Since the 17th of May 2020, I have been tracking my goals to keep me focused on the things I want to achieve. Here is the progress from the last six weeks
Cycle 6 was from February 14th - 16th August. If you want to know more about my goal cycles, this post has all the details.
🧠 My mental wellbeing
This cycle was due to finish in March, but I decided to take a break from writing. I had put a lot of pressure on myself, in and outside of work. I also started to, what I think, get depressed and wasn't having the best episodes or thoughts. It began as waves of feeling isolated, lonely, worthless and negative feelings towards myself. It still seems to come and go in waves, and I am trying my best to see what causes it and help manage it. It is baffling looking back on what I was thinking about and how upset I was getting with these irrational thoughts.
I wasn't talking to people about it as I had the idea that people don't want to help, as it is a burden on them to deal with someone else's problems, so I just shut people off. I read this article, Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden, and thought I shouldn't bring this up with my girlfriend as I don't want to burden her. But after a couple of conversations with her, she told me this article is not the relationship we have, we both help and support each other, and it is not good to just shut anyone off. So, I started to talk, and after a couple of good conversations, I have got myself out of the negative state for the time being. I have been feeling somewhat ok the last couple of weeks. It will probably come back, but I know how to communicate my feelings properly to help prevent it.
A friend of mine helped me realise that I am very self-deprecating and analyse situations to the point where I think alot of people hate me or find me annoying. I can take a little insignificant action as a mark of dislike and be analysing it weeks later. He helped reassure me that part of my past has caused that, and he doesn't think of me in that way and likes being around me. Just some simple words like that helped me much more than I thought. Maybe it was just some self-reassurance I needed from someone, but those words helped me alot.
I moved to Edinburgh at the start of the Covid lockdown and haven't seen any of my friends, which has affected my mental health and made me think about my friendships. I listened to alot of podcasts talking about friendship and found this one helpful, Understanding Male Friendships | The Art of Manliness. The title is not great but let me explain. It shows how men interact in very general terms, shoulder to shoulder, i.e., doing something together, watching sports, playing a game. It contrasts this with friendships that women have face-to-face, i.e., grabbing a coffee or having a phone call. Although this is very generalising, I feel I do a bit of both, so there are some relevant points raised in this podcast. I also think it varies on the person, not the gender. Some of my female friends act more like the "male" style shoulder-to-shoulder, and some of my male friends can talk on the phone for hours. But one takeaway is it is hard to create new friendships.
As a man in his 30s, it is hard to make new friends, and I think alot of people are lonely or have small friend groups. The same friend who helped me told me he doesn't have time for toxic friendships and only keeps in touch with people who don't belittle him or have a one-upmanship style of friendship. I want to follow that mindset, and I want to build and maintain my friendships, like any other relationship in my life. It will be challenging but rewarding. I might write a blog post on some of the points raised and how I am tackling them but let's get this goal cycle post done first!
And now back to the goal cycle.
From the previous cycle, I set the following goals but have also done alot of other things in this time, so I'll put them down too:
🏆 Big Goals
|I am a learner||Completed Design+Code UI/UX design course||1 course|
|I am a learner||Started to build a native Swift Destiny 2 companion app||1 app|
🏅 Habits / Small Goals
|I am a runner||Run 4 times a week||65 weeks|
|I am a runner||Run 600 miles in a year||418 / 1000 miles|
|I am a blogger||Attend the Accelerator group in BFD||Rebranded this site|
|I am a reader||Read Happy by Derren Brown||1 book|
|I am creative||Do a blacksmithing intro course||1 course|
|I am creative||Do a wood-turning intro course||1 course|
|I am active||Do a paddle boarding beginner course||1 course|
|I am a gamer||Finish the new Destiny raid||4 raids|
|I am a speaker||Present a Talk and Host Flutter Scotland||1 talk|
I am a runner
I continued running a 5k four times a week, and my Strava "fitness level" has gone back to 49. I am not worried about this fitness estimate as I feel fit, so I will keep running this way. I recently hit 65 weeks of running, which seemed like a considerable accomplishment. I will keep this up and hopefully do a couple of 10Ks if I feel like it. The main goal is to run, enjoy it and not get injured 🤞🏻
I am a reader
Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine
So I finally finished Happy! I enjoyed this book, and I think I will pick it up from time to time to realign my thoughts. As morbid as it might seem and contradictory to the title, the death sections were excellent, advising on coping with death and how to think about your own.
