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Day 8: on motivation

Posted on 3 mins read

I’ve written code for a living for almost 5 years. Right now, I’m an Aspiring Software Crafter and I’m extremely motivated about all I have yet to learn and the current possibilities of the unknown. But it wasn’t always like this, and at several times in the past I’ve found myself lacking the necessary motivation to write even the simplest program. Whenever that happens, I try to think about what I think I want to become in the future, and see if I’m currently on a path that will take me there eventually.

Drawing our own Maps

Chapter 3 of Apprenticeship Patterns is all about motivation. The patterns explained there deal mostly with our inner drive and how we can use it to make decisions. One of them is the idea that we must draw our own maps. The journey is different for everyone, even if we are trying to get to the same place. So, there’s really no way we can do the same things in order to get the same results as someone else. I would even say that our different journeys are what defines our own, individual value. It’s the only thing that we have that’s only ours, and no-one can take it away from us.

In his speech, Make Good Art, Neil Gaiman explains the method he used to stay on track during his career. His analogy is that, we should visualize what we want to become, as a mountain. This mountain has a road leading up to it, but as with most roads, they are connected to other paths that don’t necessarily lead to the same place. I think that if we keep the mountain in perspective, any sort of decision can be reduced to 3 states:

  • Does it take us closer to the mountain? ➡ Easy decision. Take it, get closer to your goals.
  • Does it take us further away from the mountain? ➡ Easy decision again. Don’t do it, going away is always the wrong choice.
  • Does it leave us in the same place? ➡ This one’s harder. It forces us to evaluate possibilities beyond the current decision, since it may be that taking this chance will give us an opportunity to go towards the mountain at a later time. Or not 🤷‍♂️.

Ever since I heard the speech for the first time, I’ve tried to apply this method to any important decisions I’ve made. I decided to move to Germany because I realized there were more opportunities in Europe. And I decided to join HolidayCheck and become an apprentice, because it was the best way I could get better at what I want to do. All of these decisions have somehow taken me closer to my mountain, and I think that without such a line of thought, I may have decided otherwise.

During the bad times, the anxious hours when I didn’t know what to do, I always found it relaxing to think about this analogy. Think of the mountain and take a good look at the road I was currently travelling. This gave me a purpose, an idea of what I had to do in order to get back on track, and that always gavethe situation a sense of control. It forced me to accept that things would only change if I did something to change them.

I leave you with Neil’s speech. It’s by far one of the greatest pieces of wisdom I’ve ever heard, and even though it doesn’t relate directly to tech, it relates to something deeper, more human than just the field our careers are in.

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