The fear of falling behind

Alasdair North - 

Every so often I get gripped by this anxiety that I'm not achieving enough, that I'm not moving fast enough or making the best of the skills and position I've got. Sometimes it's just crippling to see everything that other people are making and comparing it to the vacuum of my output.

There's just so much happening in software these days. A whole world of people releasing awesome products, building cool frameworks and just getting stuff done.

Thanks to sites like Hacker News we're exposed to it all constantly. You could spend every hour of every day comparing yourself to the success of others and seeing how much you fall short.

Yes, on a good day it's inspiring and shows you what's possible, but for every day like that there's another where I just want to crawl into a hole and not show anything to anyone.

It's a bullshit game that my mind plays with me; I know that ultimately, but the feeling is hard to shake. Yes, it's the fact that we only see other people's stuff when it's finished and ready and at its best - that combined with my sleep deprived brain from a 10 month old child who thinks 5am is time to start the day. I get that, but still my mind screws me over.

And I've achieved plenty. At Endis, Fluent, Runway and now viaLibri there's a trail of successes behind me (my fair share of failures, missed deadlines and over-engineered solutions too of course). Really I've got nothing to be ashamed of. I'm pretty good at what I do. I get that, but still my mind screws me over.

Maybe it's because I'm a generalist and don't have anything I can point to and say "I know more about that than anyone else". Maybe it's because I just don't have as much time as I used to to play around with side projects and just have fun. Maybe it's because I'm in a field where everything's changing so fast and literally nobody is able to keep up. Maybe I've been working on my own too much and miss people reassuring me. But probably I'd feel the same if all that were different. Probably it's just part of who I am.

I remember someone telling me years ago that Mother Teresa felt guilty all the time because she felt she wasn't doing enough for the sick. If that was true for her then really what chance do the rest of us have?

I don't know what the answer is. But this post has been brewing inside me for months and hopefully just getting it out there is part of the solution.

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I'm the CTO of viaLibri, a director and web developer at Runway, and an active member of St. Barnabas Church.

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