I found the traditional Mexican ideas of the "three deaths" really interesting. The "first death" is the physical one, the death of the body. The "second death" is more of a natural one: the moment the body is laid to rest in the earth and returned into nature's cycle. The "third death" is the moment the last memory of you fades. To avoid the third death, Mexicans celebrate "Día de Muertos" to help remember their loved ones. I thought this was quite a nice way to keep the memory of people you have lost alive. The book continues with the remembering theme in stating that we copy traits and personalities of the dead, and we carry them around for years. "Oh that's how mum used to do it." or "Grampa used to put raisins and apples in his curry" - Grampa Smith did do this.
I am planning a book review for Happy as I took alot of notes during it. I think it covers some quite helpful topics, especially for me, and I would like to share my thoughts on them.
After finishing this book, I moved on to two more. I had heard of having two books in rotation, one technical and one from another genre and wanted to try this out. So I chose the following:
Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager: How to Be the Leader Your Development Team Needs
Carole Rennie Logan recommended this book at the CodeCraft book club, so I thought I would pick it up to improve my leadership skills. The book's premise is that once software developers hit a certain level of experience, their companies throw them into leadership roles without much thought. Developers are typically encouraged to be managers by their companies and learn from their environment, be that good or bad. The author explains that you spend years learning how to program for one day to be chosen to be a leader that you don't know how to do. The book follows a fictional story of a software developer starting a managerial role at a company.
The first couple of chapters talk you through effective time and task management, such as using your calendar and organising tasks based on priority. Then the current chapters I have read are about how to interact with people at different levels. I especially found the 'how-to conduct one-to-ones' section helpful as we have these at work, but I feel the time could be better used. This book has some great recommendations, such as talking through code or problems rather than therapy sessions.
This book can be pretty dry to read due to its topic, but I find some sections interesting, and when I find it laborious, I know that I have my non-technical book as a backup. For my non-technical book, I chose:
Man's Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust
When I was reading Happy by Derren Brown, I was fascinated by the world of philosophy and psychology. I liked seeing how people thought and how they tried to make sense of the world. I kept stumbling upon this book from researching how to find your purpose, so I thought I would give it a go.
Viktor E. Frankl is a neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. The book has two sections; the first is about the experiences in the concentration camp, and the second is about Logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy that describes the search for meaning in life as the primary motivational force.
I have found this book mind-blowing by the levels of suffering the prisoners had to go through and Frankl's thoughts on the situation. This next paragraph is just a short excerpt from the book to give you an insight into the ideas he discusses:
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
I still have the last section of this book to finish, but it is relatively short, and I find it very thought-provoking. So I imagine I will finish it soon.
I am a blogger
I completed the BFD Summer Accelerator, where I decided to redesign my site and create a new brand for myself. I quite like the logo and colours; they kinda remind me of an 80's ski suit but I like it.
I haven't blogged at all, hence the update at the top. I will slowly build it back up again as I enjoy creating the posts. I am also looking at blogging about Flutter or Swift, so hopefully, I can manage a small post or two.
I am a learner
So I finished the "UI Design for Developers" course by Meng To. I would highly recommend this course for anyone wanting to learn Figma or Design basics. I used it to create alot of the marketing materials for Flutter Scotland and two presentations. Here are the final designs and some other projects I made:
Safe to say I am enjoying Figma, much nicer than Adobe XD and Sketch, in my opinion. I have only scratched the surface of what you can do with it, and I still need to look into animation and interaction design. I follow Alyssa X, and she makes some amazing things with Figma. Here are some of them:
Figma is my go-to design tool now, and I hope to improve my skills by using it more. I thought of redesigning a craft beer website as an exercise, as some are not too great. If I do it, you'll no doubt find it in a cycle post.
