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My name is Nick Grant and I have manic depression. I write every day about living with bipolar disorder. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Give a Job to a Busy Person

6 min read

This is a story about workload...

Gas Meter

The original idiom - which I have adapted to make it more inclusive - says that if you want a job doing, you should give it to a busy man. I notice that this is fairly true, from my anecdotal observations: the busier I am, the easier it is for me to deal with extra work being given to me.

One year ago I had the intolerable task of sitting quietly trying not to get noticed, and trying to keep my mouth shut. I knew that the very best thing I could do for my career and my bank balance, was not to rock the boat; not to attempt to say or do anything useful. The best thing I could do was act as a very expensive seat warmer. I was paid for being present, not for being useful or productive.

One year ago, seemingly minor things made me exceedingly anxious. If I had to get my car tested for roadworthiness, have a haircut, deal with the gas company, or any one of a million ordinary everyday tasks, I would find it unbelievably stressful, and I struggled to cope.

I have started to work 100+ hours a week again. To say that I'm busy would be a massive understatement. I am hyper-productive for the maximum amount of hours which human physiology allows for, without sleep deprivation causing me to have a psychotic episode. Unable to sleep, it's quite usual for me to open my laptop and start working in the middle of the night. I wake up well before my alarm clock. I am running in overdrive mode at the moment, also more commonly known as a manic episode.

Of course, with mania, I get very impatient and irritable about things which are not on the critical path. For example, I was asked to update a spreadsheet which detailed the activities I've been doing during the past couple of weeks, and how long I spent on each activity. To me, this is the most ridiculous waste of my time, given that 100% of my time has been spent on productive activities for one single organisation, so I really don't give a toss about how it's sliced and diced - all my valuable time has gone to benefit the organisation who wants me to waste time on an unproductive exercise, which leaves me less time to do productive activities. It's idiotic to get your highly paid staff to spend their time doing activities which are not valuable, when instead they could be doing something useful.

The argument would be that timesheets and suchlike are the way that we calculate how much to pay people, but this is demonstrably absurd. If the number of hours worked had any kind of relationship with the value delivered, then I would agree that it's important for us to record or time worked on task accurately, but there IS NO relationship between remuneration and hours worked. If I work the same number of hours as some of my colleagues, I am paid 5 or 6 times as much. Am I 5 or 6 times more productive and valuable? Sometimes I am less valuable, sometimes I am more valuable, and sometimes - although it's exceptionally rare - my remuneration tallies with the value that I'm delivering.

One of my colleagues said to me "you've got too much time on your hands" when he saw something I'd been doing, which he thought was a waste of time. Later, that piece of work I'd done turned out to be one of the most valuable things that anybody in the team ever produced - something that benefits every member of the team every single day, and perhaps many many other members of other teams, and indeed the whole organisation.

Value and productivity are very hard to measure. "Bums on seats" culture is dreadful. The number of hours that staff spend at their place of work has no bearing on how productive and valuable they are.

In the teams I get involved with, I try to instill a culture of "think it... do it". I want people to implement any innovative ideas the moment they have them. If the ideas turn out to be duds, so what? It only takes one or two great ideas that really pay off, to more than outweigh the small amount of wasted time doing things which had little value. So much time is wasted talking about priorities, and the pros and cons of doing something, and agonising over whether it could or should be done. The culture I bring to teams and organisations is one where everybody's encouraged to build stuff, even if it gets thrown away; even if it's silly!

It's much better for people to be productive and have their brains being kept busy, than looking busy. It's so much better for people's sense of job satisfaction, sense of purpose, sense of pride, sense of ownership, and a multitude of other great qualities that we want from the people in our teams and organisations.

There's no obvious value in the text-based adventure game which I hid inside one of our systems, as an easter egg, but the value is in the cultural tone that it sets: it's OK to build stuff; don't be afraid; don't be so serious... this is supposed to be fun and intellectually challenging.

As it turned out, now we have several tools which imitate the game I built, which perform useful functions for the organisation. Instead of attempting to "win" a "game", the objective is to find and fix problems, using the available clues, which is pretty much what every IT professional does for a day job, but it's a lot better if there's a half-decent interface to help with that task. Computer games are always brilliant at having the learning curve set to make them accessible, and they take advantage of the best available features: if all you have is a computer terminal that can print text and accept typed commands, then you can still create a brilliant game, even without fancy 3D graphics and sound.

I'm busy as hell, and you might say that the 2 hours I spent writing an adventure game were wasted, but in fact it was time well spent. The 5 minutes I spent battling with a spreadsheet where I had to record the hours I spent working on things, was a total waste of time and quite corrosive to the great working culture I'm trying so hard to create.

 

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Harsh

5 min read

This is a story about being horrible to people...

Hand wash

One of my bosses, from 18 years ago, has been a source of inspiration. He is - or at least he was when I knew him - one of the bluntest, rudest and most intimidating people you'd ever be likely to meet. I have never aspired to be rude, mean or to treat people badly, but I don't suffer fools gladly and I get rather impatient and intolerant of the hard-of-thinking.

