Leaving the comfortable

A little over 3 months ago, I started at a new job. This came after years of good consulting work at a great place where I felt quite comfortable. While I was in a great situation working with a lot of good friends, I gave it up for a new challenge.

Anytime you start something new, it’s a roll of the dice. I was going to work in an industry that I knew a lot about, at a company where I knew a lot of people. But even with all that, there were a lot of things up in the air.

I was at my previous client for over 5 years, which these days seems like an eternity. In some ways, it felt that way for me because that’s the longest I had ever stayed at one place. In other ways, the time flew by. They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s certainly the way that it was. In that time, our team went from just figuring out how to function to being extremely high performing, even to the point that we didn’t notice it anymore. We never had large disagreements about process, developers would just run with major efforts and understand how to figure it out the right way, and we released every 2 weeks with very little fanfare and virtually no issues. The efficiency of our team was incredible.

At the same time, I knew I had a choice to make. I could keep going in my comfortable place, providing a lot of value, working with good friends, working for a good company… but I wasn’t being challenged. It wasn’t the fault of anyone, it’s just that when you do the same kinds of things over and over for years, you get pretty good at it, and you don’t really have to learn many new things or find your way in unknown territory.

So I set out for the unknown territory. I had some friends encourage me to do this, even though they didn’t know that I was already heading down that path, but nevertheless it confirmed the direction that I was going.

These days, the goal of so many people is to live a comfortable life, and in today’s world with all of our technological advancements, that’s getting really easy to do (why bother to go to the store when Amazon will deliver almost anything to my door in 2 days?). It feels good to be comfortable, but that’s not the goal that I’m trying to achieve in life.

The new job has not been comfortable, at least not at first. When you start somewhere new, so many things are up in the air. You don’t feel like you know how anything works, and you know that at some point people are going to expect you to know things. At first you feel like you’re just trying to keep your head above water while people keep dropping more things on you to carry, but eventually you figure it out. That’s how it was for the first month or so. But at the same time, I found I had a lot more energy. Work felt stressful and I was tired when I got home, but I was getting up earlier, I had more time to exercise, and I didn’t feel lethargic during the day. This was a big change from my last several months at my previous gig, where I felt tired most of the time, especially in the afternoon.

I really underestimated how tiring it is to work somewhere where you are too comfortable. By all measures, everything there was great. It’s hard to find anything that was negative about the situation, other than the fact that I wasn’t learning and growing as a developer. All of that comfort couldn’t have been draining, but there was nothing that was stimulating. I think deep down I recognized this, which is what caused me to leave, but I didn’t know that it would have such a big effect on my energy level.

I’m starting to settle in at my new job, I feel a lot more confident and I understand a lot more about what’s going on. Compared to my old team, my new team (which is made up of all new people who haven’t worked together before) has a lot to figure out. Our process isn’t as smooth, we don’t move as fast, we don’t have a shared understanding of how we like to create software, getting anything to production is a lot of work, and I personally have a lot to learn and figure out. But I know this is all a good thing, and we will all learn from it. That’s what I wanted after all, to be somewhere where I could succeed, but I would have to work for it and learn a lot in the process. All of those things are happening, and I’m confident that our team will get a lot better over time. We are poised for a ridiculous amount of success.

For me, I’ve traded the comforts of the predictable for new territory, and it’s going to be well worth it in the end.