Taking Some Time Away

Written By John Sonmez

I’ve been consistently writing a blog post every week—aside from a few missed weeks—since November of 2009.

That’s a long time.

I even wrote blog posts every week while I was out touring Europe for three and a half months.

I didn’t want to break the streak.

I didn’t want to let anyone down.

But now I’m going to consciously take a break for a little while to renew myself and get things figured out.

It’s difficult to even write this.

The obsessive-compulsive side of me screams that I can’t break the chain.

But, more and more, I’ve been feeling like I need a break, like I need to step away for a while and stop putting so much pressure on myself.

It’s been building up to the point that I feel I can no longer ignore it.

It might seem strange that I would be saying this now, after having just come back from what some would call a rather long vacation. But I feel that either it wasn’t enough time, or my head was still too wrapped up in Simple Programmer.

Honestly, it was probably both.

I never really went a week without thinking about Simple Programmer and what needs to be done.

Even though I technically only worked Fridays, I still answered emails and made videos all throughout the week.

Lack of motivation

Oversleeping EmployeeI’ll be completely honest here.

I get up in the morning and I just don’t feel motivated to do anything lately.

As a productivity junkie, I find this hard to admit.

But lately I’ve been putting six things on my Kanban board for the day, and only one of them is getting done—sometimes none.

I felt this coming for a long time.

I don’t want to call it burnout, but I suppose that might be what it is.

I’ve always been able to get past “burnout” in the past, because I was able to get myself to soldier on so I could reach some higher goal.

I’ve sort of run out of higher goals.

I don’t really have anywhere that I feel need to get to.

I no longer feel a need to prove myself.

I’m not saying this to brag, but I’ve made a lot of money, I’ve published a successful book, and I’ve proven that I can make it as an entrepreneur.

In terms of financial and business success, there’s not really a lot more that I feel motivated to achieve.

I also don’t want to call it depression, because I believe that is a cop out answer.

If I call what I am experiencing depression, then I am giving up control. I’m admitting that I’m helpless, when I know that I’m not. I can take charge and I can make a change—that’s why I’m writing this post.

I suppose the one thing I’d be willing to call my current state is boredom.

What I do everyday no longer interests me.

I’m not excited to write a new blog post.

I’m not excited to record more videos or manage the day-to-day tasks of Simple Programmer.

I’m not saying that I’ll never be excited again, but I need a break and a change of pace.

I need some new perspective and a renewal that I don’t think I’ll find by continuing to sit in front of a computer doing the same things over and over again.

I broke myself

Too Many Priorities Overwhelming To-Do List Tasks JobsWhen I got back from Europe, I wanted to be enthusiastic about the new things I was going to do here at Simple Programmer, so much so that I faked that enthusiasm to a large degree.

When I realized this and tried to think of some things I could be enthusiastic about, I began to realize that I might have broken myself somehow.

I think, in the past few years, I worked so hard and trained myself to become so disciplined that I broke something inside of me, and I’m not sure how to get it back.

I feel that I have taught myself how to become a robot or a machine that can produce large amounts of work, but along the way I lost all of my passions and desires.

I was trying to figure out what I was excited about, what things I enjoy doing, but I kept coming up blank.

I couldn’t find anything that I really wanted to do.

I used to have a lot of passions.

I used to love playing video games, and Magic the Gathering, and watching movies, and even going out and having dinner with friends, but I find myself in a place where nothing appeals to me—and it’s kind of scary.

I feel like I took the motorcycle into the garage for safekeeping, thinking that I’d always be able to dust it off and start it back up again when I was finally ready to ride,only to find that when I crank the kickstarter, nothing happens.

I made a bargain with myself to put all my passions and “fun” on hold while I hunkered down and built my future, only to find that the trail of breadcrumbs I left behind was eaten by birds. Now I can’t find my way back.

It’s a scary place to be.

And it’s difficult to admit.

More than once I’ve been tempted to delete this whole post.

I want to believe that I can instantly transform from Clark Kent to Superman just by ducking into a telephone booth. But the truth is… I can’t.

There is something wrong when you work so hard that you forget to live.

There is something wrong when you’ve lost sight of the things you are working for.

You have to have meaning

I’ve taught myself to trudge on and endure without a lot of things.

I can go for days without food.

I can work without sleep or without breaks.

I can push on through distractions and procrastination.

I can work when I don’t feel like it and when I feel like I’ve lost all motivation.

I’ve even learned how to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and to bounce back stronger than ever.

But what I haven’t learned how to do is work without meaning.

I feel like that is what I have lost.

When what you are doing isn’t connected to a purpose, it’s difficult to muster up motivation, even from the depths of your soul.

The barrel is empty. The well has run dry.

I can no longer connect what I am doing to something I want to achieve, because—at the moment—I don’t have anything I want to achieve.

The quest for freedom

Cheerful business person flying between hand drawn sky cloudsFor the longest time, this quest I’ve been on has been all about freedom.

I wanted to build freedom for myself so that I could truly do what I wanted to do in life.

I wanted to buy back my life, buy back my time, and truly be free.

But, quite ironically, the very path that lead to my freedom took away the point of it.

I suppressed so much and worked so hard that I’m at a point where I’ve lost touch with what it is I want to do with my life.

I’ve come to realize that, as far as freedom goes, I hit the mark a long time ago, yet I continued to trudge on and never fully embrace it.

And it’s not an easy thing to embrace.

What would you do if you could do anything?

I mean truly anything.

If you didn’t need a paycheck. If you could just spend your day however you wished.

I used to have answer to these questions, but now I don’t know.

I have to find these answers.

I can’t continue what I am doing until I know why I am doing it and that I have chosen that path, not that I have just taken the path of security or comfort.

Taking a break

That is why I am taking a break.

I’m wrapping a few things up, and after this week, I’ll be focusing on rediscovering what it is that I want to do with my life, now that I am truly free.

But don’t worry, I’m not killing Simple Programmer.

little boy say don't panicYou might not even notice I’m gone.

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, which is why I started the transition to make Simple Programmer more than just about me.

I’m sure you’ve already seen some of the awesome articles that have been published by our writers already.

I’m very happy that so many of you in the Simple Programmer community have been able to see the vision for Simple Programmer and contribute to it.

Since I won’t be writing for a while, they’ll be another slot opening up. If you are interested in writing, apply here.

I’ll also continue to have my YouTube videos published since I do them in batches. So, for at least the next two months, there should still be plenty of videos.

The same goes for the Simple Programmer podcast.

I’m also going to try and avoid email. So, if you email me, you are likely to get a response from someone on my team. (This is probably going to be the toughest challenge.)

Final note

Some people are inevitably going to ask me if I made the right decisions and if it was all worth it, and whether I would do it again or if I regret the course I have taken.

I, personally, don’t have any regrets.

I think the path I took to get where I am is the path that I needed to take.

The last five years have been a wild ride.

I had to work hard to achieve what I have achieved, and I would do it again.

But it’s time to move on and it’s time to grow.

I’ve got to reconnect with what I have lost and come back stronger and better than ever.

I feel like this whole process is a necessary step in my metamorphosis.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I know it’s bright.

As for someone else considering my path, wondering whether or not the work and sacrifices required are worth it for them… that I cannot answer.

But I will tell you this:

Freedom does come at a very high price.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit.

It’s up to you to decide if you want to pay that price or not, and how far down the road you want to go.


A special thank you to Zephyr, who sponsored this post. Zephyr is a huge thought-leader in the agile development and software testing space and has been a long-time partner of Simple Programmer. If you are looking for a test management solution, I highly recommend them.