back and forth

It's been a while since I've written anything. That's because I've been busy balancing my first first full-time job as a software engineer while also training to become a dancer. Today I'm going to share some more thoughts about my dual life of being an engineer and dancer.

To understand the whole picture, we have to go back to my math undergrad in Waterloo. During those days, I would always romanticize the classic heros of silicon valley: Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. These are your typical hardcore workaholics who've all become filthy rich with their respective companies. This romancitization with hard work was actually formed way back during my childhood via video game addiction and becoming of age animes like Naruto where the main chracter is the paragon of hard work beating natural talent. I attribute all of my success to hard work and luck alone, often joking around with close friends that I'm really not that bright at all.

Unfortunately, my obsession with hard work got me confused. I started believing that true success meant being a master of one. From a pure black-and-white numbers perspective, this actually makes total sense. But this equation of success didn't accurately model my personal version of success and hapiness. While working 70-hour work weeks was a great idea to bootstrap myself in life with a degree from Waterloo and a big tech job as a new-grad, I soon realized after the first few months of working full-time that it wasn't going to scale for me and my life moving forwards. Something that therapy has taught me is that what once worked for us at one point in life many not necessarily work for us later. Things change, people change, feelings change too. Strategies you employ to survive now can actually turn maladaptive later.

I knew that hard work, success, and excelling in my craft is something that makes me happy. But looking at it deeper, I realize that all of that is quite orthogonal to specializing. I could actually be a hard working generalist! You do have to realize though that because of the fundamental principles of resource allocation, your rate of change in each craft will exponentially slow down the more crafts you add. This means that I'll never be better than the best software engineer at work, nor the best dancer at the studio. But, what I will have is the joy of experiencing both — something that both of them probably don't and will never have. And, the beauty is that if you limit your pursuits to two crafts, you can still get quite good at both of them compared to the average person.

I think the whole takeaway of this essay is that you need to make sure to stay true to yourself. You're the only person on the planet who's best at being, you. And you need to remember that you only have one shot at this thing we call life. After 70-80 years, the game servers will shutdown and go offline. For me, my version of success is getting to experience both the joys of being an engineer as well as a dancer. Why? Simply because that's who Jeff is.

Swing leg freestyle in Texas