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You ain’t learnt nothin yet

Posted on: 04 March '13

“I am bored”, says a 30 year high performer in the software industry. Sounds familiar?

This person has just completed the transition of a portfolio of 30 applications from the customer’s environment, which was distributed across the globe, to offshore. She was the first person to join the team over two and a half years ago and has been repeatedly recognized by the customer and her teammates as the linchpin of the success of the entire team. Prior to this project, she was the technical lead in the initial team of four people to work on a new client, which went on to become the third largest customer in the company within a matter of four years. She has received multiple awards including the highest award given in the company, the annual ‘MVP’ award.

She is now bored! There is no greater reward to win. She has all the answers. The project team members come to her for all the technical advice. The program manager and the client partner, while hobnobbing with senior client executives, get their critical inputs on the project from her. There is no technical challenge that she either does not know or cannot figure out the answer to in a short span of time. She knows that she will be assigned to yet another project, to yet another customer, in yet another country and with yet another project team whom she will again have to, yet again, teach the team and lead it to success.

Oh! The burden of excellence. She cannot keep doing this again and again. She is bored.

Has this happened to you? Has this happened to someone you know? Is it familiar? If so, please write to me at alahiri@mindtree.com or post your comments directly on this blog.

In a subsequent blog, I will share my views on the above topic and share the collective responses that I receive from you.

  • Geetha Manichandar

    Dear Anjan,

    This is really interesting! Thank you!

    Wonder whether the high performer who has suffered a burn-out syndrome at such a young age can, in some way, change ‘the burden of excellence’ into a blessing? She can move out of her comfort zone but still operate from her strength zone and take on a different role?

    Or, is it time for a sabbatical? Take some time off and do something that is totally unrelated to her work? And then, come back with renewed zeal and gusto. Or, does she need ‘stretch goals’ to regain her passion and mojo for her work?

    Do people in the software industry especially tend to have a laser-like focus on being an SME and therefore, ignore all their other talents?

    Unlike perfectionism, achieving excellence can never be a burden. And excellence is indeed more fun than mediocrity in the pursuit of WOW!

    These are some of my thoughts please….

    Thanks and regards,

    Geetha

  • I also reproduced the blog in another forum and have received many very interesting responses to the situation posed above. I am reproducing the responses in full below:

    Ram C Mohan | 2 days ago
    Please read my blog on Konnect to have a view on this topic.

    Jenny was her name. She came from a very low income suburb of Detroit. She earned her living as a janitor. She worked in a large office complex in the suburb of Detroit cleaning the offices and the restrooms along with few other janitors. The work was from 5 PM to 10 PM.
    Detroit didn’t have good public transportation as it was the hub of car manufacturers. At around 4 PM, her supervisor would escort her along with other few Janitors in his car, drop them to the office complex and pick them back around 10 PM.

    How interesting can the janitor’s work can be? Many people would leave the job within few months, but not Jenny. She was there during the five years of my stay in USA. I always used to see her smiling and happy. Jenny used to bring her own different fragrances and 50 cent vases with some wild flowers and place it at different places.
    Among all the crew, Jenny’s work was distinctly noticed. Office and rest rooms were sparkling clean with nice flowers and fragrances. The fragrance and flowers we different every day. Everyone in the office loved Jenny.

    I asked her once, how can she enjoy this work always keep smiling. What she told stunned me.
    “I love my job, when you love your job, you are always happy”

    Ever since then, she is an inspiration to me. When I hear some of our smart engineers whine about their job, I remember Jenny and just smile.

    Arvind Bakshi | 1 day ago
    The carrot & stick strategy works very well in a traditional, linear, routine and mass work. However they are not the primary motivators in an innovative & expertise based workplace; I would agree with Daniel Pink’s publishing of big the three (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html):

    1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.

    2. Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters.

    3. Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

    Vivek Ravikumar | 1 day ago
    I guess in this world there is no way anyone can stop improving thier knowledge reason being technology is developing almost everyday and the scope to learn new things also keeps tending to infinity.