It struck me that I had written quite a lot that could be misconstrued as harshly critical of my colleagues. I wanted to address that.

Firstly, I do suffer from bouts of delusions of grandeur, as a result of my bipolar disorder. I can quite often, during episodes of mania, decide that I'm a virtuoso; a genius. There's little to burst my bubble, in terms of evidence, in that I can easily point to multiple great achievements throughout my career, and I haven't yet been defeated by a technology challenge. This means I'm good but not necessarily great. I have no idea what the distinction is, but my brain tells me that I'm great when I'm in one of those moods. In fact, my brain tells me I'm the best and in the absence of another person who makes me feel inferior, it's hard to deflate my ego and get my rampaging delusions of grandeur under control. I'm sure that I'm not the smartest person in the room but without concrete evidence to the contrary, I can get carried away.

It sounds like I'm making excuses; blaming my mental illness. Well, I do try to stay humble and keep some perspective. I do try to stop my head from swelling too much; stop my ego from getting out of control.

Secondly, I'm under a lot of pressure. Work is not just a job to me - it's an opportunity to prove that I'm not a no-good waste-of-space washed-up has-been useless junkie alcoholic homeless bankrupt mentally ill enemy of society. If I can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that I can make a substantial, exceptional contribution to a major project, then I will have a massive achievement to point to as proof that I have some worth, which will help my self-esteem enormously.

Thirdly, I'm equally capable of being a "dull-eyed dim-witted brain-dead zoned-out zombie trudging along with the herd". I'm equally capable of becoming demotivated and just turning up for the paycheque. I'm equally capable of doing a half-assed job. I'm totally capable of being very unproductive. I can spend forever procrastinating; not producing anything useful. When I make disparaging remarks, I'm not criticising individuals - I'm criticising the dreadful effect that working in a big organisation has on people, in terms of robbing them of any opportunity to learn, develop and get passionately involved in a project where they feel like they can make a difference.

I do see incompetence, which annoys me, but the people who I am angry with are the highly paid consultants who claim to be experts, but are clearly a waste of money. It annoys me that I work with brilliant graduates and rubbish consultants, when the graduates are so underpaid, which is unfair. It annoys me that I have to waste my time cleaning up mess made by people who should be the best of the best. It annoys me that I have to do extra work, because of a highly paid consultant's incompetence, when the organisation and the team really would be much better off without them.

When my brain gets accelerated up to top speed, I can be incredibly productive, but I can also be incredibly mean. I start to believe that I can do everything myself and that everybody else is just an annoyance; a hinderance. That's wrong. That's a symptom of my illness. I do need my team. I do need other people. I am glad to have my colleagues... well, most of them anyway.

I can say all sorts of stupid regrettable things when I'm suffering an episode of mania. I can be really mean and harsh when I'm in full swing. I really hope that nobody's suffering too badly when they feel the sharp end of my tongue. I really hope none of my colleagues are reading this and thinking that I believe they're useless idiots, because the truth is that I think almost all my colleagues (with the exception of one or two aforementioned overpaid consultants) are brilliant people who I'm really lucky to work with.

I know that it doesn't matter how much of a brilliant engineer you are, if you can't get along with people then your skills are useless. People with amazing technology skills are plentiful, but the valuable ones are the people who place nice with others. I know I struggle at times, and I really hope I haven't done too much damage and that my colleagues can forgive me.

 

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Ticks in Boxes

3 min read

This is a story about form filling...

Vote

So my project is delivered and the giant form-filling SurveyMonkey exercise has begun. Today was supposed to be exciting, but it wasn't. It was boring. If I do a good job, then this part of the project is boring. If I do a good job then everything's supposed to work and run smoothly. I expect there will be problems, but at the moment there aren't any, mainly because nobody's doing the damn survey.

It's a little anti-climactic. I got up super early this morning, hoping to see the first users using the system, but there've barely been more than a handful of people who've stumbled upon the system. It won't be until tomorrow or the day after that people are notified that they have to do something, and their survey results will start flooding in. After so many months of hard work, it's a little hard to sit and watch a flat-line graph, showing virtually zero activity, the whole day. What a disappointment. At least things are working though, so far as we can tell.

I can't go into too much detail, because I'm bound by codes of conduct, privacy & confidentiality contractual clauses, and indeed other rather scary-sounding laws which restrict me from spilling the beans, but the good old general public are about to be asked to do a cool SurveyMonkey, and this is jolly exciting... except it isn't because nobody's doing it yet.

I'm exhausted.

It's been a long old slog to get to this point.

With so much nervous anticipation, it's hard to maintain the same level of energy and enthusiasm when nothing is happening. I found myself nodding off at my desk so I had to come home early. I'll try to get an early night and lots of sleep, in the hope that tomorrow is a more exciting day, providing some adrenalin to carry me through an otherwise pretty anti-climactic period.

It's supposed to go smoothly. It's supposed to go well. There aren't supposed to be any problems.

But.

Having worked so hard for so long, to meet a very tight deadline, I really don't quite know how to re-adjust to life without that pressure; without that goal and sense of purpose. It's difficult changing mindset, from push, push, push, to now wondering what fire is going to break out that will need to be put out; what crisis is going to emerge?

