What To Do If You Really Hate Your Life’s Work

If you really hate what you are doing and are determined to stop, it is always best to do what you can and hope it works.

If you really hate what you are doing, it is never a good idea to try to stop. We don’t quit. It is often the best thing that a person can do to get their heart and motivation back. That said, I think I have an answer to that question and it is this: If things are getting you down and even if doing them feels like pointless work, I promise that it’s a great way of discovering that doing something that you despise can be more meaningful and valuable than doing something you love and want to do. It can be a good way to get your feet back on the ground because you’ll feel so terrible doing something you loathe, at least that’s what I hope.

My first job out of university was as a junior software engineer working for a company called Novell. I was hired by a group of software engineers under one of the software engineers – they were all in their mid-twenties or younger, I was in my late teens. The company was building a Linux distro, and I’d just been given a contract to do Windows NT with them. I was given a demo of NT and told to write a bootstrapping tool so we could use it as the basis for creating a Linux build. At this stage I had some basic programming knowledge but not much experience, so that seemed daunting for such a young team.

We wrote a lot of basic code and made the prototype of the Linux build and I was told to get to work on getting the distro running on my desktop computers.

Two weeks later I was in the office with the rest of the team when the new boss, Matt Coughlin, walked in and said we had to finish by next Monday, the next development deadline. This left very little time to get the distro working, I spent the second week writing and debugging, not helping. I wrote some basic tools, I was told to fix those but that just made it worse.

At this stage I had no idea what the product looked like or how to build it, we spent the next 3 days discussing how it should look and work. As much as I liked the people on the team, the project had not met the needs nor been made to meet the expectations I had set in my head, I thought we were building a great product and it took time to make that product. When I returned home I wrote a script to generate a set of Windows install CDs I could buy cheaply at a hardware store and downloaded about 10% of that to test with. This was a very rough prototype of what the product would look like. The distro on these CDs was a pre-release version of Windows NT 4.0 and would not run on NT3, we knew this as NT4 and the CD had a different version number than the one we would have shipped with the distro. This meant that if the people using the product on it were already running NT4 they would have to use the new system or they would not use the distro. At this point I was feeling like I was going out on an expensive and pointless wild goose chase. I felt like the product didn’t represent what was needed and what we could do. I couldn’t understand why this is what was required. 

I kept working on the product and was working with the other developers on improving our products for release. I tried to write a Windows installer and wrote a few scripts to do that. We ran into problems that a lot of software developers face building installer programs. These problems include having enough time to test with the prerelease systems we were building and to create a working installer and not have to start over on the full-release version we would be trying to run. We ran into other kinds of problems like building our product on Linux or having other problems that would not normally be problems for a computer startup.