Reflections on hitting the ground

June 01, 2017

This blog has been nearly 10 months without seeing any update. Many people would think it is due to a lack of interest, not enough fresh ideas flowing, poor time management, {fill here your preferred one}, etc. The list could go further down the path to “excuses-land”.

Truth be told, mine is nothing, but another excuse. However, this “excuse” has become a real milestone in my life, since it meant the end of a chapter and the start of a new one.

People who are close enough to me know that I usually avoid talking about my issues and when I do it, it is because I can’t handle it in another way.

The following is a personal story that I want to publicly share, with the hope that it will help you finding motivation and getting up when you are pushed to the ground as I was. Ideally it can help a few readers to move on.

Storm of events

2016 turned out to be all about changes. For good or for bad, I am a person who usually needs a big effort in order to accept changes. Put it to the end, maybe this has to do with my difficulties for making decisions. Decision making is something that in my case consumes a big chunk of time and thinking. It is definitely once of my weaknesses and I know that I have to work towards improving it.

Real fact: once I was in a grocery store in NYC and apparently it took me more than 10 minutes to decide which yoghurt to take. This statement came from one external observer, since I completely lost the perspective here.

The story that triggered all changes is the following. Everything started in 2015 when my partner at that time told me that she would move to a different city for pursuing her master studies and she asked me to move with her.

At that time, I just started a new job as a Java software engineer for a company working for the regional goverment, so, my first answer was I couldn’t move and actually I didn’t want to move. I love living close to the nature and the life in the city is not something that really catches my interest. So, April 2016 came and she moved alone. We decided to keep our relationship going, though.

Still, she moving out kind of forced me to search for somebody to share the flat with, since I neglected paying the ridiculous cost of housing alone. After weeks of searching and meeting quite “interesting” characters that could have fit better in a casting for a Tarantino’s or Tim Burton’s movie, I found who I thought could be a nice candidate. I was biased with this guy, because he started working in the previous company where I used to work and he was introduced to me by another guy still working there. So, he signed the contract for the flat.

The stress of searching for a new flatmate dissappeared and my relationship was still alive.

A few months later, my new flatmate just announced that he would move to another flat because his girlfriend got a position in the same company. Quite understandable from my side. However, this coincidence and the speed with what it happened still makes me think that everything was planned in advanced and that he wasn’t clear with me from the beginning regarding his plans for staying for a long time in the flat. His stupid decision of signing the contract automatically forced both of us to stay in the same flat for the next year. Since I didn’t want to go again through the process of searching for potential flatmates, I decided I would move on my own.

The real earthquake came when my partner decided to put an end to our relationship. To be honest, I had a chat with a friend a day before and it was kind of expected. Still, it was painful for me and something I really didn’t want to happen. I had already taken the decision of quiting my job and moving with her. However, this was too late for her decision-making standards.

It took me one year to decide. That’s quite right. However, such a move is something which is not that straightforward. At least for somebody like me.

Once in this situation, the angle of negativity added what felt like a ton to any extra situation that came to me, i.e., finding a new flat, quitting the old flat contract without being penalised one extra year and ultimately changing my job position.

I became really demotivated. It was like if different forces were pulling my body to different directions at the same time. I became a zombie. I was exhausted.

Real fact: in the process of recovering I visited a local doctor. After telling her the situation and my difficulties to sleep, she prescribed a few substances to come back… or maybe not… I am still shocked how easily a doctor can decide to prescribe anti-depressives and other powerful drugs. I always have big issues with visiting doctors (except in extreme situations)… Imagine now!

I remember the day I called home and told my mum I would return back to Spain. She already knew all the situation I was going through, but still she left a question open: “what are you going to do here?” I had many things in my head back then. From taking a few months off to working as a freelancer. Many potential possibilities, but few clear directions to follow. To be honest, I expected a different answer from her. Something like “yes, six years in Austria are already enough. Come back!” However this didn’t happen…

After hanging up, many moments from the previous years came to my mind. Six years packed in a few seconds. Meaninful enough to bring up a single question: “why did you move to Austria at all?” That was the point of inflection.

Six years earlier (end of 2009 and beginning of 2010), I was fed up with my previous job situation as a PhD student in Malaga. This together with my father’s death, pushed the eject button. I needed something new and since I already knew Innsbruck from a previous student exchange, that could easily become the escape option I needed.