    Having said this it is also nessasary for opprotunities to be provided to induvidual in order to display their talent which they recently acquired.

    Arun Ambupe | 2 days ago
    There is nothing bad about getting bored. It is an essential state required to think about what actually matters in one’s life. I find it pretty normal.
    However, I continue to suspect that getting bored is an indication that one is truely examining what he/she is doing than just getting propelled by ‘objectives’ and ‘achievements’.

    Azmathulla Khan | 2 days ago
    This is really interesting: High Performer getting Bored..

    To keep it simple:

    High Performer needs to be clear on his/her goals/objectives and what he/she needs to achieve both in short term and long term.

    Next step is to discuss pro-actively with his/her Manager. Communication is the key factor here.

    There is a famous quote from Shiv Khera ” Winner dont do different things They DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY”

    For example: Awards is not every thing… if he/she has already achieved highest award then he/she has already set the benchmark and is a role model for others ….

    So there is another challenge to sustain and be the best every time and better his/her own performance.

    If there are not many opportunities for him/her then he or she can create opportunities by looking at what could help him/her acheive short term and long term goals.

    Bringing in Value adds to help Customers succeed in their business could also help generate loads of appreciations from Customer which is better than any award we have….

    Saving cost for Customer in any of your value propositions within the scope of work of project can be a basic milestone which an high performer should consistently deliver.

    Contribute in building business or pre-sales activities for Mindtree.

    Contribute in building competency and expertise with in your IG or practice is another area.

    Contribute in multiple volunteer opportunities in Organization for eg: recently concluded Osmosis event..

    There are several ways to do so….

    Bottom line is “High Performer is Self -Motivated”…He/She will find way to reach to his/her goals every time…

    If high performer is not self -motivated then counselling needs to be done with him/her at the earliest as they are our pillars

    TEKKAM himanvika | 2 days ago
    I m one of the new mindtree minds joined this feb.

    Recognition is one thing that creates a lot of enthusiasm and zeal to move forward and work hard.I believe even though you get recognition from a set of people, there are still lot of people in the world to recognise me…..population increases rite…

    this belief will never let me get bored….

    Shiva Phirangi | 2 days ago
    “Here’s a chance of innovation..!!”

    However something before achieving has high priority, passion, but once achieved becomes a routine, and I hope almost everybody are fed-up with their routine and need a change. So we keep waiting for that change(weekend)..!!

    I atleast believe, if anything in universe is constant then it is ‘Change’, can be requoted as “Change is the only Constant and vice-versa..!!!”

    Avinash Ujjwal | 2 days ago
    Success never final and failure never fatal; it’s courage which counts!

    Anjan Lahiri | 2 days ago
    Wonderful take on your Mom’s job Deepa…Thanks for the comment.

    Deepa Shekar | 2 days ago
    As soon as I read the first line “I am bored”, I recollected a quote which I read recently – “Boredom is your brain screaming an important message: you are capable of greater things, aim higher”. I believe there is always a next step, an unknown space to something that you already know or are doing. So the moment you feel bored, it means that it is time to explore that unknown space.

    On a different line, I was just thinking – My mom is a home maker and a high performer at it and if she ever gets bored of her excellence, what will I do!

    Sandeep Banthiya | 2 days ago
    I agree that it gets boring and I have faced it too. I term this as “lack of motivation”. Any individual would thrive to achieve something or would perform the best seen would be only because there is a motivation to reach certain goals. The goals will vary person to person and they may be knowledge, skills, position, recognitions, salary, and so on. Even in personal life, we do what we do because there is a motivation (family needs, kids, retierement plan, etc.) which is making us run.

    Similarly in this situation, there is feeling of achieving all the motivations perceived. The girl should now seek for a higher motivation to achieve. If she continues to do the same thing again and again, then she will not only get bored, but will convert from a high performer to a low performer which will intern impact on her self-confidence. This will not only impact the individual, but will also impact the individual’s familiy, organization, customer and so on.

