Do you ever find yourself doing all the right things for the wrong reasons? If you’re anything like me, you do this more often than you would like to admit. It is far more common for me to get carried away with wrong thinking than it is to have pure motives. And it’s because of that, that I have some things I need to get off my chest.
There is a question that I constantly, almost daily, have to ask myself, “Why do I start with the best intentions and always come up short when it comes to motivations?”
You see, I love teaching, nurturing, and watching people around me grow in their technical ability. I get some kind of natural high when I am able to help someone out. I think it is the greatest thing that there are people on Twitter who have never met me, but are willing to help me with some technical problem. It is equally as great that people spend their time writing blogs (or podcasts) that they put out for free for my consumption.
Seriously, think about that for a moment; what an amazing field we have chosen to work in. In fact, I find it so invigorating that I try to help people as much as I can. There is something inside of me that wants to give back to the community that has helped me so much as I have grown and continue to grow as an engineer.
Here’s the problem: I find myself equally, if not more excited when I get retweeted, or one of my blog posts hits it “big”. You know, when you find yourself hitting F5 over and over on your Google analytics page to see how many people aren’t reading your blog. Or you’re having a conversation with someone; suddenly a *great* tweet pops in your head; you tweet it and wait anxiously for the retweets to begin. This becomes the validation for your awesomeness. You know how great you are, but for some reason you need others to validate how great you are.
OK, maybe it’s just me. I am ashamed to admit it but I constantly fall into this trap. I find myself wrapped up in my own mind wanting more and more attention from my virtual peeps. Somehow I feel as though my identity, my self-worth is wrapped up in how *popular* I am online. That my networking skillz (yes, skillz with a Z) can only be validated by how much ataboys and “Wow you’re a genius” comments I get on a daily basis. If I’m not getting it in person, well then heck I have to get it online. After all, there are WAY more people to behold my glory online.
Here’s the thing. I don’t think I am alone in this, while it may not be as big of a struggle for some; it is definitely an issue I have seen time and time again in the field of IT.
Where does it come from?
I believe it stems from the fact that we are paid by how much we know. So we must strive and struggle to prove our worth. It’s almost as if the further into our career we go, the more proud and egotistical our behavior must become. If we aren’t the best and brightest around, then why would a company want us? We constantly feel the pressure that we must earn our keep day in and day out. And forget it if we don’t know something…that is just death as we know it.
Is this reality?
Do we really need to think like this? No, I think engineers put this pressure on themselves – while not entirely, for the most part it is our fault.
What can we do?
Honestly, I wish I had the answer to that. I have tried time and time again to let it go. My family does not judge me based on my OSPF skills or how well I can explain the traffic flow internally inside a Cat 6500. And at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter.
So why am I publicly admitting to my own egotistical behavior? I have no idea – really I don’t. Maybe it is just my narcissism, unabashedly releasing itself into the wild. Or maybe I am just looking for some empathy from some fellow engineers who struggle the same. Or maybe yet, it is my way of holding me accountable to change. At any rate, I cannot stop trying to help and give back to the community, even if that means my motives aren’t always as pure as I would like them to be.
If one out of every 100 times I strike it rich and my motives are pure, it is worth the 99 times that they aren’t. If I can help in any small way, if I can give back just an ounce what has been given to me, it is worth it no matter what.
So here is my advice – just have fun. We get to work with some really cool technology, so let’s just have fun and forget about being the best and the brightest. If you have fun and just keep learning, I believe it is only natural that you will become a great engineer – one that isn’t so paranoid and annoying.
Let’s just keep putting material out there, let’s keep helping as best as we know how and maybe, just maybe, our egos will take a side step and we can get on with it.
Well, I feel better. Thanks for listening.