003 On Fun vs Satisfaction


I've noticed in my software engineering career that there's a difference for me between what is Fun in the moment, and what brings more enduring Satisfaction.

I love building systems. Give me a few hours, days, or weeks to stay focused and crank out some code, and I'll build a (IMHO) well-engineered software system that solves the problem. And it'll be super fun doing that work! But at the end, that joy is fleeting. I look back on my impact, and it's moderate at best. There's a limit to what a single engineer, working alone, can accomplish. What more could we have built if we had collaborated and coordinated as a team? Would the team, organization, or company be in a better place, or on a better trajectory, if I had exercised my time differently?

Even better than a well-engineered single service is a well-engineered collection of systems. Something larger than can be built by the individual. If I focus differnetly, can I facilitate not just one system being a pinnacle of software engineering (lol), but all software from my team, or from the company? This broader impact, helping (hopefully!) to elevate the team and its work, gives me a more enduring sense of accomplishment. But this can't be done just by writing all the code alone.

Rather, I might:

For me, these tasks are ... not nearly as fun as writing all the code myself. Usually they're not fun at all. But once the work is done, I feel a deeper long-term satisfaction that I had the impact I wanted to have.

My actual work ends up being a blend of these two roles: Sometimes I do the more impactful, but more tedious work of planning, reviewing, and nudging the direction of the team. But when that gets overwhelming, sometimes I'm able to take a break and do something fun (build) for a little while.

If you're discontent in your current role, ask yourself: What in your role is fun for you, bringing immediate joy while you're in the task? And what brings more enduring satisfaction after the fact? Are these the same for you? If something isn't fun, can you make it more palatable by seeking in it some satisfaction nonetheless? If you look back on your work and you find you're unsatisfied, can you shift your work balance to highlight different aspects? Are "fun" and "satisfaction" even the right metrics for you?



On further reflection, maybe there's a connection between what I've written, and Types of Fun. My new question is: are Types Of Fun and Types Of Work different, or are they different points on exactly the same spectrum? Is "Satisfaction" just a form of Type 2 Fun? Or Type 2 Work?