John Mann

John Mann

Comparison and Goal Setting


Now that I am back on track with my weekly blog, I am going to cover more and more personal topics and some technical topics. I'm considering doing videos, but not sure about that just yet... Maybe audio and then video, so you can get the passion across in tone. :-) We'll see.

I am a "Senior Software Engineer". Translation: I'm a code monkey with a better title so I can feel ok with having the same job for nearly 20 years just different business models. Now, what is the difference between a Senior Software Engineer and a Software Engineer? From what I have noticed, it is not the skill set. I have met several "software engineers" who would blow away "senior software engineers". I have also seen vice versa. I think it simply comes down to how long you've been doing what you've been doing, and you try to justify that you should make more money because you are a "senior" over a "regular".

We all believe that as we progress in our careers, we should get raises, we should get bonuses, we want to grow in our "careers". Have we ever stopped and thought, why? "I need more money for my new things" or "I need a better title, I've been doing this much longer than that kid out of college". Well, that kid out of college may be a stronger developer than you, so you are basing title simply on time? That does not seem fair. Also, you need more money for your "new things". How about getting less things? Now, for anyone who knows me, they are thinking I am a hypocrite, I have a lot of things and love gadgets and computer things. However, pay attention to my words, I am simply making suggestions, perhaps to influence my OWN thoughts and ideas. So think about how you progress through your career, do something you truly love. Do something that MEANS something, at least to YOU. If you chase money, I can almost guarantee this you will continue to chase things and look back and wonder what happened. I know wall street traders and .com millionaires. The most consistent thing I have seen in MOST (not all, there are a few that I have been amazed by) is that they feel the need to show what they have earned, worked for, or even been given. They need you to recognize that their things make them important. It is not a car, house, boat, job, or money that makes someone important to me, it is how they have affected other's lives in a positive way. That is what is important.

My good friend Gerry tried to explain this to me in 1995/1996... and when I attended his wedding in Germany, I saw the most successful village I have ever been to. Why? Because they loved each other, in the whole village. They all were at the wedding, I visited house after house and always a warm embrace and laughter. I wish I learned the lesson in 1996, but I had a dark journey ahead of me to teach it REPEATEDLY. I tried to buy cars, tvs, houses, computers, etc... I had 7 computers at my house at one time. I think I had 4 tvs... I chased what I saw around me... expensive dinners, travelling around the world, buying things, collecting things, etc... Now, don't get me wrong travelling is something I HIGHLY recommend, just so you can experience another culture and realize what is important. That being said, one of my best times was this past December... I spent a weekend in NYC with my wife for her birthday and her best friend's wedding. We had sushi, a street hot dog, saw the Rockettes (and Joey), attended a beautiful wedding in Central Park, and saw Annie. It was a perfect weekend. And spending time with her, even if we were sitting outside drinking coffee freezing, I was probably the happiest a single person could feel. Not because we went to a broadway show, not because we had AMAZING sushi, but because of her. THAT is what is important.

Now, insert segue here, comparison is why we feel unhappy, ungrateful, and frustrated. I wish I had... As soon as I... If only I could... you can fill in any blank you want for those phrases, but try to pay attention when those phrases enter your mind and realize you are happy right where you are. I watched a TED video by Dan Gilbert Why are we happy? Why aren't we happy and one part that was interesting is about the lottery winner vs the paraplegic. They have the same happiness level one year after each event. Something to consider right? Comparison is what causes several of those infamous seven deadly sins. It is NOT easy to NOT compare. It is who we are a species... we need to know our pecking order, are they better than me, am I better than them, do they have more stuff, or better stuff (what defines better stuff? YOU DO!). However, by being aware of the behavior, we can help change it.

HOMEWORK: I would say a week, but that is a LONG time. But for one day... pay attention to your thoughts... what are judging/comparing to you? What thoughts enter your mind as you go to work? Are they thoughts of happiness, or how you need more of this or more of that, or how that car in front of you is nicer than yours, or how you aren't thin enough, or how you need to eat better, or eat less, or she has a new purse, why don't I... etc... ONE DAY, pay attention to your life for ONE DAY. It is NOT easy. But try... write it on your hand, "pay attention".

At the end of that day, see how you "feel". Are you ashamed that you did that much comparing? Are you laughing that you did that much comparing? Are you sad because it just made you more aware? These are all possible responses. It is fascinating to be aware of a behavior though.

Now, goal-setting: This topic will be a bit shorter... I watched a history channel special about the brain and how the Navy Seals training program improved its success rate by training the brain. Four steps: 1) Goal Setting - Make it to lunch, Make it to the sign, Make it to the next minute. 2) Mental Rehearsal - practice in your mind how you are going to react and perform, athletes do it all the time, often free throws in the NBA and it improves actual performance. 3) Self talk - talk out loud and push yourself, you can do this, you are almost there, you got this... feed your ambition... YOU ARE A SUCCESS (we all do this, unfortunately sometimes more negatively than positive). 4) Arousal control - this is specific for high-stress situations, exhale deeply and control your breathing, focus. Here is the article from Psychology Today that the segment was based on: Navy Seals Improve Success Rate.

Set a simple goal, and build momentum. Be aware of your comparisons, and let them pass when they come up. Have an amazing day.

Thanks for stopping by... :-)

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