To Thine Own Self Be True by Matthew Setter

To Thine Own Self Be True

May 18th, 2016

I don’t remember where I first heard these words, but they’ve been ringing in my ears for the last few weeks — the last few months even. They’re words which I’ve been pondering the significance of to my life, to the work I do on a daily basis.

You see, while I’ve been writing and developing software for many years now — the better part of 20 years actually — I’ve always wondered which direction was the right one.

Should I be a full-time software developer? Should I be a full-time technical writer and trainer? Should I be a combination of both? If my career was to be a combination of both, what proportion of my working time should be spent writing software, and what proportion should be spent writing text?

I won’t say that I’ve found the answer, but a recent article on copyblogger, by American author Jeff Goins, brought these words home to me again.

He suggested that sometimes, perhaps a lot of the time, you’ll never actually know what your calling is and that to expect that it’s just going to come to you is a misguided.

He went further suggesting that often you’re likely going to find it by getting stuck into something which you may have never consciously chosen to begin. This struck a nerve with me.

I feel that quite often in the western world, we’re expected to "just know" what we’re going to do with our lives and that if we don’t, there’s something wrong with us.

This wrongness, if that’s a word, can take many forms. But the one which I’ve always felt was that I was not ambitious nor focused enough. By virtue of the fact that I never innately knew, I’ve always felt less than worthy in the professions I’ve undertaken.

The thoughts would follow a cycle like this:

Well I should know, so since I don’t know, then there must be something wrong with me.

I’d try and try and try to find the right path for me, looking down countless dark alleyways, yet never finding a magical well of inspiration and knowledge to guide me on my journey.

Weeks, months — even years — went by as I searched for this missing part of myself which should have been there from birth. To this day, I’ve never found it.

But after reading Jeff’s words, I’ve decided to stop the search for this magical place, for it needn’t exist. Instead, I’ve decided to embrace the skills which I gravitated to without giving a lot of conscious thought.

I’m instead embracing that which I already do. Perhaps in doing so, I’ll never need to pay attention to that once eternal question.

I wonder if this is a problem which has plagued you as well. Have you felt pressure from well-meaning friends and family just to know what you’re going to be working at until the day on which you retire?

Are you working in a profession which you quite enjoy, yet always question if you should be working somewhere else? If you do, like I did, you may never have an answer to it. But perhaps you don’t need it. Because perhaps like me, the question itself was wrong.

Perhaps the role you’re in is already a great fit for you, but you’ve not let yourself see that. Perhaps this misguided question is the problem.

Perhaps no answer will magically appear, but instead, we have to simply make a conscious choice about what we most want to apply ourselves to and do it.

As Toyota so often said in Australia - Please Consider.

CC Image (background of main image) Courtesy of leesean on Flickr

Matthew Setter. Ethical Hacker, Online Privacy Advocate, and a Software Engineer.

Matthew Setter

Software Engineer, Ethical Hacker, & Online Privacy Advocate.

Matthew Setter is a software engineer, ethical hacker, privacy advocate, & technical writer, who loves travelling. He is based in Nuremberg, Germany. When he's not doing all things tech, he's spending time with his family, and friends.