Brian Gilham

Engineering leader, husband, and father

motivation

Thank You

Over the last 52 weeks, I’ve published over 70,000 words on topics like productivity, time management, motivation, and doing great work as a programmer. Much to my surprise and delight, over 1,200 of you have stuck around to read them. This week, I’m going to keep my message simple: Thank you. Thank you for reading what I write. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and critiques. Thank you for your support during hard times.

Over the last 52 weeks, I’ve published over 70,000 words on topics like productivity, time management, motivation, and doing great work as a programmer. Much to my surprise and delight, over 1,200 of you have stuck around to read them. This week, I’m going to keep my message simple:

Thank you.

Thank you for reading what I write. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and critiques. Thank you for your support during hard times. Thank you for allowing my work into your life, each and every week.

I can’t say with any degree of honesty that everything I’ve written for the Mailer has been a home run. But I genuinely hope, on the whole, I’ve brought some value into your work and your life.

I won’t be publishing the Monday Mailer on a weekly basis, going forward. But this isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from me. I’ll still be writing new articles on my blog, creating new side projects, and maybe — just maybe — finally be finishing a book.

Thank you, again.

Cheers,

-Brian


What's Your North Star?

On a clear night, with just the right conditions, there’s about 6,000 stars visible to the naked eye. As far back as the 2nd century, human beings have looked to those stars to help determine their location and heading. And none is more well-known than the North Star. The North Star has one unique property: it never moves. Okay, that isn’t strictly true. But for all intents and purposes, you can count on it staying put — right above the North Pole.

On a clear night, with just the right conditions, there’s about 6,000 stars visible to the naked eye. As far back as the 2nd century, human beings have looked to those stars to help determine their location and heading. And none is more well-known than the North Star.

The North Star has one unique property: it never moves. Okay, that isn’t strictly true. But for all intents and purposes, you can count on it staying put — right above the North Pole. If you were trying to navigate in the days before GPS, knowing which way was north turned out to be pretty handy.

When it comes to doing our best work, I think we all need our version of a North Star — something that reminds us where we’re going and what we’re trying to accomplish. My North Star is “Be Useful.” When I’m feeling lost, unsure of what to do next, or stuck, I know I can’t go wrong trying to bring value to someone else.

I’ve said before that procrastination is a byproduct of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of other people’s opinions. Fear of not being “good enough.” But I think there’s another angle.

Procrastination is forgetting our North Star.

When we get stuck on a project, it’s helpful to remember why we started working on it in the first place. Most of my early side projects were a response to a job I hated. The work was uninspiring, the clients were awful, and I wasn’t learning anything new. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a better job with the kind of work I’d been doing. So one night, at the peak of frustration, I said “fuck it” and started coding. I realized there was only one person who could change my situation: me.

You’d think that would be sufficient motivation to carry me through to the end of the project. But it wasn’t. There we so many nights where all I wanted to do was flop onto the couch and watch TV. But it didn’t take long before a tiny voice in my head spoke up.

“I thought you wanted more than this?”

Once I remembered my purpose — my North Star — it became hard to justify six hours of TV on the couch.

Your North Star can be anything that speaks to the heart of why you started a side project in the first place. Landing a more fulfilling job, satisfying the creative half of your brain, improving your skills, or creating a better life for those you love.

No one can tell you what your North Star is. It’s something you have to decide for yourself. So decide, right now. Write it down and put it somewhere you’ll see it every day.

And when those dark, tired moments happen — and they will happen — take a look at that piece of paper, and remind yourself of what drives you.

Until next time,

–Brian