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Wellness Wednesday for January 25, 2023

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

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I would like to improve my voice and articulation skills. Growing up I had an "open bite" (front teeth did not touch) which caused a plethora of respiratory and speech issues. Fortunately, this specific problem was corrected through orthodontics + speech therapy. The improvement was notable and I today can give a talk or go through a job interview without much trouble.

However, I still often mumble through my words, doubly so if I'm nervous or excited. The "mumbliness" persists even if I speak in my native language, although to a smaller degree since many of the tricky English phonemes (e,g, dental fricatives) aren't common in Portuguese. I also feel that my voice sounds too "soft" (lack of projection?) when I listen to recordings of myself.

My current plan is to hire a voice coach remotely to discuss and work on these issues, but I have no idea what's the difference between a good and a bad coach. Has anyone here done something similar and perhaps could share what things I should be in the lookout for in order to ensure I'm not getting duped?

Alternative suggestions are also welcome.

I don't have much productive to say except that really going for it and projecting your voice in whatever context (apart from actually intimate conversations with friends) feels weird but ends up being somewhat normal. Public speaking training years ago helped me understand this, unless you are unnaturally loud it will simply sound like you are speaking confidently, then it becomes natural. I was guilty of mumbling and speaking very softly until I addressed this.

How do you increase mental stamina? Sleep is ok. Exercise has not the beneficial mental effects that many proclaim, the same with changing diet, unless I have some peculiarity that I do not know of.

I don't think it's really possible to significantly increase mental stamina, but you can learn to manage it better and adapt to a certain extent to specific tasks. This can also be a simple matter of motivation.

By the way, for me, exercise seems to draw from the same mental pool as mental tasks, so I have to train far from failure if i want to do anything productive after my workout.

Meditation. No social media throughout the day.

What exactly do you mean by mental stamina ?

Being able to perform mentally exhausting tasks continually, e.g. coding productively for an entire day ?

More or less. I used to be able to study actively for 7-8 hours: not just reading, I mean writing summaries, repeating flashcards and doing problems continuously without a break. Nowadays I have to take a break every 30 minutes and if I don't I really can't concentrate and even with breaks I'm doing something like 2-3 hours. There is so much I have and I want to do and I feel like my mind is slipping away.

Nowadays I have to take a break every 30 minutes and if I don't I really can't concentrate and even with breaks I'm doing something like 2-3 hours. There is so much I have and I want to do and I feel like my mind is slipping away.

Ioper nails it with:

This is what usually happens when people get older, but you could also just be a bit burnt out and need an extended break.

It sounds like some degree of aversion. Wanting to do something intellectually is not always reflected in all aspects of ones mind and behaviour. Changing your work strategies might help.

The book "Daily Rituals" by Curry describes the daily work habits of various famous high productivity people. The most common pattern is time boxing ~4 hrs in their most productive time of day for most important work. There are few people who can be very effective for longer more than that.

My favourite writer covered in the book is Kafka who writes:

“time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straight-forward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”

which speaks to me.

This is what usually happens when people get older, but you could also just be a bit burnt out and need an extended break.

Don't take stimulants to try to keep up. Diet, sleep and exercise are the only sustainable things that work.

The solution really really really really is diet, exercise, and sleep; barring unchecked nutritional/hormone/immune/(any other health) issues.

And you won't see results in a day, sometimes it can take weeks to months.

I’ve been dealing with on-and-off twitches and body cramps for the past couple years—went to a bunch neuros, eventually got diagnosed with cramp fascilation syndrome after scans, EMGs, etc.

…it’s largely calmed down since 1-2 years ago, but it sometimes really ramps up (right now my hands are cramping, knees hurt, and I have some twitching in my legs).

An acquaintance in med school mentioned I should get checked out for metabolic disorders, but I have no idea where I’d even start. I have some feeling that there’s a food sensitivity component that I can’t quite nail down [stomach discomfort tends to occur with the rest of the symptoms].

Any avenues anyone recommends I explore?

I’d try increasing magnesium and potassium intake just to be sure

You might test your blood sugar during these episodes

Just did three finger tests (since they’re occurring right now, have a kit for this from my keto days) and blood sugar is roughly 85-90 about an hour or so after a meal with a cookie afterward.

I posted a few months back about my career stallout and job search. As an update,

Since late October, Ive applied for about 80 jobs. Of those I've gotten about 14 recruiter conversations. Of those I withdrew once for salary, and got to about 7 full interviews.

I got rejected in all seven, and told explicitly in two that I was a close second.

These 80 are mostly lateralish role/title moves to a new company, of the ones that weren't, I never got a recruiter call.

my resume and experience are pretty much as good as could be, but somehow I am incapable of closing and pretty much dispairing my ability to improve my career.

I am getting enough response rate in each gate that I am hesitant that any drastic change will help. If I received zero response, I would know my resume is broken. If I never got an interview I would know I was missing recruiter expectations or salary requirements, etc.

Not really sure the best next step except going back to school and making a complete career pivot. Unfortunately I am mid 30s with a family.

Have you reached out to ask for honest feedback? You might get ignored but even if one of them replies you might get something actionable. When I was involved in recruiting I did try to give feedback to failed applicants who asked. Not everyone bothers of course but might be worth a punt.

this is why the low unemployment rate is misleading. companies are as choosy as ever

It's kind of brutal out there right now. I'm also interviewing, getting decent response rates, but stalling out at some point in the process (got rejected after a 5-hour interview round last week). In my field, I think the market just got flooded with all the recent layoffs and now there's too much brand-name competition. I also see stated salaries nowhere near where they were a year ago.

