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Success Is A Feeling

This is part 5 of Hack Your Brain to be a Better Developer, my talk from AdieCon 2020.

This section doesn't have the same research behind it as the first four parts, but it's important to me, and comes from my personal experience.

In my life before Software Development I worked in Social Services, specifically in a homeless shelter, and later in low-income housing. To say that the clients and residents were folks who had and were experiencing severe trauma somehow feels like a massive understatement.

So I thought that when I came to work in software that my feelings of burnout would be easier to manage. The problem is that both careers have a commonality. Me.

When I honestly look inside, what I want in life is to be successful, to be the person who always gives 110%.

I wanted to be the best case manager. To give 110% meant being emotionally present for everyone. But I had 45 - 60 residents. Folks with histories of mental illness, disability and trauma. In a world that doesn’t believe housing is a human right. More than that, I’m human. And I couldn’t be everything for everyone.

I want all of my code to be flawless and sail through code review. I want to understand new concepts on first pass. I want to design beautiful, elegant new features. But the definition of flawless code is up for debate, it takes me time to really understand things, and not everyone agrees that my designs are elegant. More than that, I’m human. And I can’t be everything to everyone, even myself.

When we define success at giving 110% we are bound to be disappointed and to burn ourselves out trying. So here’s my best advice for my fellow folks who look inside themselves and see that what they want it to be successful. Success isn’t an outcome to be attained.

Success is a feeling. And it’s a feeling you get to define for yourself.

I've defined success for me this way:

Success is the feeling of getting up and going to do work that matters, that does good, even in little ways, with people you care about and who care about you. Success is the feeling of sitting around a big table eating food, talking, and just being together. Or going out into the world and really experiencing, moving your body through the world. Success is the feeling of coming home at the end of the day tired, but fulfilled. For me that’s what success feels like.

Go define success for yourself. You can.

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