    Hence I summarize with a tag line – Higher Motivation means Higher Enjoyment!!

    Raghunadh Vadranam | 2 days ago
    Yes, it can happen to different people at different times. There are people who feel like retired/bored after getting promotions. They often tell to others like “I have seen everything, it’s your turn”. To overcome this problem, I feel that one should keep sharing his success stories/achievements and also should connect with others to understand their achievements and challenges. Only then they will know – 1) given a chance, how can they do better the same task they have done successfully ,2) As a senior how to mentor team members to be successful using their experience and other achiever’s experience. Boring can never happen if you know “how to benefit from your knowledge and other achiever’s knowledge” . I feel that’s the secret behind being happy all the times.

    Johnpeter Devesahayam | 2 days ago
    Otherday I was listening to a FM and the RJ interviewed HR head of a famous company abou the purpose of annual performance appraisals. She mentioned that performance appraisals are just to negotiate (%of hike) money nothing about performance. HE head could not give a direct response to her question.

    Her argument is, if apprisal is performance based then why performance of a person has to be appraised once in a year? Why not event based or on daily basis? She gave examples of sports and cine stars and how their perfprmances are getting evaluated whether they like it or not?

    their performances are getting appraised when every film released or game played, there is no annual appraisal for them, so there is no chance of getting bored when peformance appraised on daily basis, so they have to be always on the run and active. the moment that they say bored then out of the game…

    Mahidhar Yarra | 2 days ago
    her perspective about life and excellence is limited..

    she must drive her life and chase bigger challenges\problems..

    Alok Chaurasia | 2 days ago
    Hi Anjan,

    Your blog has touched the right nerves. It seems there is nothing more to do,both technical knowledge and career seems to have come to a stand still . There is no excitement or challenge in the work that I do, leading to boredom . I am looking for something where it is interesting,exciting and challenging , but still brainstorming to find some answers to my problem. Hope your next blog shows me a way.

    Regards

    -Alok

    Srikanth Chandrasekhar | 2 days ago
    Methinks the title of this blog is rather suggestive of where Anjan is going with this…

    Venkataraghava P | 2 days ago
    This situation sounds like ‘Mid-Life crisis’. People need to figure out what they are passionate about after they learn tricks of the trade. Boredom is guaranteed for high performer since they learn tricks of the trade pretty quickly.

    Organizations like Mindtree should recognize these folks early and challenge them with assignments that can fit their appetite and passion. Secondly, need to assign goals to such people to mentor their next level effectively. Often the performance is limited to individual excellence and not team excellence. This situation also explain their dependability in projects and we cannot release them for better assignment even if there is one (burden of excellence).

    Supriya Seetharam | 2 days ago
    Every one’s first suggestion would be if you are getting bored then change the role,work,take a break etc etc.

    But I strongly feel that boredom can actually lead to many new innovative ideas,lot of thinking coz boredom results in “Day Dreaming”.

    When we are bored we actaully crave for inspiration or motivation and I believe the best way to get self motivated is to Day Dream.

    So my advice to the champion mentioned in Anjans artical would be if you are getting so much bored,your mind can think and can really bring in new innovative ideas.

    So happy day dreaming for those who are getting bored :).

    Mary Mathew | 2 days ago
    Take a small break to think about self, go for a nice shopping, forget the job for some days and spend time with family, go for a small trip, and come back with a fresh mind and lot of energy.

    Take a different role with a different technology and challenges. Try to collect past learning and write a book which helps others.

    If still feeling bored, think whether she has any other passion in mind and if so, work for it.

    She can find an answer if she takes time to think and understand her more.

    Saravanan Sivasankaran | 2 days ago
    My father was a teacher and teaching one language (Tamil) for more than 30 years before his retirement. I studied in different class in the same school where my friends used to be so excited about his teaching method. And I never heard any kind of displeasure from him over teaching almost same subject for such a long time (same Kural he used to relate with different context to ensure that people like it). But I remember he used to read lot of English novels and other knowledge gaining activities during his spare time (even after his retirement). May be this scenario is a bit different since it talk about an high performer in IT, I think we would understand that the Passion on the work is the driving factor for our self motivation. certainly there were multiple options exist to enrich your experience over your current work.

