It's hard to do a hard reset.
That's my main takeaway after spending a few days away from the keyboard, conscious of how I was using tech and putting myself through a digital detox.
I explained the reasons for the hard reset and the steps involved, but I didn't quite realize how much it would impact my thought process. The hard reset is like holding down the power button for a few seconds on a laptop or going through the steps to totally, completely, and thoroughly reboot your computer. A hard reset clears the cache on your computer so there isn't as much junk. A hard reset in life helps you think about the past and the future. It also clears the junk. You make a list of your successes (the past) and your challenges (the future) to get a fresh perspective.
The main goal: Find out how far you've come and where you are going.
I didn't have too much trouble with my past. After all, the most jarring career transition you can imagine already happened to me when I was escorted out of the building at my corporate job on September 18, 2001. It was a week after 9/11. My employer wasn't too happy to have me around anymore. It took me a few months, and--quite honestly--some coaxing from my wife to start a new career, but here I am almost 15 years later and I'm still writing, still testing products, still progressing. When I think about my successes, I often think of this column you are reading now. It's a career milestone that is self-perpetuating each day. It's at the top of my list.
What else? I listed out some of my favorite interviews, including one with Buzz Aldrin way back in 2010, one with 50 Cent in 2012, and countless others. I also thought about some of my favorite tests, including this one just recently. I've tested robots in all shapes and sizes, driven an autonomous car on a track and on the hectic roads of the Bay Area, and generally had an incredibly rewarding career.
The future? That's a bit harder. It puts you in a different frame of mind, because the future is all about the challenges you face. You don't know the joys yet. You only sense the roadblocks. In making my own list of successes and rewards, I only need to look back and think about the events in my life. In looking forward, I needed to pick up the Pawns, move the Rooks around, and play a little chess with my own plans.
That's not easy, because the future is so random and unpredictable. If I shift a little this way, will there be a negative impact on my career? If I resolve this challenge, will it create another one that's even tougher? If I pick up this extra job, will my normal work suffer? Will this new client be more of a curse than a blessing? We can learn from past mistakes but they only take us so far. New mistakes have a way of showing up wearing different clothes, speaking a different language, and poking different holes. If it was the same mistake, we'd likely avoid making it. New mistakes surprise us.
One of my big takeaways is that I'm a terrible negotiator. I give away too much, and then discover that I should have asked for more. I need to learn how to play things looser. My quest for high moral character makes me a pushover at times, an easy target. I'm serious. It is one big area for improvement, so if you have any advice or know how to negotiate effectively, please drop me a note. (By the way, I am not talking about buying a car. I'm talking about career negotiation, the big stuff.)
I also learned that I need to put myself into more challenging situations. I've written about this many times, but travel has a way of opening new pathways in your brain. You think more creatively. Stuck in the same office day after day turns us into slugs who do the same thing over and over again. As an introvert, it's even worse. I'm always calculating how to make sure I can survive in a social setting, and sometimes my math says "don't bother doing that" but I need to change that mindset.
I could go on, but the hard reset was pretty hard this time around. I made a long list of challenges, many of them deeply personal. There are things I need to change about myself to go forward in my career, my family, my marriage, and my friendships. In many ways, the journey has just begun because change is also hard.
Now, if you did a hard reset, I'm curious what you learned. Maybe we can form a hard reset support group. You bring the coffee.