In July of 2017, I imagined recording my grad school journey in an e-journal, and publishing some of those pages on my blog every month. Looking back, that was one of the smartest decisions I took, because I realized writing about my experiences were, apart from being helpful and useful, also therapeutic for me. I wanted people to read it and think, so it is not just me who feels that way. Sometimes company helps, even if it’s intangible.
For a long time, I was hesitant of re-starting another series of articles. I didn’t know if I’d have enough to write quality content every month, and honestly I felt (and still feel) insecure about sharing life experiences, especially at a time when I knew I would be changing (evolving?) a lot. Writer’s block is very real people. However, you regret the things you don’t try, so maybe it’s worth a shot. Besides, it might help to have people on this journey! So I penned down something about life at work, something about life outside work and something about life.
Something about life at work
I struggle with ambiguity. When I think back to all the instances from Bachelor’s and Master’s, I was always given a goal, or I was inspired to chase a goal, and I did it. Like a dog with a bone; once I get to see the bone, I chase it down doggedly until I have it. However, I felt blindfolded the past few weeks at work. When I started my first day, I thought a few days were enough to get up to speed on what my team was working on before I could get assigned my own pet project.
Now I can safely say that it’s been three weeks and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I thought it was enough to understand the scope of the project and draw a Venn diagram. The list of projects to work on, list of skills to learn and list of personal preferences. See where they intersect and bingo. What I failed to recognize was the end goal. As a Product Manager, it doesn’t matter what project I worked on. What matters is how well I can execute on it, irrespective of the scope.
To get up to speed, I resorted to interviews, and asking questions. I spoke to a few engineers from every sub-team and teased out details of the objective. However, I could not always find the answer I was looking for. I was looking for the treasure chest, but they all seemed to give me a map for a scavenger hunt. When I had a 1–1 with my manager, he told me (and I paraphrase): ‘It’s okay to want to know exactly where the resources are. But you also have to be okay with the fact that there might be no one place.’
I expect the new few months to be a constant iteration of talking to people → learning something new → appending this information → providing insights.
Something about life outside work
Schedules are overrated, but habits are underrated.
If you want to know the story behind someone successful (at least by the standards of society), look at their daily habits. Bill Gates spends an hour reading every day, and another hour thinking about what he read. Indra Nooyi woke up at 4 AM for 40 years when she was a CEO. Jack Dorsey meditates every morning as soon as he wakes up. Cal Newport never missed a day working on his books. It sounds idealistic, but in reality, it’s simply a ton of hard work and discipline.
I have been fascinated with how habits are formed and broken for a long time now, and I have played around with acquiring and letting go of many. This month, I wanted to set the stage for life here in Bellevue. I wanted to pack my week with things that I most loved doing: working in the office, learning something new, reading books, writing articles, playing badminton or engaging in physical activity, meeting people and singing (it’s been a passion since childhood).
The first week was perfect. Everything went according to my schedule. Second week? Haywire. I didn’t factor in a lot of other factors that go into moving to a new place. Needless to say, it was disquieting. So in the third week, I decided to change something: set goals for the week, and be lax with the goals for the day. I started using this new tool called Notion, which has been receiving a ton of good press lately for all the right reasons. Check out their Weekly Template to understand what I’m talking about. Some people believe deciding what you do in a day written down to each minute is robotic, and I agree. But I’m against going with the flow. You do need some structure within a day while also giving breathing room to be productive. I’ll let you know how this one pans out.
Something about life
We all know it’s possible to strengthen our muscles with exercise. Cardio or Weights? Fat burning vs Carb burning? Should I go for orange theory or barre? These are some of the questions we think about constantly when we feel our body is not in the best shape.
However, when we start to feel sad or anxious or worried, we don’t think: Should I practice meditation or consider medication? Should I go to a therapist or talk to my friends about it? Most people tend to push aside the feeling and hope that it goes away. While I concede that impermanence is inevitable, it’s important to recognize that training your brain to stay happy is as hard as training your body to stay fit.
I’m still in the training process, possibly just started. I’ve seen people undergo depression in front of my eyes, and it is impossible to come out of it without help. The same goes for all the other conditions: ADHD, ADD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia. If you believe you might be going through something atypical, talk to someone. At the least, take a test online and see the results.
I understand talking about mental health is not as easy as it is about physical health, but the scenario is changing and I hope you contribute to that change.
Image Sources (some): Google Images