I think it's time to hunker down and lower expectations/tighten budgets. I don't see a lot of potential for raising one's salary in the near future.

I had a weird conversation with my boss's boss yesterday. It started with talking about a new project I might be involved in, but then went into her telling me that "people don't know how to read you" and "it's hard to tell when you're excited and passionate about something." She also kept repeating that I was very "even-keeled" and I make people feel relaxed. I guess those were supposed to be compliments.

Then she says that I need to come up with a plan for what I am going to do about this! Basically, I need to take some deliberate actions to let people know what I am thinking and feeling. I told her I would set up some check-ins with her where we can talk, but I'm really not sure what else I'm supposed to do. I asked what other people were doing that she felt was more effective, but she didn't have an answer to that.

It was so bizarre, because I am fine with getting feedback if there's an issue with my work, but this seemed to be about how my personality was causing a problem (I'm sorry, I was raised by Midwestern farmers - we're not expressive people). I ended up crying in front of her, which pissed me off. It just touched on some lifelong feelings about feeling a little out of step with people.

To tell the truth, I don't really get "passionate" about things at work. It's work - I enjoy it when I have interesting problems to work on, but I'm passionate about my family, about ideas, not about work stuff. I suppose that's why I appear "even-keeled" at work, because I don't deeply care about any of that crap so it's easy to let things slide off my back.

Was it in the form of trying to help you or help the team? I have had and currently have software engineer coworkers who's communication style is definitely hindering their career and it can genuinely sometimes be difficult to get across to them that producing quality code is not the only element of our jobs. The ability to have a good relationship with the business is frequently the difference between wasting weeks on a product they don't really want and delivering them the one time report they really wanted in a couple hours. I'm reading a lot from not a lot of details about this conversation but everyone else here is giving the "She's probably full of shit" advice so I'll counter balance it a bit with at least consider that she might have a point.

Yeah, I'm also inclined to give the benefit of the doubt and assume there's some "there" there. But the way she worded it to me makes it really hard to figure out what the real issue is.

Not to toot my own horn, but in the past I have always gotten feedback that I am great to work with. One difference might just be the shift to remote where you have to work really hard to make sure you're communicating, and perhaps she feels I am not putting in enough effort there.

"people don't know how to read you" and "it's hard to tell when you're excited and passionate about something." She also kept repeating that I was very "even-keeled" and I make people feel relaxed.

Sounds like a manager shit sandwich to me.

The gist seems to be that you're insufficiently emotive and at least one person has commented on it or the manager has noticed. Impassiveness makes insecure people uncomfortable. "Do they like me? Do they like what I've done? Are they angry at me?". Many people want bad character writing in their life. So give it to them. I find being overly polite is a partial replacement.

I worked with a guy who was (and still is) almost totally impassive. Took me while to figure out his tell for thinking what someone said was utterly stupid is ... silence. He has some communications issues as his emotional state isn't well well reflected in his expression and inflection. Also, super smart guy and almost always right about stuff in his many areas of expertise. An argument with him is strange. Savage but unemotional destruction of incorrect statements and/or no response at all. Great guy, left for another job a while ago, we still hang out.

I think your boss may be the weirdo here. Unless you're somewhere very small, or in a very customer facing role, it sounds like you're just...a consummate professional. I am a programmer at FAANG, and I love working with people who have a "no bullshit, let's grind out this tedious nonsense we get paid for" attitude. The (mostly junior) devs who still (pretend to?) find it exciting are grating.

So as far as advice: maybe leave? Or like, add some exclamation points/emoijis in writing as a token gesture of conforming. Or even just say you'll be more peppy, put some token effort into it for two weeks, then assume the boss will forget the conversation ever happened. Teams full of peppy (mostly white) tech bros might not be a fit for you, but lots of places would love to have a somber, chill, professional....

It is a rather small consultancy and I'm client-facing, so I suppose there is some razzle-dazzle expected. I am trying very hard to move to a larger org where I can just do the work and not have to put on a show, as much as I like the variety that consultant work offers. But there seems to be a bias against agency folks in the market right now, so it's slow going.

My experience is if you're client facing, every role has both sales and customer service tacked on even if your actual position is something else so it could be something there.

It might be worth asking if she will confirm whether it is feedback from a client, if so that might at least tell you where the razzle dazzle needs to be directed.

Likewise trying to clarify if they mean over text (Teams/Slack or whatever) or by voice/facial expression might be helpful. Or if you have a colleague you trust you could try asking. Maybe only one that you hang out with at weekends so to speak.

I think your boss may be the weirdo here.

Yes, unless the boss has received some feedback or has practical concerns that they're being diplomatic about this just amounts to "I don't like your personality, change it", but more ominous due to the power differential.

The only advice I can think of is to ask around and see if there's any complaints about your demeanor or some way it could have had an impact on actual work in a way that could have gotten back to her. Hopefully there is some constructive feedback here and you're not just trapped beneath a weirdo.

Best piece of career advice wrt bosses is ‘find someone who likes you’. Some people will like you and some won’t. I do well with older men and young(ish) women, most younger men do better with young men and older women, but whatever it is, find your demographic.

I do well with older men and young(ish) women, most younger men do better with young men and older women

Why?