Still very obsessed with work and project, but the waiting is now mostly over, and we'll soon know whether some bold decisions I made have paid off, or whether they'll cause terrible problems and turn out to be disastrous.

 

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MMORPG

2 min read

This is a story about co-operative play...

Java

What's the game I'm playing right now? Well, it's called "get the massive software system to work before the damn hard deadline". It's a multiplayer game. It's fun.

I've spent all evening chatting to some genuinely delightful colleagues. Instead of trash-talking the overpaid fuckwits, I should be raving about what a pleasure it is to work with some brilliant individuals.

I'm not so sure I would go as far as to say "I love my job" given that earlier I very much wanted to down tools and give up until the morning, in the face of overwhelming technical obstacles. I was inclined to wait for a couple of more skilled individuals to be on hand to offer some real, tangible, useful assistance, but I lucked out on being able to take a couple of nice shortcuts.

The joy has come from the camaraderie of working with the select group of individuals who really care; who really know their onions and are used to working under pressure, having to solve nasty problems with a gun to their head and a crazy number of people breathing down their neck.

The chips are down. This is sink or swim time. This is where shit gets real. I love it.

Earlier I thought "is it only Monday?" and I thought that I should give up and take it easy, because it's going to be a long week. Then, I got creative and found a way though. I've been doing work-related stuff up to 10pm but I don't care, because we're making progress; we're kicking ass.

This is fun. It's sociable.

 

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Emotionally Unstable

7 min read

This is a story about repeating patterns...

Quote

What am I doing? It feels like I'm making the same mistakes I've made a bunch of times before. It feels like I'm re-living 2015, and I didn't like how things went that year, so I'm desperate to avoid making those mistakes, but I feel like my mood disorder has got me stuck in an inescapable pattern.

Strictly speaking, I have two mood disorders: bipolar and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The latter disorder means that I'm unable to escape a downturn in my mood as summer turns into winter, unless I head to warmer climate. The former disorder means that I'm prone to episodes of mania, which I always like to believe I'm in control of, because I enjoy the mania and find it immensely useful for creativity and productivity.

Looking back to 2015, at the time I felt like I was enjoying playing a pivotal role in the number one project for the biggest bank in Europe. In retrospect, I was very unwell indeed. My behaviour was quite erratic and unpredictable and it's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly why I feel like I was doing good work, now that I think about it. For sure, I helped bang some heads together and get things moving to meet some key deadlines, but I was definitely suffering very badly with a severe episode of mental illness, and I hadn't been working on the project for very long so I expect my contribution was negligible. This is what gives me a great deal of fear that I'm repeating the same mistakes: that history is repeating itself.

In 2015 I was working a lot of overtime. I was working most weekends. I was working extremely hard - long hours - and I had the additional pressure of moving house, given that I was homeless and living in a hostel. Also, it hadn't been very long since I had been in a dreadful state, with my brain chemistry completely messed up. I had terrible insomnia. I was a big mess.

Today, I have a house and a cat. My home life is comparatively settled, although I've had some relationship problems lately which have been very destabilising. My working routine is not too taxing - I have a short commute to the office, and the hours I work are strictly Monday to Friday. If I leave the office at 5:30pm, that's a long day for me. In 2015 I was routinely staying in the office past 9pm, and often to 11pm, and then staying up all night writing emails, which was not at all healthy or conducive to good mental health.

In some ways I feel that I'm in much better health than I was in 2015, and I stand a much better chance of getting through an incredibly stressful period at work without losing my mind. However, late on Friday I lost my cool at the office, and the emotions that have been bottled up started to come out, which wasn't very professional. I started to speak my mind way more than I should have done, and I started to send off messages with a scattergun approach. I stopped approaching problems in a calm and methodical manner, and instead I acted with desperation and superstition. I was afraid that all my hard work was in ruins. Strangely, I thought I was dreaming; or rather having a nightmare.

I suppose my sleep quality is compromised at the moment. Several nights a week I don't sleep well because there's a technical problem I can't stop thinking about. My dreams are all about my work. In fact, my dreams are nightmares, where I attempt again and again to resolve the problems I left at the office. As soon as I wake up, I rush to the office to pick up where I left off.

A colleague has mentioned in private that I should take it easy; not get so obsessed over the project. A colleague has correctly identified me as somebody who can make themselves sick through overwork - at risk of burnout; at risk of a breakdown. It's good advice - that I should try to maintain some balance. Becoming obsessed by work is very unhealthy.

Yesterday, I left a rambling garbled and emotional voicemail for a colleague, begging them to let me do something over the weekend. I spent time trying to find colleagues who would help me with a piece of work, and ended up getting somebody to do something for me at 11pm. It's too much. It's too intense. It's too crazy.

