincent van Leeuwen

            Sweet. Maybe te most important takeaway from this post is that I should start playing again :p

          • barra

            ZKS! ZKS! Wisełkaaaaa…. 😉 Nice fantasy! My goal was usually to win World Cup with Poland national team in FIFA/PES 🙂

  • Henrik Warne

    About wasting time: I like this quote from Bertrand Russell:

    “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

  • Wewege

    I know that feel bro.

  • menriquez

    so you hate yourself for being human? how odd.

  • sebastian concept >>>

    Peer pressure can be a motivating force or a prison.
    Your discern will keep some balance in the entertainment-work-pleasure equation.
    Or not.

  • RickJWagner

    Nice post, thanks. I think we all feel this way sometimes.

  • trzmiel

    If you have stimulating work, where you stay reasonably up to date just because what you do between 9 and 5, I guess you don’t have to devote all the time “outside” to it. You don’t have to know every latest data access lib or JS framework deeply. And if looking for a new, better tool is part of the job – make it part of the job, not something done after hours.

    You need balance for mental health. Don’t try to be a sum of everyone. There are people who spend 30 hours a week gaming and who stopped learning as soon as (or even before) they left school. There are people who devote 100 hours a week to work, but have no families or can’t recall the names of their children. Some are masters of this technology, but not that. Some are the opposite. You can’t be all of them at the same time.

  • drNinjaBatman

    Nice post! Btw do people actually deny watching series?? Series are getting better by the season these days. Even some sitcoms are actually getting good.

    • Tomasz Dziurko

      Yes, but if you spend two evenings in a row to watch season of 25 episodes, it’s not good for you 🙂

  • Siddharth

    A short and meaningful post. We all indulge in the so called “wasteful” activities, but I have found some of my best ideas and inspirations sprang from those wasteful moments. It is during these moments, I believe, the brain is relaxed enough to have a spark of creativity. In these moments, brain consolidates knowledge and finds connections. Even if that does not happen, the joy that such activities bring is in itself priceless.

  • Geekalicio.us

    Nail meet head. That’s why I don’t like going to developer meetups and such – I always feel inadequate. I’m just not as good as the person sitting next to me. I’m a child and they’re the grown up. I’m a 9to5r with feelings of inadequacy. I feel such guilt about it and shame that it just makes it worse that too often I surf pages for way too long counting the minutes until I can get off the computer. There are moments of true bliss working on some code, but it’s so hard to take the first steps to get there, having to climb over this giant wall I put up in front of myself.

    • bmajsak

      The feeling you have described when attending meetups is called “impostor syndrome” and you should really try to beat that beast 🙂 Guy next to you is most likely on the same level and even if better you can always learn from him 🙂

  • ObnoxiousJul

    life is not only about work?! O_o

  • bloggerkedar

    Does it happen with us because many (most?) of us are not in, what Ken Robinson calls, *our Element*? Being in the Element is loosely defined as being in a position where one’s passion and expertise drive everything. I also tend to believe that those who are in their Element do not hate themselves.

  • DrYakub

    Wow this hits close to home.

  • Scott Barlow

    I write poetry for people like you http://www.ThinkNothing.co

  • Dinan

    Great article. I think the concept of “creative breaks” is long established for people who do a creative task e.g. writing or coding. It is not the best reference on why play is important for adults but this article gives some key take-aways (http://n.pr/1ohkdPd) “adults play for many important reasons: building community, keeping the mind sharp and keeping close the ones you love.” In essence I think beating yourself up for taking a break from work is like lambasting yourself for sleeping. I feel the key thing is finding the balance.

  • BogdanPaun

    But you don’t hate yourself, you hate the arrogant, to-the-limit, all-or-nothing, supra-human, workaholic, robotized prototype that the entire “community” is saying is normal. And it’s not. Everywhere you look, you see productivity tips, productivity apps, “self-help” type of advice and articles. That’s not normal. Robots are made to be 100% efficient and productive. Humans have lives to live before jobs to do.

  • Jefferson Kirkland

    I hate to admit it, but while reading this, I envisioned you as “Doby the House Elf” in Harry Potter, beating a lamp against your head in self-punishment. Nice write up, btw, I totally agree!

