Discontentment is a feeling that I struggle with on a regular basis. It’s a common vice for Americans to be discontent with the things that they have – wanting a bigger house, a better car, a more important job – but my discontentment takes on a very specific character: the nagging worry that I’m not doing enough, not performing well enough, not working hard enough. This discontent makes it hard for me to feel a sense of accomplishment in my work or family life. Weekends and holidays, instead of being times to relax and have fun with my family, are spent worrying when I’ll have enough time to work on side projects (like this blog).
The other day, my wife challenged me on this. “Just relax,” she said. “It’s okay to have downtime.” She’s right, of course, but it’s still difficult for me to accept that truth.
Can others relate to this nagging feeling of discontment? As I reflected on this struggle, I realized that my discontent was both a blessing and a curse: it motivated me to keep trying new things (sometimes entire new careers), but it also often kept me from enjoying the fruit of these new experience. The constant worry that I ought to be doing something more important also prevents me from focusing on the moment in front of me.
Evaluate the roots of your discontentment
If you, like me, experience this sense of discontentment, where does it come from? It likely has a mixture of both positive and negative origins. Simply because it’s an uncomfortable feeling doesn’t mean that it’s not an appropriate feeling. Yet, by its very nature, discontentment often springs from motives that are less than pure. Continue reading Dealing with Discontentment
The first time I was unemployed, I became an incredible basketball player.
Several players, in fact: a playmaking point guard, a high-flying forward, a 7-foot defensive specialist. Not real ones, of course — these were all versions of me that I created in NBA Live ’99 on the GameCube. Eventually, my team of avatars played for the NBA championship, and it felt — well, kinda awesome at the time.
That period in my life was hardly the most productive or rewarding one I’ve experienced. As I’ve reflected on why I spent so much time playing video games, when I could – should – have been doing so many other things, a few reasons occur to me.
A lack of urgency: My wife and I had very few bills at the time (we were living with her grandmother), and she had a full time job as a teacher. So, from my (mistaken) perspective, I could wait for the perfect job to find me. But here’s what I didn’t know:
- My wife would become pregnant while I was unemployed.
- It would take me 9 months to find a full time job, never mind the “perfect” one.
- Eleven years later, we would still be paying off the student loans that we thought would be “easy” to pay off once I got a job.
I should have felt urgency. I should have been doing much more with my time. There were ways I could have been making money that I didn’t even consider, and there was a tremendous amount of unpaid work that I could have been doing. (More on that in a minute.) Continue reading A Second Chance at Unemployment
With the release of the movie Ender’s Game, many people have been asking whether the political and religious views of the book’s author, Orson Scott Card, should affect their opinion of the movie. Though I have not been following the debate closely, I understand that some people even called for a boycott of the film (which, evidently, was not successful). On the geek culture podcast The Incomparable, host Jason Snell used the occasion to speak more broadly about authors whose views, personality, or later writing caused him and his fellow panelists to reject their earlier, classic work. The podcast – entitled “I Assume Everyone Is Awful” – is quite good, and I recommend listening to it. They cover many of the same authors that I’ve given up on or struggled with myself.
Throughout the podcast, though, I kept wondering about an assumption at the heart of the conversation. Would it have made sense for them to be discussing, say, accountants and plumbers in the same way? Even staying within the work of writing, should we care about the political or religious views of technology writers? Since the Romantics, art has been regarded differently than other kind of work. Art has been considered to be a form of personal expression different in quality than other forms of work, and the artist has been considered the kind of person whose expressions matter more than other persons.
I’m not convinced that art should be considered as a different category of work, which led me to wonder:
Should our work be considered a form of personal expression?
There are at least three valid answers to this question. Continue reading Should We Consider Our Work a Form of Personal Expression?