I have no idea if I'm eternally doomed to suffer from delusions of grandeur, and to repeatedly burn out, only to look back and realise that my negligible contribution was laughable; pathetic. I have no idea if my perceptions are warped and I'm unable to grasp just how bad an episode of mental illness I'm suffering from. It's hell being so functional, and having so much feedback which seems to corroborate all the apparent evidence that I'm being incredibly productive and useful, but yet I also have a whole load of evidence that the end result always seems to be the same: burnout, crash, disaster, destitution, destruction. Am I a fool for hoping that this time is the time when everything finally works out for me, and I get the glory I crave?

Looking back to 2008 and 2011, I was able to make it to the finishing line with a gigantic project for JPMorgan and a TechStars program technology startup accelerator. I was able to deliver, but at huge personal cost. Both times I ended up in a terrible state. I was too fixated on the specific delivery date, and I didn't think about what would come afterwards. I didn't handle the anticlimax well at all. The episodes of depression that followed the frantic manic energy which allowed me to deliver on time, were so destructive that all my hard work was destroyed... or was it? JPMorgan was able to process quadrillions of dollars of credit default swaps, using the software I designed and built. My tech startup was able to continue trading profitably and getting new customers, even though I was too sick to work. The cost was to me personally. I was ashamed that I couldn't continue to function at the same intensity, and I assumed that everyone would hate me for getting sick. I threw away those opportunities, because I assumed that they were ruined. I assumed that everybody saw me as damaged goods; unreliable and untrustworthy.

I have no idea if I'm destined for another personal disaster. I certainly worry that I won't be able to cope with the end of my contract, and the end of my involvement with the project I'm so unhealthily obsessed with. I suppose I need to mitigate against any probable crash in my mood. I suppose I need to plan ahead.

I can't imagine I'll be able to find a good contract locally. I can't imagine how I'm going to juggle my need to find a well-paid contract, with my cat and my house rental agreement. It's a stress that I really don't want to have to deal with right now. It's stress that I really wish would go away - if only my contract could be extended for another year, that would be perfect.

My life is a rollercoaster, so we would expect my mood to be too. It's hard to unpick my mood disorder from the circumstances of my life. I like to think that my mood is dictated by the time of year and other things that are going on, such as whether I'm in a good relationship or not. I like to think that my extreme moods will abate as my life improves.

 

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New iPhone is Underwhelming

4 min read

This is a story about obsolescence...

iPhone

I wasn't excited about the launch of the new iPhone, but I ended up getting one. My old iPhone 6 had served me well for years, but it was annoyingly short of free space, which meant continuously deleting stuff - a time consuming pointless exercise. The battery life was terrible, but I had managed to replace the battery quite inexpensively myself, so that wasn't an excuse for getting a new iPhone. The back was slightly scratched, but the screen was pretty good. The mute button no longer worked and the charging port was unreliable, only working at certain angles, which clinched the decision to upgrade.

I expected to be more pleased with the new iPhone.

But, I just put it in my pocket and carried on like it was no big deal.

Sure, the camera is better, the screen is better. Sure it's a bit more responsive; less laggy. However, there was virtually zero impact - no wow factor whatsoever.

When Apple introduced the fingerprint reader that was a big deal, because it saved having to type the unlock code every time, which is a vast improvement of usability. Given that I unlock my phone and do something with it 50 times a day, on average, you can imagine that it was a huge saving, not having to type my PIN all those times.

Since then, there hasn't been a 'killer' feature.

I'm not that bothered about having a better camera, because I have a good camera anyway with a much better lens and sensor than any smartphone could ever have. There simply isn't the room in a smartphone to include a large lens and sensor, so the image quality is always going to be very inferior to a proper camera.

Being able to unlock my phone with my face makes no difference to me versus being able to do it with my fingerprint. Face ID is not an improvement. Yes, biometric security is important to me, but I don't care whether it's fingerprint or facial recognition.

I don't play games on my phone or use anything which requires a powerful processor or lots of memory. I just browse the web, send and receive emails and messages, scroll through Facebook and Twitter, and access my banking apps. I could have stayed with my iPhone 6 and been perfectly OK, to be honest.

A friend who always gets the new iPhone, even when it's a minor upgrade, such as from the X to the XS, justifies his upgrades because of the frequency with which he uses his phone. This argument would also support my desire to upgrade too, given that I'm a heavy smartphone user and I have the disposable income, but it frankly depressed me that I spent the price of a reliable second-hand car on a gadget upgrade I really didn't need.

It's a year since I upgraded, and the screen on my iPhone XS is now scratched to pieces. Apparently the glass is very shatter resistant, but it's very prone to scratches. It's really disappointing to have bought a brand new cutting-edge gadget, and to find that it's not durable in everyday use situations. I have not abused my iPhone in any way. The scratches are all from simply being in my pocket, or on tabletops.

I haven't bought the new iPhone. I am not going to get the new new iPhone, because there's no way I can justify the expense for such a minor improvement.

It's kind of sad that I'll never re-experience that wonderful moment I got my first iPhone. That first iPhone was a real game-changer. That first iPhone was so transformative for human-computer interactions. I would be lost without having a smartphone and mobile internet available at all times. I - and so many others - have become dependent on the various communication apps, plus maps, taxis, banking and all the other things, which are so convenient to access through smartphones. My addiction to iPhone games was exhausted when I designed, built and released some for sale in the App Store, but I know that the impulse to check my various apps for notifications and new content is deeply engrained... perhaps an addiction, except it's one which does me no harm.

