In my last article, I talked about my progress in adding scenario tests for the nested container scenarios for the PyMarkdown project. In this article, I talk about the struggles to regain my confidence that I have been having since my crash at the end of May.


I am going to let any readers of this article in on a little secret. I do not like reality television shows where people expect to get famous and do stupid things. However, I do like reality shows where the show documents one or more interesting aspects of work that gets done or where people are help each other. Especially if one of those two things are done in a weird or novel way, I am in! Be it Dirty Jobs or Backroad Truckers, the way that the producers highlight the work always surprises me. On the other side of the coin, shows like Bar Rescue and Restaurant Impossible hit me in a separate way. Part car crash, part counselling session, it is the creative aspects of the hosts and how they try and resolve issues that appeal to me.

And as much as I watch those shows as entertainment, in real life, I do take away things from watching those shows.

Life Is Not Static

As with many things in life, I must monitor and adapt to the continually shifting priorities that are an everyday part of my life. If I do not do that, one or more parts of my life suffers, with the underlying issue becoming more difficult to correct with each passing day. While I have been able to keep my personal life and professional life relatively well balanced in the last couple of months, it has come at the expense of my side-project life.

The balance in my personal and professional life is largely in part due to the support I get from my wife and from the people that I work with. Right now, my wife and are I trying to figure out how to make our house more “us”. This includes equal parts thinking, trying things out, and just doing the hard work. Like any good science guy or engineer, I understand that failure is not only an option, but it is an exceptionally good teacher. While I hope for things to work out on the first attempt, that is almost never the case. With my profession, I find that I am only as good as the people that I surround myself with. Having good people around me helps me elevate my game and keeps me motivated to do my best. That and it keeps me on my toes.

If I must be brutally honest, I try and use only a bit of the positive energy from one part of my life in the other parts of my life. That is not as much wisdom on my part as it is a safety mechanism. I can afford to siphon off a bit of that energy, but I need to ensure that my focus and confidence in each area remains at a healthy level for me to continue to succeed in life. Due to past experiences, I am extermely aware that what I just described as positive energy and confidence can also apply to negative energy and a lack of confidence.

Looking back at May, the crash that happened was just a shopping cart looking for a parked car. Unless it was dealt with properly, it was an accident that was inevitably going to happen. Just like the opening acts of the reality shows that I like watching, to anyone looking at that situation from the outside, it was obvious that something needed fixing. But in the moment, I was oblivious. But due to the way I try and keep the parts of my life seperated, it was mainly my side-project that suffered. There was a bit of overlap, that was unavoidable. But that well-earned wisdom helped me keep an even keel and not shake me up… too much.

At this point, I am approximately eight weeks past the crash, with most of the serious stuff from the crash are now behind me. Currently, my main personal project is to slowly rework the backyard into something that is relaxing for my wife and I. Due to smaller successes and talking things through, I have confidence that we are moving in a good direction. In my professional life, I was tasked with doing a lot of work on another project, with the team lead expressing his confidence in me based on how he saw me handle small situations. Based on that feedback and other pieces of feedback at work, I am confident that I am going in a good direction at work.

On my PyMarkdown project, it is a slightly different story.

It is hard for me to admit this, especially to myself, but my confidence in the project is not even close to where I want it to be. Normally, I stagger the work for the different parts of my life to make sure I am giving each part what is needed for me to be happy and successful in that area. While I am getting what I need for the other parts of my life, I am struggling to get to that same place with the PyMarkdown project.

As I have explained before, that process that I take to author my articles is to think about things and write down loose notes. Borrowing from work, I call this my ideation phase. I usually write my ideation notes down in a very technical manner or a stream of consciousness manner, and this week it was stream of consciousness manner. When I performed my ideation exercise for this week’s article, as soon as I wrote down “confidence?”, I put my pen down. Seeing how I was writing the article, I decided to stare at it for a while and just let it sink in. The fact that I had wrote down that word and followed it up with a question mark was a bit stunning to me. But as I thought about it more, I could not argue with it.

There were little hints in my behavior that I had missed, but they were there. In most of the cases, there were small things that I had chalked up to various legitimate reasons. What I had not noticed was that I was spending more focus on those areas, which allowed me to succeed a bit more in those areas. However, those successes were at the expense of my side-project work. Instead of doubling down and focusing on getting debugging done, I was finding other stuff to do that did not have to do with the project. But why?

After thinking about it for a couple of hours, I realized that I was scared. Over my lifetime, there have been numerous times where I have come close to being burnt out and at least one time where I burnt out. When I really, deeply, and honestly thought about it, I feared burning out. The fact was, I had a minor crash that I was able to recover from. But instead of it being a fight to get to the point where I crashed, it snuck up on me and ambushed me. Realistically, I know that is not how it happened, but that is how I felt like it happened. And bluntly, I was scared that it was going to happen again.

There is an old saying that “one bad apple can spoil the barrel.” The meaning behind that saying is that negative things can slowly pollute and degrade the good things around them over time. In this case, the negative thing was the crash and the things to spoil was my confidence. I got burned by the crash and I have worked hard to deal with the main effects that happened due to the crash. Now that I have a good handle on those, it is time that I deal with this piece of shrapnel and look for any other pieces that are lying around.

But how do I deal with this lack of confidence in my work on the PyMarkdown project? Since these issues only came to me as I was writing this article, I sincerely do not have an answer to the problem yet. I think that lack of an answer is comforting to me because I would feel like I was being dishonest with myself if I just came up with something that might work. I would rather dedicate time to think about how to increase my confidence while trying it out on the project. Anything else would feel cheap and superficial.

Crossing my fingers for the next week. Stay tuned.

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So what do you think? Did I miss something? Is any part unclear? Leave your comments below.

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