By February 16, 2012

Pushing Through the Pain

Life ain’t easy!

It ain’t meant to be easy.

Sometimes in life – if you want to achieve anything of worth – you have to just push through the pain.

Yes, this is another post about burnout.


There is no such thing as burnout!

Do I believe that people, and programmers especially, suffer from the symptoms of what is described as burnout?

Yes, absolutely!

The problem is that we tend to batch up these symptoms into one big classification we call burnout.  I’ve written about this topic before, I call it programming lethargy.

I think this topic is so important that it is worth talking about again.

Most advice out there will tell you to step away and refresh yourself.

I’m going to tell you the exact opposite!

Now, I’m not going to suggest you never go on vacation or step away from a problem, but I am going to tell you to…

Push on and push harder!

Greatness is just on the other side of that wall.  When you hit burnout, you are really hitting a wall.

This wall is caused by interest and motivation dropping when results are relatively flat.


Imagine that when you first start an activity your interest is very high.  As your start doing that activity your motivation increases quickly.

You get some immediate feedback as you start to gain results.

Over time the new thing become mundane, so your interest starts to drop.  Your results are relatively flat so motivation follows as well.

This is where the wall exists.

You could call it the road to competency.

It is pretty hard to push beyond this point, because you have to do it without motivation or interest.

Few people do.  That is why greatness is hard to come by.

Searching for greatness

Let’s take a minute to dwell on that idea.

Why do some people achieve such great fame and fortune while others live fairly mediocre lives?

I’m going to pick on a person who I think is pretty famous in the developer community to make my point, Scott Hanselman.

You probably already know who he is.  I was on an episode of one of his Podcasts and that was a big deal for me.  So, if being on his show is a big deal, just imagine how big of a deal it is to be Scott Hanselman.

The question is, why is he so successful?

I think we can describe it in one word- consistent.

If I had two- persistent and consistent.

His podcast is on Show #305 at the time of this writing.  Every week Scott puts out a new podcast.  It is a large amount of work.

About 1 to 2 times a week he usually puts out a new blog post, also a large amount of work.

And I am sure he does countless other things that he doesn’t want to do, but he does because he has a goal in mind.

He’s got kids, he has a full time job, and he has the kind of diabetes where he has to give himself insulin shots everyday.

I am pretty sure he wakes up some mornings and says, “Holy Crapola! I don’t feel like writing a blog post and making a podcast.”

But guess what he does that makes him great?

He does it anyway!

He doesn’t change gears and go a different direction.

He doesn’t pursue some other interest or look for a new job.

He pushes on and pushes through and therein lies his success.

It can be yours as well.

Ask yourself how long he had to go on being consistent and persistent before he saw results?  I bet it took a pretty long time.  I bet he hit a wall at more than one point along the way.

Beyond the wall


The point is, most people lose their motivation and interest in something and decide to switch gears or take a break or leave a project half finished.

I am the worst of the worst of this kind of person naturally!  Really I am!  I am a “lazy, good for nothing, just hand me the world on a platter kind” of guy.

But somehow I’ve learned to grit my teeth, put one foot in front of the other and walk forward.

Earlier in my career, I switched jobs pretty frequently.  I started projects and left them unfinished.  I sapped away countless hours on things that distracted me from bigger goals and big rewards.  I often sought to cure my burnout by reeling away from the thing causing it.

What I have found recently is that by going directly against all my natural inclinations and pushing on to see things through to success, I have found much more success and much bigger rewards.

Don’t make excuses, don’t call it burnout, don’t give up early, instead push harder, see the bigger picture, and climb the !@#* over that wall!

On the other side of that wall lies success and renewed motivation and interest, you just have to get there.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."