It must surely be time for a technology innovation which will inspire me again, like the original iPhone did.

 

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Imitation and Flattery

4 min read

This is a story about rôle models...

Glasses

I was very lost in 2015, without any purpose or identity beyond some things which were destroying me, my self esteem, my legacy, my reputation. I was sinking; doomed. I was trying and failing to regain any control over my chaotic and unmanageable life, and to gather enough dignity to carry on living.

A technologist friend has always helped me to discover things in life which have become integral to my future. He taught me to be a programmer and he got me interested in writing, as well as a heap of other things, like political views, which I now consider to be very much a part of my identity.

My friend has written and published online for countless years, and I have read and I have imitated. He was a prolific blog contributor, touching many lives worldwide. He has lived and breathed social media and embodied his online persona. I have imitated.

My parents chose to intoxicate themselves with drugs and alcohol, and were only concerned with their own selfishness, which mainly revolved around social isolation, lest their neglectful lazy shameful behaviour be publicly exposed. Luckily, I had excellent friends and their parents were inspirational people. I saw in other people's families, the way that things should be and I saw in my peers some ideas about what I could be. Friends have shaped who I am and given me the inspiration to pursue my profession in technology, and my passion for online communities, combined with my love of writing.

To say that I love writing is perhaps wrong. I've written a couple of novels, one of which I'm quite proud with, but I don't write fiction as regularly as I'd like. Perhaps if I was a more natural writer I would always be writing little short stories, or exploring my imagination in other ways, but instead I write these "non-story" stories, every single day if I can.

I cringe a little to think of my friend's judgement regarding the wrong-headed thinking, or mistakes of the past. If ever there's somebody I would be ashamed of disappointing, it would be my old friend. If there are certain standards of behaviour I hold myself to, it's not because of any standards from my parents - alcoholic druggies - but instead it's because of a worldview developed in the company of my friends and their families, whose opinions I seem to have taken to heart.

When I think about, for example, my friend's parents' view on hitting children, then I am upset that my parents were such barbaric ignoramuses, when their peer group was able to comport themselves the right way. If my friends' parents were able to be productive members of society, sociable and not drunk drug addicts; able to raise children without hitting them; able to raise children with kindness and generosity, indulging their children's talents and encouraging them to reach their full potential... then why not mine? I do not know, but I do know that my parents were abysmal failures, while many of my friends' parents are awesome role models, and some of their children too.

"They did the best they knew" is absolute horse sh1t when you have your peers to connect with; you can hold yourself to the standard of those around you, as a minimum. If you're the only antisocial drunk druggie losers who don't have a job, then you sort yourself out and start behaving responsibly, you don't force your child to leave school again and again, and drag them away from their friends, isolating them. That's f**king barbaric awful inexcusably sh1t behaviour.

I meant to write yesterday and I'm sad that I didn't. I meant write merely to thank my friend for inspiring me to write, but also to acknowledge my friend's role in giving me a career, and in inspiring me to think about many things. I meant to write only to speak of the positive, but I seem to have strayed into the territory of the negative.

My friend never writes vicious tirades like this, and I know that my ingratitude I show towards my parents could be particularly improper at the particular time, given a traumatic family situation in his life, which is nobody's fault but rotten bad luck.

I wish I could be more positive, but this blog serves as a kind of safety pressure-release valve, which has functioned extremely effectively in enabling me to regain some self esteem, control, dignity and other important things - such as a sense of purpose - when my life has otherwise crumbled around me.

 

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Something to Live For

6 min read

This is a story about becoming obsessed...

Monitor

Everywhere I've ever worked has talked about the glorious day when all the IT people will be sacked. Everywhere I've ever worked has been obsessed with the idea that one day, everbody can be made redundant. Everywhere I've ever worked has always been saying "soon we'll be able to get rid of those dratted IT people".

What's actually happened is that everywhere I've ever worked has become a technology company. What is a bank except for a database of bank balances and transactions? What is an insurance company except a database of policies and claims? What is any company, except for its data and its systems? When you examine most companies in the service sector, it turns out that there is no business... just software and data. Even a retail company with warehouses and stock is mostly a software company: just look at Amazon, which is mostly a technology company, not a retailler.

The organisation I currently work for talks endlessly about the glorious day when they'll be able to sack all the contractors and consultants. Indeed, the organisation made a decent attempt at actually getting rid of one of their main suppliers, to usher in the glorious and much vaunted IT-free future, which has been long promised.

I'm rather torn about whether to assist in the job of making myself redundant. There's considerable financial incentive to do a shoddy job and fail to deliver my project on time. There are negative consequences for the organisation I'm working for if their project isn't delivered, but there are positive consequences for me if things aren't finished by the deadline, because it means that my contract will probably be extended. You'd think they'd pay me for delivering a completed high-quality end product, but instead I'm payed by the hour, so of course there's no incentive to go quickly.

