“In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me
Spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You…you said you’d wait
’til the end of the world”
Until the end of the world
This credo work is nearly over. Next week I will be presenting the whole of the journey at Better Software West which includes the unveiling of my own Credo. There is still, however, a bit of work to be done. In this post, I explore the meaning and purpose of professional life. If we were hiking through the desert, this would be the point in the trip where we reach the edge of a great precipice and, peer over the side, pondering our next move.
This photo is from a cliff I stood atop years ago with my husband. It is in an area called, “Island in the Sky” in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. I remember standing at the edge, my husband politely suggesting in a louder-than-normal voice that I step back. It was exhilarating because I was staring at the end of the world.
This is the raw place I have written about where everything is stripped away and all you can see is your own bare reality. All of the activities I have blogged about are levels of stripping away bullshit until you get to this moment and the meaning of your life is staring you in the face, intertwined with your physical mortality.
All of our careers have a shelf life, and before that day comes, it’s worth asking questions about the meaning of our careers and what we intend to leave behind. If this seems too abstract and distant in terms of your current context, never fear! There is a “purpose in life” quiz you can take! It is not a magical cure for anything, but if you have lost your way and are too caught up in a daily grind (which happens to everyone at one time or another) this test will make it fairly obvious.
I took this test and managed to squeak over the edge of having a clear purpose. I’m sure there are improvements I can make, but I’m in a pretty good place with what I’m doing.
Here are a few open-ended sentences you can complete. Some are from the book, “Building your own theology,” by Richard S. Gilbert. Some of them I adapted to those of us working in software. Don’t overthink them, but rather, jot down the first thing that pops into your head:
I most want:
My career is:
I hope I can:
I have achieved:
My highest professional aspiration:
The most hopeless thing:
The whole purpose of my career:
My day-to-day job:
My role in software:
To me software is:
I am accomplishing:
This should get your writing juices flowing. Now try writing a paragraph about your professional aims, ambitions and goals.
In writing my paragraph, there were no surprises, but then, I’m nearly at the end of this journey. At this point, it’s all about distilling the most important bits out of all of the work that I’ve done. Whenever I find myself standing at the edge of a cliff, faced with my own physical mortality, the important stuff typically finds its way to the surface. Who cares about stand ups or the commute or the fact that the office I work in is always so freaking chilly! Whatever I want to accomplish most unfurls itself and hangs over the earth as I gaze out into the distance.
To end this chapter in the credo work, I’ve written a cinquaine which is a variant of the haiku. Here is the structure if you would like to write your own:
start with a noun
two words modifying the noun
3 “ing” words related to the noun
a related 4 word phrase
a synonym of the noun
Here is mine:
illuminating, clarifying, expanding
now you see it