Posted by: jsonmez | February 16, 2012

Pushing Through the Pain

Life ain’t easy!

It ain’t meant to be easy.

Sometimes in life – if you want to achieve anything of worth – you have to just push through the pain.

Yes, this is another post about burnout.


There is no such thing as burnout!

Do I believe that people, and programmers especially, suffer from the symptoms of what is described as burnout?

Yes, absolutely!

The problem is that we tend to batch up these symptoms into one big classification we call burnout.  I’ve written about this topic before, I call it programming lethargy.

I think this topic is so important that it is worth talking about again.

Most advice out there will tell you to step away and refresh yourself.

I’m going to tell you the exact opposite!

Now, I’m not going to suggest you never go on vacation or step away from a problem, but I am going to tell you to…

Push on and push harder!

Greatness is just on the other side of that wall.  When you hit burnout, you are really hitting a wall.

This wall is caused by interest and motivation dropping when results are relatively flat.


Imagine that when you first start an activity your interest is very high.  As your start doing that activity your motivation increases quickly.

You get some immediate feedback as you start to gain results.

Over time the new thing become mundane, so your interest starts to drop.  Your results are relatively flat so motivation follows as well.

This is where the wall exists.

You could call it the road to competency.

It is pretty hard to push beyond this point, because you have to do it without motivation or interest.

Few people do.  That is why greatness is hard to come by.

Searching for greatness

Let’s take a minute to dwell on that idea.

Why do some people achieve such great fame and fortune while others live fairly mediocre lives?

I’m going to pick on a person who I think is pretty famous in the developer community to make my point, Scott Hanselman.

You probably already know who he is.  I was on an episode of one of his Podcasts and that was a big deal for me.  So, if being on his show is a big deal, just imagine how big of a deal it is to be Scott Hanselman.

The question is, why is he so successful?

I think we can describe it in one word- consistent.

If I had two- persistent and consistent.

His podcast is on Show #305 at the time of this writing.  Every week Scott puts out a new podcast.  It is a large amount of work.

About 1 to 2 times a week he usually puts out a new blog post, also a large amount of work.

And I am sure he does countless other things that he doesn’t want to do, but he does because he has a goal in mind.

He’s got kids, he has a full time job, and he has the kind of diabetes where he has to give himself insulin shots everyday.

I am pretty sure he wakes up some mornings and says, “Holy Crapola! I don’t feel like writing a blog post and making a podcast.”

But guess what he does that makes him great?

He does it anyway!

He doesn’t change gears and go a different direction.

He doesn’t pursue some other interest or look for a new job.

He pushes on and pushes through and therein lies his success.

It can be yours as well.

Ask yourself how long he had to go on being consistent and persistent before he saw results?  I bet it took a pretty long time.  I bet he hit a wall at more than one point along the way.

Beyond the wall


The point is, most people lose their motivation and interest in something and decide to switch gears or take a break or leave a project half finished.

I am the worst of the worst of this kind of person naturally!  Really I am!  I am a “lazy, good for nothing, just hand me the world on a platter kind” of guy.

But somehow I’ve learned to grit my teeth, put one foot in front of the other and walk forward.

Earlier in my career, I switched jobs pretty frequently.  I started projects and left them unfinished.  I sapped away countless hours on things that distracted me from bigger goals and big rewards.  I often sought to cure my burnout by reeling away from the thing causing it.

What I have found recently is that by going directly against all my natural inclinations and pushing on to see things through to success, I have found much more success and much bigger rewards.

Don’t make excuses, don’t call it burnout, don’t give up early, instead push harder, see the bigger picture, and climb the !@#* over that wall!

On the other side of that wall lies success and renewed motivation and interest, you just have to get there.



  1. […] Pushing Through the Pain (John Sonmez) […]

  2. Hey John,

    It is funny you should right about this, I have been experiencing similar things with personal projects I have been working on. I will get bored with a section take a break, then often not want go back to the project. Though for this project I have been telling myself that it is more important then it actually is, helps me stay on track.

    I agree with you totally, in order to succeed at something we need to push our selves to do things even if they lack our appeal at the current moment. I also think that using Scott as an example was a great choice, he is great inspiration on the path to motivation.

  3. Interesting , I have never seen a graphical representation of the developer’s energy level throughout a development cycle. However, I think you are approaching the problem for an individual standpoint. How about for teams? How would you propose to apply this concepts in a group setting.
    While I agree 100% with that statement because I live it each day, I don’t think is something that people are aware of or even think about.

    There is a book that covers this topics for writers . “The war of Art” by Steven Pressfield. He calls it resistance.

    • I’m not sure if you can really apply it to a group. I think momentum has a big part in group success, but each individual has to find their own motivation and determination.

  4. As I read this I realized that I applied these principles but only to certain aspects of my life and that there was no reason to do it that way. I once weighed 70lbs more than I do today. I realized early on in that journey that some days I wasn’t going to want to watch what I ate, or workout but that I was going to need to push through that to achieve what I wanted. What’s strange is that I’ve never thought about that other aspects of my life in that way.

    Great read. Really put things in perspective for me.

    • Thanks, yes definitely is something to be applied to every avenue of life. I have seen such magnified results by sticking to things and completing them, feel like it or not.

  5. I suppose the subtlety lies in knowing when pushing through the wall may have good results and when it won’t. If I dig holes in my back yard and fill them in, tirelessly, day in and day out for years, I’m unlikely to achieve any notoriety for doing so.

    I think the key is targeting the completion of the task as its own reward and considering the wealth and fame that may follow to be gravy. I blog/develop and stick to it because those are their own goals for me, even on days when I’m tired or apathetic. But, if fame and fortune were my ultimate goal and they weren’t forthcoming after a decade or so, Einstein’s pithy advice about insanity might apply.

    • Good points. It is amazing though how applied focus tends to expand into success that we wouldn’t imaging from the onset.

  6. I’m not sure you have everything right this time. I usually like your posts but this time I’m not 100% with you.
    I’m getting better after a big depression. I was pushing myself very hard, but in the wrong way I think. it is really important that you make sure to achieve goals, even if they are small, when you’re feeling depressed / exhausted. otherwise, you’re up to a real burnout or a depression, and a few months off.

    this being said, if you want to stay consistent, surround yourself with good support (family, friends, …) and make sure you achieve things often. it’ll help you get through this little down.

    • You are absolutely right about having support and sticking with your goals even if they are small.

      I firmly believe achieving things often help to keep us from feeling down.

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