Feeling Discouraged, with Paula Paul

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Paula Paul, Distinguished Engineer, gives advice on what to do when you feel discouraged.

Paula Paul has been working in technology since the 80s where she worked at IBM where they shipped their first product in magnetic tape! Since then, she’s worked in various other areas in technology. Paula is passionate about equal opportunities for technical literacy.


ES: This is 5 Minute Mentor, a podcast where you’ll get advice from prominent engineers, authors, artists, and more in 5 minutes or less.

PP: Hello, this is Paula Paul, I’m a Distinguished Engineer.

PP: I’d like to check with you all today on: what do you do when you’re discouraged? We’ve all been there. I mean I’ve been in this industry for a long time now, and even as a distinguished engineer, I get discouraged. I don’t know where things are going, or even in my career, what’s next.

PP: Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s bugging you. Maybe it’s not just one thing. It can be a collection of things or a collection of related things. Maybe you’re just tired and that could be amplifying some of the smaller things have been bugging you but you’ve been through.

PP: When I get discouraged I do a few things, one is: don’t make any hasty decisions. Maybe that’s common sense, but you’d be surprised, if your action-oriented how much you might feel like you need to do something. So, what I remember is, having done yoga a few times in the past, I remember an instructor that used to say it’s okay to sit through the discomfort, or breathe through the discomfort, because frustrations or discomfort is usually temporal and it’s important to really understand where you are and if the thing that is frustrating you might be temporal, or you might have a bound around it, or a box around it.

PP: Also, try to look at your situation from another point of view. If you can imagine being one of your co-workers or being in the head of someone that you respect and how you might imagine they see your situation and it might be very possible that people around you think that you’re in a terrific situation and you’re very lucky, very fortunate and maybe you’re the one that struggling with discomfort or disappointment in it. So can you rationalize that? Where is it coming from? That’s a really hard thing to figure out sometimes. Is it temporal? Will it pass? Is there something you can do to change your perspective and take charge of the situation and just find a path through? It’s not always possible, and sometimes good people are just put in discouraging situations. Try to appreciate what you have, and be realistic, but take time to do something that makes you happy. Read a fiction novel, go have ice cream.

PP: Me personally I always come back to tinkering with code. Usually I write a little Ruby program or I can go to practice Taekwondo something physical. Find a thing that centers you and try to work through the frustration and see past it. It’s not always easy. Rely on your friends.
I also like to keep a copy of a poem called Desiderata, and I like these two stanzas and I’ll wrap it up with these two stanzas and wish you all the best working through your frustrations and coming out the other side in a better place, so from Desiderata, the first stanza is:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully nurturing and surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

PP: So, I hope that you’re not discouraged for long, or that you took this away for times when you are, and I wish you all the best. Thanks for your time.

Paula Paul, Distinguished Engineer

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