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Thread: Can someone recover from being a burnout? Should someone recover?

  1. #1
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    Can someone recover from being a burnout? Should someone recover?

    I went to a good school, and now, I'm just floating around. I have a stable enough job, as stable as anything could be, but I could probably be making more money, and doing something more challenging in a fun way, not in an annoying way. Something seems a little off in the way my life is after graduation.

    Is this something I shouldn't even concern myself with? I can't figure out why it should matter to me, except for the fact that it somehow does.

    Is there any way around the dreaded trap of specialization that seems so unavoidable if one wants to reach higher? I know we have people of all ages here, so hopefully some of the older folks might have useful input.

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    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msg_v2 View Post
    Is this something I shouldn't even concern myself with? I can't figure out why it should matter to me, except for the fact that it somehow does.
    If it concerns you then own the fact that it concerns you. That sounds overly simple maybe, but a lot of people waste too much time navel-gazing over crap like this.

    Is there any way around the dreaded trap of specialization that seems so unavoidable if one wants to reach higher? I know we have people of all ages here, so hopefully some of the older folks might have useful input.
    This depends entirely on what you want to do with your life. You shouldn't feel like you need to specialize, there's plenty of room out there for people who are a jack of all trades. Being a generalist is very much a sellable job skill especially if you would find it rewarding to be an entrepreneur.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by msg_v2 View Post
    I can't figure out why it should matter to me, except for the fact that it somehow does.
    Explore that feeling. What's not right with your life? Figure out what it is and then you can start coming up with a plan for how to fix it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by msg_v2 View Post
    I went to a good school, and now, I'm just floating around. I have a stable enough job, as stable as anything could be, but I could probably be making more money, and doing something more challenging in a fun way, not in an annoying way. Something seems a little off in the way my life is after graduation.

    Is this something I shouldn't even concern myself with? I can't figure out why it should matter to me, except for the fact that it somehow does.

    Is there any way around the dreaded trap of specialization that seems so unavoidable if one wants to reach higher? I know we have people of all ages here, so hopefully some of the older folks might have useful input.
    Most of all, you've got to figure out what makes you happy. What excites you, energizes you--what's really important to you? Articulate your values and principles and how you can do things that integrate these into a rewarding career. Imagine being on your death bed (hopefully, for your sake, I'm a lot closer to this than you are)--what would you regret not having done? Some people are so motivated by the desire to make money that they subordinate their true interests, pleasures, and indeed, true selves. It's best to make money as a consequence of doing what you love. Often, the best way to make money and do what you love is to take risks and, by so doing, learn how to fail usefully rather disastrously. By that, I mean, statistically, the more carefully considered risks you take, the better your chances of having at least one success among the "learning experience" failures. Kevin Systrom started six companies before he co-founded Instagram. Counterintuitively, venture capitalists would rather invest in a CEO who has failed and is trying again than a CEO who is on his/her first venture. The former knows what not to do the second time around.

    Specialization is a trap because it pigeon holes you into a narrow framework, not only in terms of your actual work but, more importantly, in how you perceive the world, how you define yourself, and how others perceive you. Continuing to educate yourself, particularly on your own, is one way to fight this. Becoming comfortable with change is also helpful. Here are some things that have worked for me over the years:

    1. To be comfortable taking risks in your work life, live conservatively in your personal life. Basically, live below your means.

    2. What you perceive as a big risk is often many small risks bundled together. By separating them out and dealing with them one by one, you will be more comfortable and effective.

    3. When everything in your life seems out of control, pick one aspect of your life to control. For example go on a diet or start an exercise regime and stick to it.

    4. Find the right partner/spouse. This is most critical thing you will do in life. Be sure you have similar values, principles, and expectations. If your spouse has a stable work situation, this makes it easier for you to take career risks, and vice versa.

    5. Team up with people who complement you and whom you can trust. Watch them and test them. Remember, you don't start out trusting people--you end up trusting them.

    6. Test, test, test. Set test points for yourself and your progress. Say something like, "if this doesn't happen by such and such time, then I'll assume it's not worth continuing." For example, if you're developing a product, set milestone tests each of which becomes a decision point either to continue as anticipated, make changes, or even abandon the project. Testing is important in your career as well. You might give your situation at work another six months at which point, if you don't get the promotion or raise, you look for another position.

    7. Always keep your resumé up to date. I haven't looked for a job in more than 30 years, but mine is always updated.

    8. Don't specialize--you're intuition is right on this. If you're a great programmer, take your tool box of abilities and apply them to different applications. I did a lot of hardware systems design. Even though electronics is electronics, I was fortunate to work across a spectrum of applications from avionics and radar systems to medical devices and unmanned aircraft. If you're over-specialized, you will be able to recognize and exploit fewer opportunities.

    9. Learn how to negotiate. The best book I've read on negotiation is "You Can Negotiate Anything," by Herb Cohen. Life is one big negotiation only few people know this. Learning to negotiate is, essentially, learning to exert power.

    10. Don't fear change--embrace it. You're built for change because it's in your hunter/gatherer genes.

    11. Know what you can control and what you can't control--read the Stoic philosophers, e.g., Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. This will make you strong.

    12. Have at least one thing you do that is totally different and separate from your work and provides a relaxing escape. For me, it has been playing the piano.

    13. Remember the 3 p's: patience, persistence, and perseverance. Don't give up until it really, really makes sense to give up.

