After I could see that Catch a Match wasn’t going to sustain any sort of living whatsoever, I had to embrace the fact that I would be consulting for a while. At that time a company came to me with a very exciting iPad project, and we figured it would take about 3 months. I would be the only developer (initially), and there would be some very challenging aspects to the project. To make a long story short it ended up taking me 5 months to complete, and we had to bring in some additional help along the way.
During this time, I was challenged as a programmer more than ever before. I can’t say much about the project itself at this point, but I wanted to touch on some of the more personal aspects of the experience.
I pretty much stopped blogging because this new project I took on was all-consuming and I couldn’t really talk about it publicly anyway. The project literally took over my life. It wasn’t bad at first, but it slowly started taking over and eventually became so stressful that it choked out all the joy in anything else. All of this stress had me questioning my own abilities, and somehow the pressure just started to crush me. I honestly went through a season of struggle and at times deep anxiety and depression. It clicked for me one day that I was on the verge of “burnout”.
It took a while to identify the signs because it came upon me slowly over 5 months. One day I remembered a post I had read about burnout. It seemed irrelevant to me at the time, but somehow I remembered it and went digging around until I rediscovered this post from Victor Widell. The article hit me at a whole different level this time reading it. I found other good articles that helped to read as well: Steve Blank, Scott Boms, Steve Klabnik, and Colin Nederkoorn.
Colin’s post was particularly useful in pointing out that resentment is often the cause of burnout. I did find myself feeling resentful because I was working so long and so hard, and it never felt like it was enough or that it was appreciated. I felt like the expectations on me were unreasonable, and that I would never have the endurance to finish the job. Notice the choice of words here, while the job was tough I certainly let my feelings get in the way. Ultimately I am the one who is responsible for my own attitude and emotions.
During this time I pulled away from everything that had once given me joy. I stopped working on my own app ideas, stopped blogging (obviously), I skipped a couple CocoaHeads meetups, and stopped chatting with friends on Skype and Twitter. I didn’t feel like I had the time for these things, so that meant they weren’t options, which fed the resentment I was feeling.
Ultimately I decided I needed to stand my ground on a few things with my client, but the more I tried to control the scope the more we butted heads. This client is a long-time friend, so it was very painful to have this relationship so strained.
Before I go further, I want to pause here to make it clear that I wasn’t dealing with a cruel client, and many of the things that caused me grief are my own doing. For example, I could have scoped the project more thoroughly, I could have had a more formal process for handling change requests, and I could have established better habits of communication. I don’t hold anyone else responsible but myself. Now, where were we?…
I’m not normally a very emotional person, but something was seriously going wrong with me. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that this experience brought me to tears, but it did.
My friends and colleagues weren’t the only ones I neglected during this time, my personal walk with my Lord Jesus was also weakened. However, God often uses stuff like this to draw us closer to Himself because we need Him, and we’re better off if we let Him help us through life. I finally stopped trying so hard to succeed in my own strength and I threw myself at the mercy of God. Psalm 25:17 says “The troubles of my heart have multiplied, free me from my anguish”. The Bible says that if you come near to God, then He will come near to you. (James 4:8). This is true, because after I put my focus back on Him the weights slowly began to fall off my back, and He started to turn the situation around in some miraculous ways.
God showed me that I was too self-reliant, that I really can’t do it on my own, that I need His help, and that He is generous to do some of the ‘heavy lifting’ for me if I will only ask. I got in the habit of asking God to loan me just a tiny drop of His brilliance for the day’s work, and He never failed. After all, Objective-C is no big deal for the God of the universe! He is a programmer after all, and the heavens and earth are full of His many “design patterns”
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5).
I made a lot of mistakes on this project, but I took all of my mistakes to God and let Him work on me. God has since allowed me to finish my contract! And my friend the client? Well, God even repaired the damage between us, in fact my client was the first to read this post and gave it his blessing before I published it. I’m so thankful that God has given me new hope for the future and restored the joy I used to have for designing and developing apps. My family and I have grown and matured through this experience and we have the Lord to thank for that. He had my back on this, and I give Him all the credit!
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD’”. Jeremiah 9:23
Since completing the project, I decided to take it easy for a while and allow myself to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually through the month of September. I reduced the amount of hours I was putting in behind my computer, took more walks to the park, and also started a weekly Bible study group.
In addition to all that positive stuff, I’m also happy to report that I’m back into making my own apps! I’m really glad that I managed to avoid a total burnout, and it feels good to enjoy programming again.
In my next post I’ll be announcing a new BraveBit app that I have in the works, so please stay tuned!