I haven’t blogged about it, but a couple of years ago I went through an acquisition. It was a pretty incredible experience and overall pretty positive. I’m sure I’ll blog about that at some point, but today I want to discuss a change that I experienced from going through that … a change in me. A change I wish happened a lot sooner.
I figured out how to not concern myself with most problems.
… or, at least I think I did. Something in me changed.
At Rigor (a 30-something-person startup), I was the do-everything-tech-dude. I was hired to be a C# developer, but switched to Ruby, but switched to infrastructure. I also managed our Google Workspace, Slack Workspace, marketing email delivery, office networking … anything and everything. It didn’t even stop at the border of the company, either. I ended up managing the Slack Workspace and helping with IT and networking for the startup village where we had our office.
It seems that at some point I acquired an insatiable appetite for responsibility… or control? Or maybe I just saw problems I could solve all around me and there was nobody around to keep my focus on our product. Whatever the reason, it worked out really well … except …
That shit was toxic.
Over the four years at Rigor, I felt an insane amount of stress. Nothing that I had ever felt before. I’m a rescuer by nature. I run into high-stress situations, but this was different. This wasn’t a high-stakes infrastructure outage … this was a frog boil. I didn’t know it, but I was living in the stew all the while figuring out how to better cut the carrots.
I ended up having anxiety attacks. Once so bad I drove myself to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack. Read that again, dear reader. I drove. Myself.
Once acquired, something strange happened. I didn’t have to worry anymore. We had money. We weren’t going to go out of business. Our 30-something employees weren’t going to go without their already-under-market salary. Suddenly, everything was fine. I felt a weight lift from me that I could never fully express. Yeah, there was stress in the new company, but the hot water was comfortable relative to the inferno that I had convinced myself was normal.
It’s now been two years since the acquisition. I’ve moved to a higher-level team that has a ton of responsibilities. And I feel nearly no stress. I’m sitting here during our winter break (Splunk employees are off from Christmas to New Year… amazing) and it struck me that I hadn’t thought about work at all in a week. I’m not worried about what my co-workers are doing. I don’t bother them with what I’m doing. I can’t concern myself with all of that.
There have been some organizational shifts since then … and I see other people being worried about it … but I just can’t be bothered to even think about it. Those kinds of changes would be earth-shattering to me at any other point in my career. They would signal the end of whatever organization I was in. A sure death knell.
But, something changed in me.
Everything is a mess and I’m fine. There’s messy business all around and I don’t care. This is a dumpster fire and it’s entirely normal. I’ve said these zen-like phrases before. It finally sank in.
Sure, my team is crazy understaffed (we should be 40 people and we’re a team of 9) and other teams love to blame us for their own shortcomings … but this is great. We’re not going anywhere. We’re always improving. They treat me really well. Nothing else seems to matter to me anymore – I no longer need the control I can’t have. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody (I mean it this time). I have little to fear.
Now I’m stuck figuring out why. Why am I so zen-like? Have I gained the confidence I always faked? Have I just figured out how to stay out of business that isn’t my own? Or, am I getting complacent?