    Saurabh Kumar | 2 days ago
    I would suggest, the achievements and learning should not be washed out by changing the technology because the person is feeling bore.

    This can be utilized by creating a practice in MindTree and create the replica of yours becoming a mentor. Hopefully when she will see the result by seeing 1000s of followers who will receive the same achievements, then I am sure she will not feel bore but she will be proud to see her followers achieving the same, what she has achieved.

    Poornima Virupaksha | 2 days ago
    In my view i think she might have bored with the routine work.

    Now in professional life, technology is so advanced and moving so fast you have learnings everyday. somtimes will be in confusion as to what to choose. May be she can try something different which interest her. I am sure with options available these days one or the other will click.If bored with the technical work try out something which interest you and take a break from the current role.

    Manickavelu M. | 2 days ago
    The real joy is in giving something to the needy. Besides your professional circle, try offering your time and efforts to the poor people. Help the poor to learn, grow and sustain. The joy and satisfaction in return you get will definitely keep you excited and motivated as after all the very basic purpose of our existence is to connect the abundance to the needy analogous to a conduit pipe. Try connecting the abundance. 🙂

    Vijendra S. Singh | 2 days ago
    Its simple to understand that If someone is bored that means either she or he has lost the love for what he or she was doing.

    You could be a top performer but can not be there for long time if you don’t love what you do.

    And do what you love to do.

    Prashant Bhaganna Patil | 2 days ago
    This may be a temporary phase – triggered by external factors like team members, nature of work … and even personal life – to some extent.

    ONE specific solution may not work the same way for everyone who’s going through a similar situation. But something that comes close – is identifying an objective: doing something that really drives you (technical, personal or social in nature), and working towards it.

    Anirban Chakraborty | 2 days ago
    I would like to comment from a different perspective. Boredom is often a mental state which results from our upbringing and social trend. Current social system appreciates the wowness more than simple things done in a perfect way again and again. While appreciation of new initiatives is important and fosters innovation, doing simple things perfectly again and again should also be considered “cool”.

    Our definition of good work should change and include perfect repetitions. Nature is a very good example. Sun rises every day and doing the same thing for last few million years. If it starts feeling bored…. We can imagine the consequence. Similarly, the earth rotates and good it rotates.

    So far as we know the value of our work and clear in our mind about the contribution we are making boredom is only a belief. I can relate this to Anjan’s earlier post “What areas are you working on right now?” Do we know the value of what are we doing? Are we conscious about value of our work or simple judging it as a task or activity? The answer lies within.

    To come out of it, look around and appreciate common things

    1)Thank the sun for rising every morning.

    2)Thank the payroll team who make sure you get the salary credit on the last day of the month , come what may

    3)Thank the newspaper vendor who delivers newspaper before you wake up.

    4) Thank Google search for searching for you everyday

    Are you still feeling bored?

    Mohan Kenchaiah | 2 days ago
    Looks like she is one of those who does not like repetitive role/job. Better to try something different from what she has been doing so far. I am a good example of changing technologies and/or roles considerably around the same age and it has paid me back. When I compare with with my peers in the past who did not do that, I feel very satisfied with my decisions. This also helps an individual to become more change agile and probability of succuss in whatever new role he/she takes up is high. Every time i took up something new, I enjoyed the work a lot.

    Abarajithan D. | 2 days ago
    My Two cents:

    1. High performers are hungry for knowledge. They know that there are many unknowns.

    2. There is always an (n+1) thing to learn and do. Techworks, for example.

    3. There are undiscovered territories in every project that can be looked into. Sometimes that can give you a new path to follow altogether.

