Geoff Chan

Geoff Chan ยท

ยท 6 min read

When I resigned from my first job, I told my manager that I wanted more pain ๐Ÿ˜…

What I meant was that I wanted to learn more and to be stretched. I wanted more responsibilities and higher expectations of myself.

For the next 3 years, I dove head first into the world of consulting, startups, and entrepreneurship.

I got to work with talented teams and brilliant people. I learned and absorbed as much as I could.

I got what I asked for!

Adverse side effects

Subjecting myself to this sort of rigorous learning by immersion had some adverse side effects.

1) Burnout.

Learning a new job and then figuring out how to be good at it is just the beginning. You also have to learn processes and, most importantly, people. It took a heavy mental toll on me and I found myself burnt out several times over this period.

2) Imposter syndrome.

Being around people that are experts at what they do can leave you feeling like you don't belong on the team. Constantly being the least experienced person is the best way to learn, but you become very aware of how little you know.

3) Work-life balance.

Family and personal time were sacrificed for professional growth. I had to work hard to balance work and my family. But things like my hobbies or time with friends suffered.

4) Health.

My health became secondary because I didn't make time to focus on it. Exercising was almost nil and I would eat out often. I also had the toxic mentality that sacrificing sleep for "the grind" was some sort of badge of honor.

Dealing with the chaos

After the first year of running Stack Five, I decided to try and figure out how to deal with the chaos. I didn't really have much of a framework in the previous 3 years and mostly just dealt with things as they came.

I wanted to focus on implementing more balance into my life. I didn't want my kids to grow up without ever seeing their Dad. And I needed to improve my mental and physical health.

Here are some of the things that worked for me:

1) Consistency.

Instead of being goal-oriented and results-focused, I decided to create a schedule and routine that would help me to spend time on the activities and areas that I cared about. The idea was to grow in the areas that mattered to me through consistent and manageable effort.

When it came to growing our business, I scheduled time every week for outreach. The idea was that showing up every day and talking about our business would eventually help us to find more clients and developers to work with. To this day I can't explain the formula to you. I just know that it has worked. Today we have a team of 5 passionate developers working with a handful of awesome clients. I am still amazed that we've made it here and I am grateful for our success!

Another example was bringing consistency to my health. In the beginning, my wife and I just knew that we wanted to live healthier. We started to fix our eating habits by committing to only eating out Friday - Sunday. We also started working out for 10 minutes 3 times a week. These were life changes that we felt were manageable for us. This evolved over the course of the last 3 years and our diet and exercise routines look very different today. I've lost 55lbs to date, but more importantly, I feel a lot better day-to-day physically and mentally.

2) Mindset.

A while back I watched a video with Jerry Seinfeld, Ricky Gervais, Chris Rock, and Louis CK. In their discussion, Jerry is asked when he felt like he had made it as a comedian. His answer always stuck with me. He said that when he made a decision to be a comedian and went out to his first club, he had made it. Then after that, it was just showing up every day. The success and money would come eventually, but that wasn't the goal. The goal was just to get out there and be what you wanted to be.

This was a profound realization for me, and it's a mindset that I've adopted. It has helped me to detach from the idea that success comes from earning a certain amount of money or meeting some business/career goal. Success for me is doing the things that bring me satisfcation and being able to spend time with people I enjoy and care about.

3) Saying no.

This was the single biggest factor in helping me to bring balance back into my life. It was also the hardest one to implement and commit to. It took a lot of reflection, consideration, and time. It wasn't a simple decision between a few important things and a few unimportant things. At this stage in my life, everything that I give my attention to is of pretty high importance to me. Sorting through that and deciding to cut out something is hard.

As an example, not too long ago I realized that I had not been spending enough time with my parents. There were months between visits. They weren't getting any younger, and I became even more aware of this when 3 of my grandparents passed away within the span of a year. Deciding to spend more time with my parents meant taking an evening after work to visit them. The tradeoff would be missing my kids bedtime (since they are young and sleep relatively early), something that I hate missing.

In summary

These changes didn't happen overnight. It took another 3 years for me to see the results that I have today. And while I love seeing the results, the way that I got here was to try create a non-attachment from my efforts. It was about living the life I wanted to live today by creating routines, habits, and a schedule around the activities that were important to my life holistically. I'm still the same person that loves to be stretched and to be put in uncomfortable and new situations where I am forced to learn. But now I am able to do it without sacrificing my family, friends, and physical and mental health.

Copyright ยฉ 2024 Geoffrey Chan. All rights reserved.