Are You Being Energized or Drained?

Things That Energize Me


EricYesterday I was in the basement talking with one of my sons. I heard laughter upstairs and went to see what was up — at the top of the stairs I found my grandson quickly crawling towards me. He had heard my voice and decided being with grandpa sounded like a pretty cool thing, and took off like a shot to come find me.

How great is that!

Often when he is around, a short work break turns into an extended session crawling around on the floor until my knees hurt. When that happens, I always return to my basement lair refreshed.

Making Physical Things

It has been a little while since I have done any significant woodworking, but I do have a decent set of tools and supplies in the garage. I love starting with nothing more than a vague idea and transforming raw pieces of wood into something with my own two hands (and some power tools!).

Creating physical things that never existed before is very cool, and seeing the finished product sitting on the workbench is satisfying.


GlacierNPI love spending time with my family, and some of my favorite times are our trips to the mountains, woods, or canyons. Being someplace where none of my technology works frees me in a unique way. Even a short visit to the wilderness can recharge a part of my mind and soul that I didn’t even realize were hurting.

A hike in the canyons of the southwest, the great woods of the north, or one of our great National Parks in the mountains inspires me in a way nothing else can.

Helping People

When someone I have taught demonstrates by their work or life that they “got it”, that gives me a good feeling. But, when they surpass anything I taught or helped with — that is really exciting.

When someone like that excels, their success spills over and puts gas in my tank.

Writing Useful Software

As much as I like seeing something physical take shape, crafting something out of nothing but thought is a uniquely enjoyable experience. When the pieces come together and fit just like I want; when I can look at what I have written and honestly say to myself, that turned out pretty well; and when others find what I have finished to be good — I am pleased, and that pleasure provides energy for the next round.

Things That Drain Me

Breaking Commitments

One of the requirements of being a responsible adult is making commitments and keeping them. When I can see no way to keep a commitment I made because of my poor planning or lack of understanding of what I was doing — I pile up stress points like crazy. If I have to go back to someone and explain that I can see no way to keep the commitment I willingly made earlier, it is a serious emotional drain and can turn into a downward spiral if I am not careful.

Making a Mistake That Hurts Someone Else

Mistakes happen. We all know that. If I mess up on something that primarily hurts me, I kick myself for a minute then get my head on straight and figure out how to correct it and move on. I really don’t waste energy on the “if only” stuff any more. But, if my mistake causes someone else extra work or pain, I cringe and struggle with figuring out how to make amends.

Repeatedly Failing To Reach A Goal

If I set a goal, whether formal or informal, and don’t reach it — I am usually able to rationally analyze what went wrong and decide how to proceed. But, if there is a long term goal that I seem to be getting no closer to, or repeat the “set goal, fail” cycle for the same goal too many times, it gets very discouraging.

Beating Discouragement

We all could make lists like these. Some of the items will change, but the pattern is part of being human. One of the dangers of discouragement is that it starts a negative feedback loop that can ruin me emotionally if left unchecked.

To be discouraged is “to be deprived of courage or confidence : be disheartened”. When my courage or confidence is low or non-existent, it can be very hard to break out of that cycle. Here are some things I can do to break discouragement’s nasty grip.

Separate The Objective Reality From Subjective Feelings

Emotions are a vital part of being human, and it does not help if I pretend they don’t exist or that they don’t matter. Unfortunately, emotions can be misleading or just plain wrong, and often lag far behind objective reality. I need to find a way to sort out what is real.

I need to work backwards from my feelings to the reality. I do something like the “Five Whys” on my emotions to help determine the root causes. Once I have identified the root causes of my discouragement I am in a better position to address them.

For root causes that are outside my control, I have to ask myself if I can really afford to let events like that control my life so deeply. At this point, I need to force myself to change my goals or expectations. If I am unwilling to make that change, I need to realize I am facing a downward spiral with no escape.

For root causes over which I have some control, I have to ask myself which is more important: the status quo those causes represent or my goal. It may be difficult to decide, and my end decision may be a hybrid, but once again, something needs to change or nothing will be solved.

Enlist The Help Of Objective Loved Ones And Friends

If I am having trouble sorting out the truth about my discouragement, enlisting an objective loved one or friend makes a big difference. Even the geekiest, most introverted people need others, and I am no different. It can be painful to ask for this kind of help, and I need to use discretion, but it may be the only way for me to see what is true and what is false.

Choose To Do Things That Energize You

I need to find those things that energize me. I cannot expect to remove destructive emotions without finding things to take their place. When I have a choice, I need to choose activities, relationships, and projects that will be encourage me to keep trying.

I need to find ways to take incremental steps towards my goals. When I see progress on a small scale, that enables me to envision success on a grander scale.

Be Decisive

It is a myth that I can have it all. I need to make choices about what is important to me, what I want, what I should do, and what I cannot do.

One aspect of leadership that applies to all responsible adults is that decisions must be made with incomplete information. I will never have all the information I want before I have to make a decision, and if I keep waiting for it, I will end up in “analysis paralysis”.


  • Make a decision.
  • Be willing to live with the consequences of that decision.
  • When necessary, make changes.

After all, that is what it means to be a grown up.

This marks the beginning of my second run on iDevBlogADay. Once again, my thanks go out to all the participants, readers, but especially to Miguel. Thanks Miguel!

We all need the support of others to do our best work. Find other like-minded developers that will provide encouragement and motivation through local user groups, conferences or meetups. A great collection of indie iOS developers have helped me stay on track through meetups, 360iDev, twitter, and iDevBlogADay.

I regularly attend Cocoa/iPhone developer meetups in Cincinnati, Ohio and Columbus, Ohio. If you are in the central or southwest Ohio area, come join me at either monthly meetup:

If you depend on iOS development for your livelihood, or would like to get to that point — you really need to attend a conference dedicated to helping you get better, and I can think of no better conference for that purpose than 360iDev — you should register today!. Much of what I am able to do professionally is due to the things I learned and the people I met there.

Finally, here is a little more information about me, Doug Sjoquist, and how I came to my current place in life. You should follow me on twitter and subscribe to my blog. Have a great day!