Humans cannot survive for long without food. The amount of time a person can starve seems to be between 3 to 8 weeks assuming the individual has water; therefore, when undertaking a long journey the wise choice is to develop the skills needed to live off the land.
As we change and grow we develop new hungers and old desires wane. I think of this a personal journey into a foreign land. Our hungers require new provision to sustain us especially if our current environment does not readily provide us succor.
My professional journey has led me from oasis, to desert and past mirages in no particular order. At times, I’ve had to forage for what my hunger requires. For me, my hunger is for a work culture that lusts after high quality, professional software development. This includes a fanatic focus on continual improvement, an uncompromising commitment to high quality / value products, and a trusting, collaborative work environment. When these are not present, my hunger returns and I begin to starve.
Make a quick list of the 3 things most appetizing to you professionally…I’ll wait.
Ok, now how often are you able to feast on them? If meals are few and far between, consider foraging or growing your own meals. Choose fast growing crops that will produce or fail quickly.
Tips for Feeding Yourself
I’ve to learned to forage for the things I need. Here is a short list of some foraging techniques I use when I’m feeling wane:
- I interact with a user group. I consume new ideas and produce my own.
- I create something small that stretches me in the direction I want to go. This could be a relationship, a software side-project, or a lunch and learn talk at work.
- I write. I distill all those wandering, anxiety inducing thoughts into tangible manifesto and share it with others to help them and sharpen me.
Equipped with these techniques, I’m now better able to endure and even thrive in work environments where improvement can be slow and draining.
Give to Receive
In his book Give and Take, Adam Grant tells the story of a burned out professional who defeated her starvation by doing more of the thing that was burning her out…but with shorter feedback cycles. With a shorter feedback cycle the success or failure of her efforts was more readily visible, and both fed her. With long feedback cycles, starvation can occur if you’re not careful.
If I could boil my personal experience down to a simple aphorism to encourage your continued sustenance along your journey it would be this:
Feed others and you feed yourself.
Take, and eat!