I can't stand being bored. It's never been my style to take my time and make a small amount of work last a long time. I'm not a person who believes it's a good idea to deliberately go slow. I'm not a person who believes it's ethical to make myself indispensable; a key-man dependency.

So, I am in a strange situation in my day job. I might end up accidentally finishing the project in time for the deadline, and delivering something that's high quality and easy to hand over; easy to maintain and support. That would potentially be disastrous for me, financially. Why bother to keep me around if I've delivered a neat-and-tidy, easy-to-use and well designed system, which is reliable and mostly bug-free? Surely I'm playing straight into the hands of those people who believe that one day all the IT work will be finished and all the IT people can be sacked?

I find it very frustrating working at snail's pace and looking busy, making a piece of work last longer than it actually should take to do. I find it very frustrating when I see shoddy workmanship and impenetrable unmaintainable and badly designed crap. I like being busy. I like delivering high quality systems. I like delivering finished projects on time.

I'm fairly obsessed with my day job and my project, because it seems like a simple way to achieve some progress in life. On paper, I'm highly qualified and experienced to do what I'm doing, so therefore there should be no reason why I wouldn't be able to keep working until the project completion date, and able to bank all the money that I'm potentially able to earn. On paper, it's a straightforward exchange of my labour for the project deliverables, and therefore I should be left unmolested to get on and do my job.

In reality, it seems that nobody really wants the project to succeed, me to earn my money or be able to achieve any of what's clearly possible to come to fruition. On paper the project can succeed, I can earn my money and the money helps me to achieve financial security, but in practice the project will fail, I don't earn my money and I don't have the means to pay rent and bills - this seems to be the desire of the decision-makers, who really don't want to see competent and capable people delivering successful projects.

I've come to expect defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory in the final hour; far too often I've be scuppered and thwarted when all that needed to happen was for me to be left alone, unmolested, and for the inevitable success to be allowed to happen. I'm very torn about whether I should employ more cynical tactics for my own economic gain, as I'm incentivised to do, which would be detrimental to the project, because it would essentially mean a far lower quality end product, which seems like a huge shame.

How have we reached this situation where we're so disincentivised to work hard and do a good job? How have we reached this situation where f**kwits and lazy idiots are rewarded, while anybody who's capable and competent is thwarted?

I remembered some times in my life when I had other interests, outside the workplace, and those were happier and more healthy times. I know that it's not good to be obsessed and single-minded. I know that I'm generally a more easy-going and laid-back person when I don't take things personally, but I really need this right now. Of course I'll find a way round the obstacles if I'm thwarted, but it's frustrating, especially when I've busted my balls.

I was really devastated when I thought I might not get to see my project through to completion. Now I'm a bit more "meh" about it, but I still have little going on in my life except for work at the moment. I also really need things to go as planned so that my financial planning isn't completely ruined.

Anyway, work work work. Work very much on my mind this week.

 

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8 Years Of My Life In 5 Pictures

9 min read

This is a story about peaks and troughs...

Cambridge

My story begins exactly 8 years ago, on May 4th 2011. I was the CEO of a profitable startup with prestigious clients paying to use my product. It was my idea, I had designed & implemented the system and I had successfully done deals with big companies. I had just started a TechStars accelerator program in Cambridge, run by Jon Bradford and Jess Williamson, and I was about to meet 46 mentors in week of "mentor madness" which is like speed dating, to hook up startup founders with experienced successful people from the tech industry, who were kindly offering to help 10 lucky teams on the TechStars program, along with my co-founder and I.

I was surrounded by super-smart people in Cambridge. My startup was growing very fast and I had done a great job of getting the company to where it was with very little help. I was hot property - a pin-up for the UK startup scene.

My co-founder was a much more likeable and charismatic guy who once ran a karaoke bar and had a far better temprament for being CEO, but I wanted the glory of having that coveted job title for myself. I emphatically rejected the suggestion that it might be better for the company if we were to switch roles, and I was to take the position of CTO. Fundamentally I'm good at technology, but not necessarily the best people person: I had, for example, already managed to make my co-founder cry in front of a Google executive. As CEO, I was pretty vicious and ruthless, because I was so desperately ambitious.

This particular May 4th, in 2011, was a moment when my potential net worth was at its highest. This was my golden opportunity to make my millions.

London panorama

This next picture is taken exactly 5 years ago, on May 4th 2014. I had just woken up in the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, London. This is the view from my hospital bed. I was surprised to be awake, because my kidneys were failing, my liver was damaged, there was a lot of fluid on my lungs and my heart was not functioning healthily - I had arrhythmias and my blood pressure was dangerously low. I hadn't expected to survive the night, so it was nice to be greeted by such a pleasant view in the morning.

By this point, I'd had to resign as CEO, sell my share of the company that I founded. The company still continued to trade very profitably without me and was getting big-name clients, but I had failed, personally. My co-founder stepped in and did a great job of smoothing things over with our investors and our clients, but my own reputation was damaged and I was heartbroken; ashamed.

I had just gotten divorced and sold my house.

