Running Myself Ragged

The past few months have been some of the hardest in my life.

That is not saying too much — I've had, by and large, a very happy life. But as far as I ever came close to something maybe remotely resembling burn out, that time is now.

This was due to a combination of factors. Mostly it was the added workload of teaching a class on top of main job (and doing it in my own effort-intensive way), and picking up a hobby of very (and not entirely intentionally) stressful trading.

Still, for all the unpleasantness, I think there is a silver lining too.

For one, it feels like my work capacity has permanently increased. I feel much more confident in my ability to stay on track and consistently work towards a long-term project. In particular, I think I might now be able to move faster by being able to spend more time on a project per time unit (day/week/...) than I did previously.

I also learned a lot. About finance, teaching, and compilers even. I got to improve existing software projects and even create new ones (one, two).

These benefits did come at the cost of running too close to the red line, for too long. I think a lifting metaphor is in order. If you want to get stronger or bigger, you need to train hard. But if you push yourself too hard or for too long, you indulge in overtraining, which is detrimental to your goals.

So another lessons from all this is that I might push myself hard in the future, but I'll avoid to making it quite this intense. Only with slack can one be a righteous dude.

Finally, the situation had me do a lot of hard thinking about where I was at, and where I wanted to go. "Never waste a good crisis", as they say.

See, when you're "working" all the time and most of the respite goes out the window, you're really forced to consider whether you actually like what you're doing.

Well, some of what I did (in which I include my job, teaching, and trading) I liked, and some I liked less. I'm planning to make changes. But first, maybe I'll take a breather.

PS: I hesitated to write this post. The reason is that, while I write for myself first, I like to write things that are useful for other people, even if the style is a bit rough. This is mostly about my state of mind, there are not too many details (on purpose), and I'm not entirely sure the lessons transpose that easily to other people in other situations.

However, this blog acts as a public record of what's going on with me, and this felt momentous enough that it deserved a mention.

Second, I've read similar things form other people in the past. Not only do I remember them, but they have helped shape how I think about such things (in particular, Sebastian Marshall's writings on Celerity and his personal account on pushing himself too far). So maybe it's not that useless.