How seriously do you take your (work)life?

I have been in deep contemplation about my work life for the last few months. In fact, I wrote a draft newsletter last month called “What do I want from my (work)life?” but never published it (I have now). I was too confused about what I wanted to say. I am still confused, but I have a better idea now.

Midnight reflections with the wife have dawned a realisation: The two things holding me back are perfection and ambition.

I want things I make to be of impeccable quality (perfection). And I want many many people to like it and make me micro-famous (ambition).

Thankfully and luckily, my personal life is ideal - I wouldn’t want to change a thing. My professional life could do with some high-level change. My dream professional life is one where everything is the way it is now but instead of working for someone else, I set my own agenda for work.

I try to achieve this ideal by configuring my personal and professional lives. The “game” is to make the resultant of these two vectors resemble the ideal vector as closely as possible. But now it is time for a reconfiguration.

For reasons I will not elaborate here, I became incredibly jaded about my professional work in the last year. I saw it as meaningless and “work for work’s sake”. My LinkedIn bio says: “Development sector person making PPTs and Google Forms.” Anytime someone asks me about my work, I tell them I do “IT and data” for government departments. This is as close to the truth as Buzo is to being a guard dog. Iykyk.

To counter this discontent, I came up with a philosophy: Do not try to gain all your life’s fulfilment from your job. “Most of life is fetch water, chop wood”, I heard once, and kept repeating to myself and others.

But this very philosophy is making me keep one foot out of at all times. I never fully invest in my work. I only give about 70% effort. I submit the bare minimum that would tip me past the finish line and earn me some small bite-sized brownie points. What’s the point of putting in effort when it’s not going to make a difference in the end anyway? I had become so jaded with it all. I would find arguments to nail it as a systemic ailment rather than a mental block.

So to compensate for the lack of fulfilment from my work, I would invest in personal projects. So many of them.

In all this haze I lost sight of how incredibly well-positioned I am in my career. Not only does it pay me well, it also gives me a seat on the platform that wields immense power and influence. I do really important work! Words I write, suggestions I give, decisions I help make all alter the course of lakhs of people’s lives, in a small but undeniable way. I just don’t talk about it like that. I always downplay it.

Believe me, I really, truly find immense joy and fulfilment in my side projects. Making a search engine for documents, a tracker for deadlines, a game about Punjabi weddings, a database of historical AQI data, a warehouse of small things… the happiness is unparalleled. However, I had not felt gratitude for my professional work for giving me the opportunity to be able to work on these side projects. This newsletter, this website, all these projects would not exist if I had a traditional minimum 8 hours boots-on-the-ground type of a job.

Due to the confused state of mind I have been in, I started to attach perfection and ambition to my side projects. Instead of making things for the joy of it or solving problems because I enjoy it, 1 I ended up overthinking. I would get ambitious about hitting the pot of gold. This strategy has not worked for me ever. Whenever I overthink it, the end result either doesn’t exist or sucks.

In conclusion, I am reconfiguring my vectors in the following manner:

  1. Professionally, I am going to take my work more seriously. Instead of being a bystander who chips in with a clever hack sometimes, I will try to be a more involved contributor. Perhaps I will be able to carve myself some opportunities to capitalise on my interests and strengths.
  2. Personally, I am going to limit my scope to my website. My website is like my digital garden, a garage, a scrapbook. It houses all my interests and creations. Now, it’ll be even more so. Less engineer mindset, more Doofenshmirtz work ethic.2

So far I have been doing the exact opposite: putting less effort at work and taking myself too seriously at hobbies. It’s time to flip this around.

Who knows where this is going to take me? Wherever it does, I would like to go there and then write another newsletter about it. 

Do you face something similar in your life? How do you handle it? 

Email/text as always.

Want some of my existential nonsense in your inbox?
Cheers! See you soon.

  1. Wife calls it my saviour complex, I… can’t disagree. ↩︎

  2. Engineers building a product get fixated on adding more bells and whistles to it, instead of just making it work and getting it out in the world. Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz invents a new machine and immediately tries to take over the “entire Tri-State Area” with it. I like that energy. ↩︎

Last modified: Oct 23, 2023