My dreams were destroyed: I lost my company, my wife and my house. I tried to kill myself. That's how I ended up in hospital. I was lucky to survive.

Single speed

Exactly 4 years ago, on May 4th 2015 it seemed like I was getting my life back on track. I had been doing consultancy work for Barclays, which was very lucrative. Jon Bradford - the guy who ran the TechStars startup accelerator in Cambridge - had written about how I'd "sold out" and gone back to the world of banking and the easy money that was to be made in the Square Mile and Canary Wharf, which was hurtful. I was not happy. I knew I had sold out, but I needed money to pay the bills. I was couch surfing and living in AirBnBs. My life was chaotic. I loved being in London, but it was tearing through my dwindling savings and I was still heartbroken about my divorce and losing my company.

This photo is interesting, because it predates one of the most insane moments of my life. I was so exhausted and sleep deprived, that soon after this photo was taken I started hearing voices and generally suffering a major psychotic episode. My mind completely capitulated and I was lost to madness, briefly. It seems very strange now, writing about it, when I consider myself to have pretty good mental health, but at the time - 4 years ago - I was extremely unwell.

London beach

Exactly 3 years ago, on May 4th 2016, I was skimming stones into the Thames on this little rocky 'beach' on the banks of the river, by my apartment. A lucrative contract with HSBC had allowed me to get an apartment with the most stunning views over London and my life was starting to improve.

I had been an extremely passionate kitesurfer, which had taken me all over the world, seeking out the best wind and waves. During my divorce, having to step down as CEO of the company I founded, and the period when I was very unwell, I hadn't been doing any kitesurfing. Living by the river on a part which was tidal gave me back the connection to water which had been missing from my life. A friend came to visit and was even brave enough to kitesurf from this 'beach' despite the Thames being a particularly treacherous waterway to navigate, especially without an engine - the wind was gusty and unpredictable, but he managed to kitesurf on a 'beach' right in the heart of Central London.

Soon after this pleasant evening skimming stones into the Thames, I went away on a kitesurfing holiday to a desert island off the coast of North Africa, and had a very enjoyable time. 2016 was a good year. I made a lot of money and I had some very nice holidays, as well as meeting the love of my life.

California rocket fuel

Exactly 2 years ago, on May 4th 2017, I managed to trick my doctor into prescribing me an antidepressant combo called California Rocket Fuel. I'd had a rough winter where I nearly died from DVT which caused my kidneys to fail, and consequently I had lost a lucrative contract with Lloyds Banking Group. My life had been miserable, with a great deal of pain from the muscle and nerve damage from the DVT. I hadn't felt well enough to be able to work.

The love of my life was doing amazingly well in her career - in politics - and was appearing on an almost daily basis on TV, while I was limping around on crutches and taking a lot of very powerful painkillers. I was depressed and I wanted the very most powerful antidepressant I could get, which I discovered was "California Rocket Fuel" by doing some internet research.

I have bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder are not supposed to take antidepressants without a mood stabiliser. Doctors are not supposed to prescribe antidepressants to people with bipolar disorder. I had to be extremely sneaky to obtain this prescription, and it was rather cruel how I manipulated the poor unsuspecting doctor into seperately prescribing me the two medications, which are combined to create "California Rocket Fuel".

The result was predictable: Mania.

I went incredibly manic and my behaviour became erratic. I broke up with the love of my life.

. . .

That's the end of the pictures

. . .

When I later regained my mental stability and reflected upon what I had done, I realised I'd made a terrible mistake and I tried to get back together with the love of my life, but my behaviour while manic had been so inexcusably awful that I had ruined any chance of that happening. Agonisingly, she said she still loved me and wanted to take me back, but her family, friends and work colleagues would've been apalled that we were back together again. "If you love them, let them go"... it's been devastatingly hard, but I've tried to come to terms with losing the love of my life, and acknowledge that it'd have been very unfair on her to pursue her after what I put her through.

I left London doubly heartbroken, having lost the love of my life, and leaving the city I've spent most of my adult life in. I love London, but it was time to leave.

Since leaving London, my life has been erratic and unstable at times, but putting the pieces of my broken heart back together again and rebuilding myself to a position of health, wealth and prosperity has been a lot easier than it was in the capital. London placed an enormous amount of stress and strain on me, to generate vast quantities of cash to maintain a high standard of living.

Today, May 4th 2019, I have a fabulous standard of living. Maybe I'm not going to be a millionaire CEO. I've loved and lost a wife and a love of my life. I've nearly lost my life during some very bad medical emergencies. I've nearly lost my mind. However, despite all the adversity, I'm wealthy, I live in a beautiful big house and I'm reasonably successful when I'm dating, so I see no reason why I'm not going to end up with a very enviable life. In fact, I already have a very enviable life.

We expect our lives to take a linear path; continually improving as we get older. My life has been chaotic and unpredictable. My life has been through boom times and and bust in the most extreme way imaginable. I'm 39 years old and I didn't expect to be alive this long. There have been devastating moments, which I thought would destroy me, but they haven't. I thought my bipolar disorder would make my life so unstable that I wouldn't be able to regain control and have a good quality of life, but my life is really awesome and it keeps getting better, although it does take a lot of hard work to maintain stability.

