If you’re to volunteer in the Open Source Movement or the WordPress Project, your whole health — physical, emotional, and financial — need to be a priority. I was honored to be the keynote at WordCamp Raleigh in 2018 on this subject. Special thanks to Pressable for sending me. They were also my client at the time.
Watch the Keynote: You Can’t Have a Thriving Codebase without a Thriving Community
(Timestamps are at the bottom of this post.)
What does code have to do with community?
Free and Open Source Software depends upon the community who builds, creates, maintains, supports, translates, and markets it. That means any Open Source project depends upon a volunteer-based workforce.
We all recognize that our livelihoods are somewhat attributed to the ability to use Free and Open Source Software — like WordPress — so we volunteer, contribute, to give back.
What about burnout?
We’ve addressed it before in many ways. So let’s talk about how what a thriving community looks like.
What is a thriving community?
A thriving community realizes they can ebb and flow in and out of a project. They can contribute for months or years, take a break, maybe even mentor others, and come back — or not.
A thriving community recruits volunteers based upon inclusion, not guilt.
A thriving community isn’t burnt out or bitter.
A thriving community is healthy — physically, emotionally, and financially.
A Word About Perfection
I spent 14 years in construction accounting and my job demanded perfection. I spent hours looking for a penny if my bank reconcilation was off. Job costing had to be accurate. Contracts had to be perfect. I get it.
The problem with perfectionism is when we take a marketable skill from our career and apply it to our personal lives.
Progress is better than perfection. Done is better than perfect. Something is better than nothing.
Let’s Talk about Whole Health
Health comes in many forms: physical, emotional, and financial. And there are quite a few overlaps in these three distint areas, too.
It’s fine to talk about the abstract. In the conceptual, we all agree we should be physically, emotionally, and financially healthy. But are we?
And do we stop from iterating in our personal lives because we haven’t created the perfect meal or exercise plan, because we haven’t felt emotionally ready or because we have financial goals that haven’t been met? Maybe. But let’s take some actionalble steps toward progress.
The -er approach
Better. Faster. Thinner. Healthier. Happier. They all end in -er. This suffix communicates progress — not completion.
I’m going to talk about some of the things I’ve done in my life to be -er.
It doesn’t matter if we don’t collaborate together.
We are a community who understands iteration by collaboration. I put this on GitHub. Let’s iterate together.
1. My doctor wanted me to walk 60 minutes every day.
That was overwhelming and impossible. So, I walked some. I walked more. I walked longer.
First it was just 20 minutes once or twice a week. Taking photos to bribe myself.
Then it was 30 minutes. Now I do 1.5 to 2 miles three to four times a week. It used to be impossible.
2. I realized I felt better eating more protein.
I decided to subscribe to Special K protein drinks on Amazon Prime. Now I drink one every morning.
Sometimes, I forget to eat protein and then I remember. If you’re plant based or have other issues, find out what works for you. I’m not a nutritionist, just giving examples.
Actionable goals with incremental progress is the key.
What can you start doing today that will move your physical health in that direction?
3. Take a 15 minute nap at 2:30 pm.
The circadian rhythm is no joke. Set the timer on your phone and lay down – floor, bed, couch, wherever.
Close your eyes. Relax. Allow yourself to just be. You don’t have to sleep, you just need to rest.
If you want to level it up, drink coffee and by the time your alarm goes off the caffeine will have taken effect.
Emotional health is tricky and often it intertwines and weaves along with physical health.
My giant disclaimer is to follow professional medical advice.
Here are some things I’ve done to help promote my mental health.
1. Trust your soul with a friend.
I’m not a private person. So I need a team of people I trust. I call them SEAL Team 7. They know everything about me. I have to have people who I can brainstorm life choices with who will have empathy and constructive suggestions.
Opening your soul and being vulnerable takes great strength and courage. It also gives courage to your circle to do the same.
No one has it all together. That’s an urban legend.
2. If you feel pain, feel it. If you need to cry, cry.
I’m no longer suppressing my emotions, talking myself out of them, or allowing anyone else to do so.
No one can feel your pain for you. It’s okay. Cry. Wash your face. Take a nap. Get up and start the rest of your day.
After my husband passed, I was deeply thrown into grief. After time passed, it wasn’t lessening. In fact, my anxiety increased to the point that I felt like I was constantly outrunning an avalance.
I saw my doctor and she prescribed an antidepressant.
I remember clearly waking up last year on March 8 with ideas. For the first time in ten years my brain worked.
Financial health is also important to a thriving community.
You can’t keep giving back when you’re so broke, you’re stressed and overwhelmed.
In my career journey that ended up with me as a freelancer, this is what I’ve learned.
1. Believe you are worthy.
If you don’t believe you’re worth $150 an hour, you won’t charge it.
2. Understand what you cost.
If you don’t know how much time you spend on a project, you don’t know if you’re profitable. This also means taking into account your expenses. See this blog post about job costing.
3. Explore other business ideas.
This is where failure is a great teacher. Sometimes the ideas we have come from iterating on our own ventures that aren’t working. Be open and agile to new ideas.
00:02:27 There’s no way you can have a thriving codebase without a thriving community.
00:05:38 I don’t want to get fired from my volunteer job.
00:06:45 Even your own volunteer work doesn’t all have to be you.
00:07:20 When you do things for WordPress, you are a volunteer. And when it’s not fun anymore, don’t do it.
00:09:07 You forgot the joy of why you’re giving back.
00:10:19 Those kinds of skills that make us conscientious that make us excel in our careers and our paths are really bad for our personal lives.
00:12:30 Progress is better than perfection. Something is better than nothing. Done is better than perfect.
00:13:08 Your website shouldn’t be like the Money Pit.
00:15:01 I have a personal working theory, that more than 50% of the people drawn to the people working with computers come from dysfunctional backgrounds based upon my own social science data.
00:16:30 I have an -er approach.
00:19:00 A/B Test your life.
00:21:06 Our physical health matters.
00:22:06 I don’t take a selfie when I’m crying in the corner.
00:22:37 It’s okay to feel sad. It really is. (Kerri Strug Story)
00:28:53 My own pride kept me from telling my doctor what I really needed.
00:29:53 People do not know how long it takes them to do things. Just because it’s easy to make a website doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take time.
00:33:01 Your body is connected. It’s a big, giant ecosystem.
00:34:20 Guess how hard it is to tweet for those people who don’t write. If you don’t write stuff for your blog, it’s pretty hard to tweet stuff from your blog.
00:36:20 It’s good to have a niche.
00:36:40 “You belong in the room. Your client came to you because you’re the expert.” @TheChrisDo
00:36:15 We are a community that understands iteration by collaboration.