    14. Finally, work your butt off.

    If I think about it, I can probably come up with a few more, but this is it for now. Remember, you're still young. There's plenty of leeway for making mistakes and lots of time to try different things. Take advantage of this margin because it narrows as you age. Good luck.

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    Senior Member skip's Avatar
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    I would add to Thevenin's list: stay out of debt. Debt is slavery. You lose options, freedom and control.
    Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that a problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skip View Post
    I would add to Thevenin's list: stay out of debt. Debt is slavery. You lose options, freedom and control.
    Absolutely! The only debt you should ever have is your mortgage. That means, pay up your credit cards every month. Buy second hand cars with cash rather than a new car on time. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. It's better to be poor and free than a rich slave. Of course, if the interest rate being offered is really low you should do the math. I recently bought a car on time at zero percent interest and invested the cash I was going to use to buy it. But, this kind of opportunity is rare.

    Another thing comes to mind: If you can swing it, don't risk your own money in business. Use OPM (other peoples' money--VC, equity financing, limited stock offerings, grants, etc.). Also, incorporate so you're personal assets are protected by the corporate veil. Incorporating yourself in the US is relatively cheap. It has saved me multiple times in multiple ways.

    And another: Don't ever practice law pro se. Get a lawyer if you have a legal issue. They're expensive, but when you need them, they can really save your butt.

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    In it to win it 99Problems's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msg_v2 View Post
    Is there any way around the dreaded trap of specialization that seems so unavoidable if one wants to reach higher?
    I hate this trap worse than anything. In construction I avoided this my shifting around mastering many trades, I can't imagine say laying tile for 20 years. Now that I am coming towards the end of college at age 49, I am hyper sensitive to what my future work options entail. Is there any way around the dreaded trap? Be ever diligent about the moves you do make.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Uh, unless you know a bunch of people who got their dream jobs right after college, I'd say it's pretty damn normal to get angsty about your first job. Especially if you're very recently out of college, because school conditions you to think of life as peak-trough cycle where everything is always building to a climax after which your responsibilities abruptly disappear. Your first real daily-grind job after that is going to be, well, a bit of a grind, and since it probably isn't what you always dreamed of doing with your life, your boredom is going to make you restless and self-conscious about it. It's not something I would spend time worrying about--maybe spend the time researching what you plan to "graduate" to from this instead.

    It's what keeps me going--every job is a resume-builder for some other job I might want in the future, whether or not I end up doing that. Done right, it can feed the INTP attempt-master-abandon monster just enough to keep it quiet as well. The job I imagine I'm going to get when I've learned what I need to learn from this one is always so much cooler than what I'm doing right now, and this provides ample justification for keeping up the slog. (Usually) It's a corny cliche, but having "direction" in your life does tend to be an ingredient in overall happiness, IME.

    I don't think I'm a specialist. I've been pretty dilettantish about bouncing from one thing that seems cool to another, and I'm just starting to reach a point where I have a nominal-but-not-impressive year or two of experience in 3 or 4 different fields in case I want to jump into any of them. (Now it's ESL, joining "alternative education" and outdoor vocational/"service learning" programs--I'm really sort of just banking as many notches like that as I can so I can look for jobs in places I might like to live; I've thought about it and I don't really have a "career path" that I'm following, or trying to follow. I want to be able to pick a place I want to go and look for jobs there, not pick a job I want and follow it to whatever godawful redneck shithole has an opening in the field. I feel rather strongly about the merits of this approach, for me at least.)

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    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msg_v2 View Post
    I went to a good school, and now, I'm just floating around. I have a stable enough job, as stable as anything could be, but I could probably be making more money, and doing something more challenging in a fun way, not in an annoying way. Something seems a little off in the way my life is after graduation.

    Is this something I shouldn't even concern myself with? I can't figure out why it should matter to me, except for the fact that it somehow does.

    Is there any way around the dreaded trap of specialization that seems so unavoidable if one wants to reach higher? I know we have people of all ages here, so hopefully some of the older folks might have useful input.
    Eh. I never completed university because I had the terrible idea of starting something that was rather useless while working full time during an economic crisis, so all of my jobs have revolved around languages. A skill I didn't do much to acquire, but which has allowed me to enter into a diversity of fields. Every few years I start getting restless and I try to apply for something different, where my main selling point is still languages. That suits me fine, and I like the thought of being able to switch to something new every once in a while.

    I don't care about specialization. In fact, I have absolutely no professional ambition per se. I guess it boils down to the old May '68 slogan: "Je ne veux pas mourir d'ennui!"
    Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent. - Mao

  10. #10
    Your Huckleberry lethe's Avatar
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    Forget about choosing the right job or career. If you can, AWESOME. You spend a lot of time there, it should be good, just like your home life.

    But beyond all that is figuring out what fulfills you. You don't have to have a job that fulfills you, you don't have to have a home life or relationship that fulfills you...you do need to be fulfilled. You will be amazed the kind of shit you can take and chores you can do when you are fulfilled. Everything else is just sex, shelter, and food.

    I don't know what the answer is for you. Many people never figure it out. For me it is learning. If I'm not learning something, the whole rest of my life loses luster. Fun isn't as fun, working seems pointless. Even goals are vague. I don't have anything to whine about but still I feel unsatisfied. And NEVER EVER postpone your happiness. Happiness is NOT something that happens after you accomplish X. Work is never done and you should be happy NOW.

    It took me forever to recognize that learning is what I was missing. Everyone needs something to feel right, to feel fulfilled. I think my purpose is learning, and my mission is love.

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