8.13.2008

Desire and anxiety (and how they're related)

I have a friend.

I know, shocking information indeed... Someone actually likes me. But hey, it's true, and this post is about him.

This friend is a good friend. He's honest and loyal and unafraid to tell people exactly what he thinks of them, even his friends. Especially his friends. The people he has the most to lose from, he's the most honest with (especially if he has something negative to point out). It's a paradox, but oddly enough, it becomes a feature that one tends to rely on after a while.

Anyway, this friend is a great guy with a great amount of potential in a great many fields. But on the work front, he's traditionally taken jobs that are far below his capacity for both creativity and effort. He worked retail and labor jobs, despite the fact that he has a love and a talent for programming.

He programmed one employer's website. He programs websites on his own at night when he's at home, for fun. He's programmed sites for me as favors. I even hired him to write code for me for a little over a year, giving him tons of resume material and experience. He's REALLY GOOD, too.

But for some reason, he's afraid beyond belief to actually apply for a programming job. He looks at the increase in salary and the fact that it's a job in a field he actually wants, and he freezes up. He won't send his resume. He won't call potential employers. He feels - after all this time - he lacks the experience necessary to get a "real job." He feels he won't even be considered for the position, and even if he is, he won't get it, and even if he does, they'll fire him because he's not John Carmack or Robert Dvorak or Stallman or Torvalds. He's just him, and he does a fine job at what he does... But he has ZERO confidence in his ability to get a development job.

Which strikes me as curious.

He had no experience whatsoever in his last job - they taught him everything he needed to know the first two weeks he was there. But for some reason, he wasn't nervous about the interview, and he didn't give himself fits over the actual job. And I wonder why that is.

In my experience, I've found that we only get anxious over the things we actually care about. We only afford ourselves the adrenaline shakes and worry over something we really want. The situation with a development job and a labor job are exactly the same to my friend, but because one is just a job and the other is something he truly wants to do, he stresses over the concept of even attempting to get the development job to the point where he talks himself out of it before he even tries. He won't call a recruiter at one place because it's an hour drive to commute. He won't call another because they want 3+ years of experience and he only has 2 years, 11 months experience.

So on and so forth.

If his actual desire was, say, to be CTO of the company, a development job would be menial to him. He wouldn't obsess, he'd just keep trying place after place until they gave him a development position he could leverage into a higher paying gig.

Ever take aim at a target, only to miss it? Did you know that most archers and rifle range experts recommend focusing on an imaginary point just beyond the target?

Did you know it helps?

It's an odd, but sadly true, fact of life that the surest way to achieve a goal is to aim at a much larger goal above it. Or... Simply treat your goal like it's just a step to something else. It's worked for me most of my life, and I'm hoping it'll work for my friend... If he'll just pick up the damn phone and let me talk some sense into him.