I suppose this overview of an 8 year period of my life, told using 5 pictures, is not going to do justice to the complete story, which is full of hair-raising gory details, as well as some moments of sheer delight, but this brief synopsis does at least give the reader a little insight into who I am, without having to read all the [literally] million words I've written and published on this website.

May the fourth be with you.

 

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Creepy Stalker Weirdo

6 min read

This is a story about being a nerd...

Secrets

I suppose that I forget that I live my life as an almost completely open book; that I have this million-word repository of all my deepest darkest thoughts, thoroughly documenting every unflattering detail about me. I suppose I forget that it's not normal to live life with so little privacy and secrecy.

I try to be considerate of other people's normal attitudes towards privacy, confidentiality and discretion, but my own attitude - that I'll write about and publish all the gory details of my life in public - is so extreme that I can misjudge how uncomfortable it can make people feel, that there's a certain amount of information which exists about them in the public domain, but there's a tacit agreement that to look at that data would be a bit stalker-ish.

We might choose to have an Instagram account where we put up photographs of all our happiest moments. We might choose to have a Facebook account where we share things which tell the world what our values are. We might choose to have a LinkedIn account, where we present our professional persona for the purposes of getting a job or finding clients. We might have a website where we sell our services.

In the UK, company directors, shareholders with significant stakes in public companies, homeowners, criminals and other people will have their names and other details recorded by places like Companies House, the Land Registry and the courts, such that any member of the public who wants to do a bit of digging can find things out... things that might make us uncomfortable if anybody went digging in the archives.

I'm becoming increasingly easy to find - a quick Google search or a search of Twitter will quickly yield this website - and I suppose it's an illustration of how unusual it is for somebody to write and publish so candidly, so many unflattering things about themselves, that few colleagues and love interests have bothered to try to find me, because they must surely presume that they wouldn't find anything more interesting than a Facebook profile or a dull Twitter page with lots of retweets. Equally, perhaps it's very British to be a reserved and private person, and equally to keep our noses out of other people's business.

My day job involves gathering a lot of very private and confidential data from vast numbers of people, and keeping it safe, there is still a great deal of responsibility on my shoulders to not abuse my powers. I've worked for very many organisations, which have entrusted me with the power to go digging in the databases, if I was determined to do so. I suppose I think of publicly available data as having been made public for a reason, but in truth, unless you're a technology professional you're probably not particularly aware of how much you might inadvertently be sharing with the world.

I guess the lesson I haven't learned is a simple one: don't look.

It's strange that the guardians of such vast amounts of very sensitive compromising personal data are the nerds who some consider to be almost sub-human. Some of us love to laugh at the involuntarily celibate (InCel) men who are so incredibly gifted in the field of technology, data and the internet, but completely feckless in the world of dating and girls. How desperately the InCels would like to get a girlfriend and have sex, but instead they lurk in dark bedrooms, running the entire internet. How ironic that the InCels should know better than anybody else, just how much casual sex everybody but them is managing to get. How ironic that the InCels who are told that they're creepy and gross, also see that some men receive very different treatment: what's creepy and gross for a nerd - unwanted attention - is quite welcome and encouraged if you're a Chad, to use the InCel terminology for a hypothetical handsome man.

I don't know whether to think of myself of one of those creepy nerds, or whether to think of myself more as a Chad. The internet is my window into the world, and I probably put my tech skills to misuse when curiosity gets the better of me. I freely admit that I struggle to resist the temptation to see what's out there on on the internet, relating to a girl who I'm very attracted to... which is not good behaviour, I think.

Admitting to having Google'd somebody seemed harmless enough, I thought; perhaps even funny. I thought that it would be a bit embarrassing for me that I was curious and went and took a look, but it turns out that it can make the person who got Google'd very uncomfortable.

I live my life with this vast trove of unflattering things about me, publicly available, but I have written repeatedly about the difficult feelings I have when dating, being so exposed. I guess it would make me very defensive and feel very exposed, to know that somebody who I had a romantic interest in was reading this, and judging me. I'm a very difficult person to judge from my public persona, because I've written and published so much. I always worry that a person would quickly get bored of reading, and then form a judgement based on the particular chapter of my life they walked in on, rather than seeing the big picture.

Anyway, I probably shouldn't write about this, because it's also crossing another line, but I very nearly caused the calamitous end of a very pleasant evening, because of my own curiosity and propensity to be very honest and open: Admitting that I'd been doing what was interpreted as cyber-stalking was not a good look. It was a big mistake. I thought it'd be funny that I'm such a nerdy weirdo and so insecure, that I did a bit of Google'ing, which was harmless in my mind, but it turned out to make the person very uncomfortable, and I very much regret it.

I can't say much more, because I do have certain rules about what I'll write about and what I won't, in order to preserve some of the privacy of relationships I have with friends, and my dating escapades.

Anyway, turns out I can be a bit of a creepy stalker weirdo, but it also turns out that I'm enough of a Chad to get away with it, although I do regret what I did and I won't do it again.

 

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