These past 12 months were the most intense in my entire life:
- Lost >60% of my life savings due to bad economy and currency devaluation.
- Left my home country for good.
- Lost my place at Laravel.
- Fell head-first into the corporate world.
- Gained 15 kilos after being athletic most of my life.
Since the birth of our son in 2019, he has struggled with SPD, which has affected his ability to sleep and eat. He never slept for more than an hour at a time until he was 2 years 4 months old. Always awakens with episodes of uncontrollable screaming. Always sick because he doesn't eat much.
When you combine the above list with an already exhausted parent, you get someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
At times, I felt as if there was no coming back. I thought I'd hit rock bottom. What a waste, I thought, if things had been different, if countries had been different, I would have used all of those skills to make something of myself.
With my wife preoccupied with our son, all of my friends fleeing the country, and the end of my 6-year relationship with Laravel, I felt lonely like I'd never felt before. I was defeated. I had lost all of my friends and all of my life's work.
One person, a dear friend of mine who used to live in Egypt 10 years ago and is now living in Dubai, helped me bounce back. We spent a lot of time together after I moved there; he listened a lot and was always present. Always.
Khalid is an exceptionally gifted software engineer; he is the type of person who gets things done without wasting time. He isn't a fan of any particular technology stack, and he doesn't worship any particular framework. He is eager to learn everything, and once he has mastered something, he ranks among the top 5%.
What Khalid reminded me of is that we are problem solvers—me, him, and you, my friends. Our job is to deal with a constant stream of problems that come our way. We don't just have to do it; we also enjoy it. And we leave jobs and businesses when there are no longer any problems to be solved.
What he did was put me in a state of excitement about resolving my problems. You know how when you accidentally break a production environment and go into panic mode, and a senior colleague comes in and says something, maybe a joke, and makes you feel better, allowing you to let go of the panic, think clearly, and solve the problem? That's exactly what Khalid did.
I still feel down at times, but all it takes now is to go meet Khalid, and I'm back.
Why am I writing this? Because every incident, bug or downtime, demands a postmortem. To take preventative actions to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
Here are my lessons learned:
Get away from toxic positivity, and distance yourself from good-vibes-only people. They are either protected from the harm, or they will remain in the room until it burns and they are consumed by it.
I understand that some people use toxic positivity to protect themselves from pain that they cannot bear. You can either help them recognize the problem and collaborate with you to find solutions, or you can flee if they refuse to wake up.
A job is you selling your time. You provide value and receive money; you are not a member of a family or a community. You are not a part of the company's future. You are not helping your boss; rather, you are working for them.
Consider this: if you hire someone to build your house, you do not provide them with a room. They get the job done, or not, and leave.
Give it your all, make sure you get paid well, and be prepared to be laid off or leave at any time.
Always leave on good terms, and always, always, always protect the downside.
Planning to pursue the upside is overrated— Daniel Vassallo (@dvassallo) May 2, 2022
Planning to protect the downside is underrated
Stop being a fanboy in your professional life. Be a fan of your favorite sports team, singer, or city. But don't become a zealot for a particular tool, library, or framework.
Remember, you are in the business of building, not the business of cheerleading. A good builder knows his tools and when to use them. And they can switch to different tools if it helps them build or earn better. You won't realize how much professional development you're missing until you try different tools.
Software is built to create value, which is usually money for a business. Learn tools that can talk business. Learn tools that can scale, not in terms of infrastructure, but in terms of money.
A visionary and a builder are required to construct anything. Different types of people are required to grow a business. Don't wear the other hats if you identify as a visionary or a builder.
Your path as a builder or maker does not have to end with big titles, big offices, and big teams. These are the things that will get you out of building and into politics.
If you want to do more than just build and want to avoid politics, don't be a founder; instead, be a cockroach:
If you want to make it in self-employment, don't think of yourself as a founder, a ceo, an innovator, or an entrepreneur.— Daniel Vassallo (@dvassallo) January 14, 2023
No. You must think of yourself as a cockroach, trying to survive. You must want to avoid having this lifestyle taken away from you.
I'm still finding my way in life; I'm not wise, and I don't give advice. However, I strongly urge you to read these two points.
Parenting is difficult, and it's similar to gambling. It can be extremely simple for some and extremely difficult for others. Think long and hard before becoming a parent, and be aware that there's a chance you won't get exactly what you signed up for.
Be gentle with parents, and avoid judging or comparing them. Every case is unique, every child is unique, and every parent is unique. Have empathy and try to assist, or simply smile and be present.
Show your appreciation. To the friends who stayed, the parents who stayed, and the partners who stayed. Don't take it for granted; always strive to express gratitude. If not enough people expressed gratitude, the world would run out of people who stay.
Everyone is in pain, including those who stayed for you, and your gratitude helps to alleviate their suffering. It gives them a sense of worth in a world that constantly works to make people feel worthless, ugly, stupid, weak, and poor.