Be patient with problems (#25)
I feel I hit my first low after seven months of not being employed. It’s not that I don’t know my higher-level goals, but I’m worried I might never get there. I doubt the value of my actions. At one point I even thought working for an employer would make things much easier.
I believed the world was full of opportunities when I left my job. I feel the optimism waning. Sure there are many, but any opportunity for me?
My main purpose of starting this newsletter was to connect with like-minded people. I feel I’m not making much progress. I know making friends is about reaching out, but I always feel I’m not worth their attention. The more I spend time looking what they’re are doing, the more I feel I’ll never be able to do those cool things — there is so much I don’t know, and I don’t even know what problems I want to work on.
A conversation with a friend calmed me down.
He helped me realize problems are signals. I worry about these specific problems because they matter to me. Many others are perfectly satisfied working for a big company — there is nothing wrong with this — but this became my problem and my solution was to quit.
I knew I would face new problems like financial challenges and goal-setting, so I got myself prepared. But I didn’t prepare for the unforeseen.
So the first step to solving a problem is to face it. You won’t do anything if you unconsciously push it away. Doing something is usually the antidote to anxiety.
Then it’s easy to fall into another trap: When I can’t blame the job for robbing my time, shouldn’t I solve the problem now?
This is perhaps a bad habit from my old job because if a problem takes more than a week to solve, managers get impatient and we often ignore it.
Some problems take time. Herminia Ibarra calls career transition an “open-ended, tentative, exploratory, hypothetical, problematic, devious, changeable, and only partially unified” process.
I’m not used to this. I was used to making linear, predictable progress.
Andrew Conner calls this stuckness — “a distinct embodied feeling: tightness in the head, feeling pushed physically and emotionally […] certainly a cognitive narrative, but the feeling was primarily felt.”
Over time, I learned to associate that exact feeling of stuckness as the feeling that occurs when I'm pushing myself: when something is indeed stretching my capacity, but will open new doors and realizations.
I learned to love this feeling...
I need to learn to love that feeling.3
“Every solution of a problem raises new unsolved problems… The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more consciousness, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do not know, our knowledge of our ignorance.” — Karl Popper, Conjecture and Refutations