  • Curtis

    I read an article not too long ago about how wasting time can actually help boost your creativity. I find that taking some time away from working all the time helps me deal with what I have to accomplish and even makes me more productive. Great post, just remember to keep your chin up 🙂

    http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/how-to-waste-time-properly

  • bobthechef

    Great, another blog group therapy session where every piece of mediocrity is rationalized, every unmet virtue is devalued, and every failure projected universally by the herd. Speak for yourself, Dziurko. This is exactly the kind of stupidity I expect from the current generation raised on a diet of self-congratulation, backslapping, and egocentric grabassery. Grow up. I mean it. I am sick to death of having to deal with perpetual man boys in a state of permanent arrested development. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to stop being a spoiled child. It’s time to finally get serious about life.

    The startup “culture” is saturated with limp-wristed, asexual wankers who, at age 30+, still play computer games who need a mother, even if surrogate, and who live in fear of some surrogate father.

    Sadly, I don’t think my reprimand will have any effect because like a child you have no concept, no understanding, of what I mean. Your blog makes that painfully obvious. You’re still living under daddy’s “incomprehensible rules”.

    There is no response you can give me that could save you. The answer will always be: No.

    (If you need a religious authority to tell you the obvious, look no further than Corinthians 13:11.)

    • bmajsak

      So, how does your day look like?

    • I wanna be bobthechef

      From a troll scale from 0 to 100 I would say you’re a 43.5

    • Zbigniew Sokolowski

      What do you mean? I feel like to reply you in little more strong way. Tomek Dziurko is father of the two children, as far as I know very dedicated one. I impressed that he is able to find a time to be mostly successful at many fields and to be well – know in community. You started in offensive way. Even though I don’t support everything what Tomek has written I don’t understand you. I would ask you about your chef speciality but don’t want to talk dawn to
      such a boor like you.

  • Marcin Kubala

    What is the origin of such ‘self-blame’?
    I think that it might come from social media.
    How many developers that you know personally have admited on Twitter or their blogs that they’re currently loosing fire to finish some project or are reading some code fot the 1203rd time and still can’t understand it? How many books authors admited that they fail with some topic for the first time?
    It’s easy to drown in an ocean of idealized avatars and start chasing mirage, when you are bombarding by precisely extracted successfull announcements..

    The same will apply for any domain, not only programming.

  • cihadturhan

    “I don’t watch stupid TV series” but I do play computer games a lot. Everyone does something apart from his works. As humans we have limits. And you know what if we push our boundaries: burnout, #1 enemy of performance. Moreover, this will result you hating your job. Don’t hate yourself if you have fun. do it.

  • Jimi

    that’s so true

  • kevinptaylor

    This is a common feeling for high-achievers. Feeling inadequate and always feeling the need to keep up with one’s peers is a nice source of motivation. I’ve certainly felt this earlier in my career. Not so much any more because I am comfortable in my own shoes now and can accept both my strengths and my weaknesses. That’s what makes me a unique snowflake.

    Regarding the “we are not ideal human beings like whole craftsmanship movement wants us to be,” not sure where you got that from. Having been a part of the SC movement since near the beginning, I’ve never gotten the impression that the “movement” wants people to be programming automatons. Very much the opposite.

    At the 1st Software Craftsmanship North America conference (which I helped organize with Eighth Light) the key note by Ken Auer was about, in part, how craftsmanship is an opportunity to reclaim balance and moderation in our lives. We don’t have to be a 50 hours a week slave to coding and the corporation. We can restructure our lives through remote working and other means to have family, religion, work, etc blended together much more holistically than in the current “industrial/corporate programming” environment must technologists work in.

    For instance, I lived on a sailboat for a year with my wife and two kids as we home-schooled, traveled the islands, and built a startup together (http://www.eventwax.com).

  • Eyasu

    Life is short, extreme perfectionism is foolish. Balance work and play.

  • nsomar

    Very relevant post, some weeks you read 20 blog posts, 1 book, and write 2 posts, and some weeks you watch 5 seasons of naruto (or whatever)

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