So what non-goal events have happened?
In Destiny 2, my raid team managed to complete the Vault of Glass raid! The raid mechanics were not as complex as previous raids, and our completion time is almost 1 hour now. One exciting part they added was a section where you need to be invisible to collect chests. I play a Hunter class, and this mechanic plays to my character's abilities. I thought this was quite cool as Hunters aren't getting much love in Destiny, and I feel this is a slight nod towards them. In saying that, my team now runs past this bit... lol!
Season 15 is about to start soon, 24th August, and a new raid will possibly be released. I will be aiming to get up to level and complete that if released in the next cycle.
I also went to a couple of events:
CodeCraft : A conversation with Scotland’s tech leaders
This event was great, with a lot of excellent insights from some of Scotland's tech leaders. It was great to hear what each of the speakers had to say, as I am currently at a point in my career where I am taking on leadership responsibilities. I always thought I would eventually become a manager if I wanted to progress, but it was good to hear about the individual contributor and staff engineer roles.
After this event, I started to investigate what a staff engineer does and found the site StaffEng by Will Larson. I haven't looked too much into it, but it has sparked my curiosity, and I realised I already have one of his books, An Elegant Puzzle. Maybe I should read it as my next technical book?
After feeling low, I decided to get out of the house and do something. This decision was quite challenging as COVID has stopped alot of real-life events. However, I found a place near me called The Forge that ran a course for a maximum of two people in an open outside area. I thought this was ideal, so I signed up for the blacksmithing and the wood-turning introduction.
I am moving to Portobello soon and wanted to see if I would like paddleboarding, so I took an intro course in that too! I love it and can't wait to do it again.
🏴💙 Flutter Scotland
So I organised, hosted and spoke at the latest Flutter Scotland event. I feel that the event was a success and got some great feedback on it. It was the first time I had done something like this, and I think I would do it again. We are planning on another event soon but are working out how to split the work up right now so that no single person is left with alot to do, so keep an eye out on the meetup page.
😃 What went well?
These last couple of months may not seem ideal, but I think I have grown as a person quite a bit. I can identify when my mental state has gone into a place I don't want it to go and act accordingly to get out of that state. I also feel like I am expanding my horizons in picking up different skills. Doing these goal cycles and allowing for failure gives me a balance that positively affects my mental health. Also, these cycles are for me to keep track of things, act like a diary and improve my communication skills.
So I will keep going, and if I miss a cycle by a couple of weeks, so what.
👷 What can I Improve?
I want to write another post on Flutter or Swift, but I am not setting a target. I want to get into the rhythm of creating these posts and have a structure. So if I manage one, then cool. If not, as long as I make progress, I will be happy.
I have enjoyed learning new skills, and if any opportunities to learn something comes up, I will be sure to add them to the next cycle. I have also recently started to do native iOS development again and enjoy getting up to speed with the new architecture patterns. So I would like to continue that.
I will not promote the goal cycle posts through social media anymore as I feel these are more personal and don't require an audience. If you want to follow them, check my site. I will, however, promote other posts.
This post has been quite long, so let us move onto what I would like to do next.
🔁 What do I want to do next?
I am not going to be so strict on the goals I set here. I feel that unexpected events can cause me to stray off, and that is fine; they need to be flexible:
- I will continue my running aiming to keep running enjoyably and not get injured. If I need to push myself, I want to do more 10Ks or runs to places I haven't been before.
- I will have made progress on one of my books: Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager or Man's Search For Meaning.
- I will have published a new blog post or have a draft
- I will have started a new course
- I will have improved my programming skills
- I will continue playing computer games with my friends
- I will look for something new to learn
I am going to start cycle 7 on the 16th of August.
See you on the 26th of September at the end of cycle 7! I will have moved to Portobello by then!