confidence: the ultimate essay collectionramble

August 14, 2009

It's a bit amusing, or possibly deflating, when you double check and find out you've pretty much written a ramble for your blog before. A lot of the links here are from searching for "confidence" on this site's search engine...

What's on my mind is my job. We're starting up with a new client, and one of the company's partners talked with the tech lead on my first gig at the company. In general I came out pretty well with that, but I guess in early days I come across as "too deferential" - and I think that is a good term for my issues with projecting the front of "can-do" confidence a consultant is supposed to have. As a consultant you're often asked to clean up a messy situation. My knee-jerk reaction is to give the people who worked on it before the benefit of the doubt, figuring I'm not THAT much smarter than them, if at all...and I have trouble with the default assumption of "this is a solvable problem", or at least, "this problem is solvable by me with the time and resources I'm likely to be granted for it.". (In January 2005 I express my general sense of "maybe this technical problem IS going to kick my ass".)

This piece from February 2006 lets me see the parallels with the consulting job I had then and the situation I'm in now. Then though, I had some more senior techies to defer to, and with my current gig I might not have that safety net.

(My boss mentioned that some of the people he's talking with to come onboard from our mutual dot-com company have often been at product companies and are eager to try a consulting role... in my heart of hearts I'm worried I'm feeling the opposite. At a company with a core product (and maybe side projects) there's a sense of "we're in this together" that a consultant doesn't have. Also, when there's a fixed technology base, you can dive deep into a smaller number of toolkits, rather than having to fake expertise in whatever fool thing is coming down the pike. (And while I do feel I'm an excellent techie, especially with the core Java/J2EE stuff, I'm having to play catch up with some of the toolkits that are emerging as possible "winners"))

Right now I don't have a ton of confidence. I'm bright, but it seems like I am slow to pick up new technologies -3 years ago I was kind of interested in what I think I actually AM good at, technology and other-wise. I also dislike setting goals, like I mentioned all the way back in November 2003. Back then I looked to some childhood examples of my resentment of goals that might not be met. Then in December 2006 I point to some early factors that might be cause or might just be fellow effect: this ridiculous ego thing - and in November 2007 I find an article describing it as par for the course for clever kids:
The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.
I also point to the death of my dad as early(ish) proof to me that sometimes the worst-scenario plays out, that things don't always get better, that situations might be as bad or worse than you think. Right now I'm not sure if this was as formative as an event as I tend to assume, or at least not formative in this way.

Other factors: like I mention in January's "25 random things" list: "A theme of my life seems to be not wanting to be responsible for something going wrong. So I'm very slow to pick up new commitments, but once I have them, I'm very committed". This might just be a variation of that other stuff, or it might be... I dunno.

Finally I wonder where my big anxiety-ish times tie into this. In April 2005 I thought Y2K anxiety might have broken something in me in the late-90s, causing me to not lose a kind of happy-go-lucky demeanor. And then I got spooked about EMF pulses, but finally I got to grip with that kind of fear by thinking and writing the content of my guide to mortality... once you accept the end, it's easier to live with what comes before (even though some lives are much more unpleasant than others.)

That last links touched on thoughts of "anxiety as addiction" (a line put forth by the "Ramtha" folks). And not to use random theories about brain chemistry to dodge personal responsibility for keeping our own heads in order, but yesterday there was a that Slate piece on 'Seeking' behavior, how studies on mice might explain why Google and Twitter, with their frequent intermittent, small and non-satiating nuggets of information might be as addictive as crack for our distraction seeking heads. Combined with my desire not to remind myself how challenging some work things are for me, there are times when it's a struggle to control that stupid, angsting cycle.

Sigh. It's difficult to remember how good I have it on the scale of human history, how luxurious my life is compared to the sweeping bulk of humanity through history. Kate made a video about the show "Being Human" that kind of rants against cubicle life. I think she misses the point, though, that work is generally a part of life. It can be defining, it doesn't have to be. Like Rob said of office work though, "It ain't heavy lifting" - us geeks should be suitably grateful for that. Yeah, I which I was rich, I think I'd be able to handle early retirement more gracefully and productively than many, and no, I'm not certain if the standard work week (plus) is the right trade off of time and money for me, given how I don't have a commitment to making a family at this point. Still, there are much worse ways to live.

Alright. Believe it or not getting this stuff out on screen helps, so thanks for putting up with it! I didn't take a lot of time to go back and edit...

"shaping and hammering at an emotion until it becomes a thought"
--Kevin the Therapist in 2005, describing what I might be doing. Poetic for a therapist!
Samsung: nice monitor, but a smooth, featureless "glide touch" button bar, with buttons labeled dark grey on black? Artsy, but annoying. - how to restore Hibernate in Vista- I find "sleep" tends to wake itself up.
Maybe I just fixed my iPhone's ability to place calls ("call failed" errors) by calling it from a different phone? - miller is starting a new food blog! Seems very friendly, instruction-wise.
80s Transformers- remember the rub signs? guess they woulda been kinda sorta ok, just a bit lame, if they didn't have the grey border...