    Nandan Kulkarni | 2 days ago
    bored? and you are still 30! i’m 22 and scared i won’t have much time to do all that i need to.

    if you are bored in your technical field then try something new. come up with a new stuff that someone hasn’t found before which can help the company. broaden your avenues. there are challenges out there that are bigger than your present challenge.

    if not then slow things down. do something connected more with personal life. take a hike, tour a country, go rafting, snorkeling! learn a new skill every year. learn a new dance then you’ll open up to new personality within you. learn a new instrument. paint, sketch, animate, go cycling what not!!! just wake up everyday not thinking that this is going to be the same old day but this day is going to be exciting! i’m going to do something new. meet new people! do you know the joy of making a new friend? there are so many things in life that you can do and yet many more that cannot be done in our life span! just open up your mind, fly away from the norms and routine of life and you’ll discover that there is so much fun to have! 😀 enjoy your life. have a nice day 🙂

    Amit Kumar (IN1196) | 3 days ago
    Especially in my case, what I feel is –

    1) when motive behind doing things is more than just money, when I want to prove myself.

    2) when I dont do repeatitive work all the time.

    3) whatever I do has a huge impact on the system I am part of.

    4) when I dont follow the herd.

    – are the reasons which keeps me away from boredom.

    I feel bored when project reaches a phase where there is not much to fix/resolve.

    Sharad Singh | 3 days ago
    Hi Anjan,

    I am pretty sure most of us have experienced this in our career. In my case the example was a long running program which I was part of and started as a Lead and grew upto Program Manager over 2 years. The “boredom” didn’t come from the fact that there was nothing new happening. There were still more releases to happen and more business problems to solve. Boredom was result of the how to solve a problem. When a business problem arose , I could give the solution to the problem in 5 mnts or knew the 4 step on how to arrive at a solution. Whatever left was execution.

    Once I moved client , Technology and for a brief period domain , there were new learning and excitement and sometimes unsolvable problems. In my opnion these are the things which would keep you motivated and away from boredom

  • From all the comments above,I am taking the liberty of culling a few quotes. These quotes point to many different ways in which people look at the issue:

    “Boredom is guaranteed for high performer since they learn tricks of the trade pretty quickly.”

    “Passion on the work is the driving factor for our self motivation.”

    “Besides your professional circle, try offering your time and efforts to the poor people”

    “There are undiscovered territories in every project that can be looked into”

    “…just open up your mind, fly away from the norms and routine of life and you’ll discover that there is so much fun to have!”

    “I feel bored when project reaches a phase where there is not much to fix/resolve.”

    “There were still more releases to happen and more business problems to solve……….(but) , there were new learning and excitement and sometimes unsolvable problems..”

    “I love my job, when you love your job, you are always happy”

    “….scope to learn new things also keeps tending to infinity.”

    “….getting bored is an indication that one is truly examining what he/she is doing”

    “Bringing in Value adds to help Customers succeed in their business could also help generate loads of appreciations from Customer which is better than any award we have….”

    “Recognition is one thing that creates a lot of enthusiasm and zeal to move forward”

    “…something before achieving has high priority, passion, but once achieved becomes a routine”

    “Success never final and failure never fatal”

    “My mom is a home maker and a high performer at it and if she ever gets bored of her excellence, what will I do!”

    “I agree that it gets boring and I have faced it too. I term this as ‘lack of motivation’.”

    “There are people who feel like retired/bored after getting promotions. They often tell to others like ‘I have seen everything, it’s your turn’.”

    “…she must drive her life and chase bigger challenges\problems..”

    “It seems there is nothing more to do, both technical knowledge and career seems to have come to a stand still . There is no excitement or challenge in the work that I do, leading to boredom.”

    “Boredom is guaranteed for high performer”

    “If someone is bored that means either she or he has lost the love for what he or she was doing”

    “Our definition of good work should change and include perfect repetitions.”

    “learn a new skill every year”

  • Geetha Manichandar

    WOW! A Smörgåsbord of learning takeaways here!

    Thank you, Anjan & thanks a ton to all the other Mindtree Minds too!

    Regards,

    Geetha