I left everything behing: family, friends, girlfriend and a 2 years grant for finishing my PhD. Why did I do it? More important, how could I do it in 2010, but I couldn’t do it in 2016? In both cases, it was about accepting changes and moving on. However, there is something I still don’t understand. “Something” gave me enough courage back then and this “something” I was missing now.

There is a way out: planning and achieving

On my way to finding an answer that could bring back the courage to face the current situation, I decided to make a plan. Using a divide and conquer approach, I split my issues in three main tasks in the following order:

  1. Find emotional balance.
  2. Move alone to another apartment and clarify the contract issues with the previous landlord.
  3. Find another job fulfilling my passion.

1. Emotional balance

Finding emotional balance is one of those things that is easier to say than to do. In my case, the emotional crisis was obviously due to love pain. This topic is quite personal and really depends on the strength of each person. People usually say that time cures it and they are quite right, I guess. However, time is kind of slow when you are in that situation. For me the best antidote against this issue is sport. Stop doing whatever task that requires your brain (no programming, no writing, no studying). Your mind is somewhere else anyways, so stop wasting time and energy until you are back.

Get out of your nest. Go to the forest, observe the nature, get tired! These simple things can have an amazing positive impact in your brain and will definitely speed up the recovery process.

Seegrube (Innsbruck)

You can also talk to other people and try to get your mind busy with social activities, but try to move on and don’t always speak about the same negative conversation. Otherwise, they will avoid meeting you quite soon!

I like socialising, but when you are in such a situation you must understand that this is your own call. Stop relying on anybody in order to cure your pain. You need to be in control of your emotions, which at the very end are produced by the flow of chemical substances in your body. This is the reason why I am more inclined towards practicing sports: your body will start generating substances that will make you feel good and counteract the feeling of sadness.

Most probably you have heard that working and keeping your head busy will get your balance back. This is not fully true for jobs that require a mental effort, as already mentioned. So, I repeat it again, get out and practice any kind of outdoor physical activity. Your body and your brain will appreciate it that.

In my case, I relied on hiking and once I started feeling the grip of my neurones again, I knew I was ready for moving to the next issues in the list.

2. Moving apartment

I already discussed the main reasons for this decision previously. However, I wanted to add that moving out of the place where this chain of events happened did help me recovering the emotional balance faster.

I had to rely on a few people who supported me with most of the work. A BIG THANKS goes to all of them! You know exactly who you are. This also reminded me that you can only count on a very limited amount of people when you really need help. Still, I don’t want to say this too loud for those who enjoy “real friendship” on Facebook.

I took advantage of the situation for decluttering a bit. I got rid of many things, which got me some extra cash. But, most importantly, it gave me a feeling of freedom and independency, just because of the simple fact of knowing that I can move somewhere else with less effort.

It is interesting to note how completing simple actions like getting rid of an unused item can have a significant positive impact in your recovery process. My personal observation here is that the key is to feel the progress in your actions.

No matter what you do, you need to see progress.

With the apartment saga solved and a few kilos less, I was in a good situation to proceed to the final point of the list.

3. Career adjustment

Staying in my job position wasn’t healthy anymore. Having decided to move to a different place and cancelling the decision in the last moment drastically impacted my motivation. My office became the physical representation of my previous suffering. I had to get out as soon as possible!

I knew I had to face my fears and challenge myself in order to find my own way. I don’t know how many hours of motivational Youtube videos I consumed during that phase… Did they help? I don’t know, but one day I simply went home and I tried to bring up a rational decision, so I did the following.

I told you at the beginning of this post that I am very bad at taking decisions (of any kind), so I decided to simplify the process by writing down the pros and cons of every option. I also wrote down a profile of my dream job position.

Dream job & pros/cons evaluation

I guess you want to know what happened afterwards, so let me start from the beginning.

Shortly after finishing my PhD, I realised that I didn’t have a clear target anymore. For this reason, I started the “6020 peaks” as a way to explore new directions and learn further as a software engineer.

The name “6020 peaks” is inspired by the mountains and hiking paths in Innsbruck and its surroundings (people who practice mountain activities will get the motivational point behind it). 6020 is just the zip code of Innsbruck. It is just another number. Still, I believe that there are more than 6020 peaks around…

I did freelancing on different topics like Android development, Apache Solr, Web scrapping, UML training and many other little tasks, which explains the variety of topics available in this blog. This lack of focus pushed me to find a special topic catching the majority of my attention.

