This is the seventh letter of our penpal series, Letters to J
(Jasdev ⇒ Justin, 7/6/20)
But am I alone in this? Are you able to remember all of your past selves, or do you find yourself shocked every now and then at your personal lacunae?
Internally repeats “lacunae,” as if the syllables will shake out the word’s definition.
But really, I paused multiple times during 006 to open Dictionary.app and happily register the precision with which “myopia,” “chagrin,” “berth,” and “lacunae” describe what it’s like to revisit past selves — the ones we tuck away in newsletters, blogs, and journals.
While I don’t remember the 2016 Jasdev who wore Allbirds or the ’18 version who spent a year using a duvet cover as a top sheet before realizing it wasn’t and then finally bought a duvet, there is a particular Jasdev I’ve been parenting lately.
The one from September 9th, 2017 who wrote “Chasing earned fatigue.”
For those who haven’t read the post:
- Please spare me, I wrote it in ’17 and while that doesn’t seem long ago, recent years have been marked by embarrassing looks back (see above). So imagine triple that feeling. I’m sure my ’21 self will similarly revisit this letter and smile at how little I know now.
- The entry ends on overtraining and recovery — whether physical or mental — yet the driving point was that I felt I needed to “earn” my fatigue.
I got away with the mentality as a 25 year old and now at 28, it’s clear how problematic thinking I couldn’t rest until I’ve earned it was. If I could meet that version of myself, I’d give him a hug and tell him otherwise — he didn’t need an explicit reason to recover. There’s maturity in knowing when to step off the gas.
’20 Jasdev also needs to hear this, but years of therapy since then have given me perspective that rest is discipline in and of itself. A helpful framing — and I’m sure there’s a behavioral therapy term for it — is pretending to be a coach or manager of that Jasdev, the one who worked to exhaustion and then a yard further. To listen and then gently remind him he was doing more than enough. That there will be days where his energy levels won’t match internal expectations and being honest with himself is the smartest move on the board.
What’s tricky is that when I gave management a try, I wouldn’t think twice about the value of gardening recovery for my reports. Yet, I couldn’t give myself the same space to rest instead of continually firing on all cylinders.
To make revisiting that post even more timely, I found an old note you sent two Februarys ago:
There’s tremendous value in a [corpus of work], in the ability to — either explicitly or implicitly — reference your prior self, building out a web of thought between ’19 Jasdev and ’17 Jasdev.
I think the thing I continue to admire about blogs is the ability to “replay” conversations — even if they’re conversations between a prior self and the person who wrote that post. I remember, for instance, the thoughts running through my head when I read “Chasing earned fatigue” for the first time — and the thoughts running through my head as I reread it a month or two ago, and seeing how those diverge.
— Justin, 2/12/19
I should unpack why ’20 Jasdev also needs the reminder.
In 003 I nodded towards a plan for my post-Peloton tenure. Like all planning, its value was in the act and not the specifics. Because the specifics have changed entirely.
…I’m…starting a company‽
Ryan and I are building riff (I’ll save the details for a future letter) and an early struggle is self-managing for the first time in, well, my entire career.
In particular, being able to close Xcode at ~6pm each weekday and then for a two day stretch on weekends while also knowing there’s an entire engineering org.’s-worth of work left to do. It’s not that this hasn’t always been the case — Peloton had a roadmap that required multiples of the headcount at any given moment — but it’s another thing to have that longer-term planning delegated to a product team instead of telescoping between “this week’s work” and “the next 52’s.”
Rephrased: mile-marking progress in open-ended work is hard.
Have you been able to pace yourself while building Buttondown and Spoonbill? Are there ways you’ve kept the infinite duffle bag of GitHub issues at your desk?