I analysed carefully all the professional activities (employed and side-projects) that I did in the previous 10 years in order to get an understanding of the things that keep my level of interest and motivation high. From all those activities, working with Android technologies is the one that I could pick that aligned best with my requirements. So I have decided to leave aside any kind of distraction and focus uniquely on Android app development.

Android topics will have an extreme impact on the coming 6020 peaks site.

Since I discovered the Android world back in 2011 while developing the Word Bucket app, I never experienced such level of passion for any job again. This has been kind of a curse for me, because I always ended up quitting my recent jobs. I guess mostly due to the lack of motivation, passion and low career expectations.

I have tried to get an explanation for the previous fact and I came to the conclusion that I am personally driven by impact. With impact I refer to create useful solutions for improving our community somehow. For a better understanding consider the following message sent by a Word Bucket user on May 24th, 2016:

<br /> Hi Guys, Word Bucket is my favorite app for learning Spanish, BAR NONE!!<br /> I currently have over 1800 words and phrases in my green bucket.<br /> I use the app daily and love being able to enter my own words and phrases.<br /> I play the green game, but would like to practice them again by putting them back into the white bucket. Repetition is key for learning!<br /> Thanks for all your effort.<br /> Cheers<br /> Paul from Canada<br />

Let me elaborate further on this. I firmly believe that money is an important asset in order to cover the basic needs. However, once this has been achieved, as a professional you will need more than that in order to justify why you got up from your bed in the morning. Trust me, money is not enough for doing so.

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in a mirror every morning and ask myself:

If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?

And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I knew I had to change something.” Steve Jobs.

If you end up in a position that doesn’t necessarily challenge you or you see that your main activity doesn’t have any measurable contribution to real users, then sooner than later you will feel like a hamster in a wheel. If you feel comfortable with this situation then congratulations, but the odds are that most probably you won’t feel good with it in the long term.

In my personal case, I just decided to friendly quit my position. However, truth be told, I didn’t decide this straight away. It took me a long time until I knew it was the right moment to do so. This moment came when I had fixed the previous two issues that were draining my energy. In addition, I already knew what I would like to focus on: Android development.

In 2016 I drastically decided to put more effort on Android technologies and grow my knowledge on that field. The following list summarises all the activities related to the Android world were I have participated since then:

  • AppCircus winner announcement

  • eTourism Hackathon Seefeld 2017 winner announcement

  • Wikimedia Hackathon Vienna 2017

    • Created the Droidhood Foundation, a tech nonprofit with the aim of applying Android technologies to social problems.
  • Droidhood founders

    The message I want to transmit with this is that nothing comes for free. You will have to put a lot of time and effort on learning and keeping up to date in order to create impact, but I can assure you that the results awaiting for you are way more rewarding than any economical figure.

    I am still at the beginning of my learning path towards using my skills for solving challenges that impact positively our society. The materialisation of this is the Droidhood Foundation, which hopefully with the time becomes a reference organisation in applying Android technologies for social good.

    Whatever will come is uncertain at this moment, but one thing is clear to me: I have recovered my motivation and this is when magic happens!

    Final conclusion

    A few weeks ago I became 33 years old. I like using this date for looking backwards and reviewing the achievements and issues that might have popped up during the previous year. Quite similar to the new year’s resolution that many people do. I simply like doing this for keeping track and seeing progress, which I believe is crucial in order to grow in every sense, as I already pointed out before.

    This year has been a little bit special. Not only for the number (by the way, Jesus did most of his greatest stuff when he became 33), but mostly for the big adjustments that I have been doing at a personal and career level.

    From all the chain of events that I described before I surely learnt a big lesson: you have to be the most important person for yourself. This might sound selfish, but there isn’t any other way around. If you don’t value yourself, imagine what you will be worthy for others. Remember this statement in any decision you take and things will become easier. You can apply this to any field you can imagine: personal relationships, health issues, career, etc.

    Every individual has a personal battle and very different circumstances. I hope that reading these lines about my own battle will push you to take action. Because action is better than inaction, since doing nothing is failing by default.

    The photo on the top is the Colosseum, a place where many warriors fought their battle for getting their freedom.