What I learned from frustation.

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted. If I could count the number of times I’ve felt frustrated in my life, i’d probably never finish this post. Before we start, mero reader, please bear in mind that writing this post is going to make me relive frustrating – and somewhat funny- memories. I hope you – as i did – can get something out of them.

Motivational post, in 3…2…1…

In the software development business, when applying online to job vacancies, many companies require you to pass small knowledge tests to check how good you are and if you will be a good fit for a specific job. Coding can be very tedious and you need to be quite meticulous with the coding you do. One programmer in the wrong position can  delay an entire project for days after schedule, so this is a common standard procedure.

I consider myself a good programmer. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of geniuses out there that know how to do this sh*t better than I do, but I think I would be a valuable asset in any company. Of course, wouldn’t I? I mean, at least good enough to pass the first screening process of any company that wanted to hire me.

Anyway, I was about to start the screening process for a really  interesting job opening working remote. My dream job!! Travel, live freely, work around the world. But before the screening process began they required me to do one of these tests I was talking about . I reviewed the specifications and it didn’t look very complicated… Ok Juan, calm down, you got this , grab a chair  put on your programming gloves, get your shit together and let’s make history! Bahamas, mexico, india here we go ! (or so I thought…)


Back in Nuwakot, I remember myself  holding helplessly a hammer trying to bang a nail against a piece of plywood. Bobby (the project coordinator) would look at me with utter condescendance.  To be fair, he did have a point, he was probably used to fully functional volunteers who knew how to not look like an idiot when hammering stuff. I, on the other hand was struggling with something everyone else I considered a pretty simple task. It didn’t take Bobby long to make me figure out how to do the thing properly, but it did require some minimal practice to hammer those concrete nails.

But all of that is glossy handwork Juan. You are an engineer!! Your mind has been trained to design the computer software systems that will advance humanity to their next step in technology. You have been selected by life to form part of a select elite group that is supposed to change the world. The revolution was supposed to come from you Juan, from that beautiful mind of yours…. so can you please explain to me what the fuck just happened? 3 %  are you serious? You are a complete fraud!!

Truth to be told – and only for crying purposes – the test was about algorithmics  and i’m not exagerating when I tell you the last time I used those was in the first years of college over 8 years ago. When you are a web developer or software engineer, your main focus is normally to interact with databases, get registries and display them in nice front-end applications like websites or programs. More complex algorithms (like graph iteration or Dijkstra)  are reserved to more specific apps like google maps or GPS. So unless you are part of a company developping that sort of software you’ll never really need to check whether an array is a permutation, or calculate the number of elements of an array that are not divisors of each element. And if you do you’ve got the internet and time to think about how to solve the problem.

The point i’m trying to make is that those problems are not an easy thing to do, and if you haven’t done them for quite some time, it’s pretty common to fail to do them under a time limited test environment. I felt the frustration for a while. But only for a while. I got control of myself and tried not to get very upset about it. I woke up the next morning and kept my perfect job quest. I wasn’t gonna let myself down because of this (and fortunately I later explained this to the company and they told me candidates are able to apply again after a month’s time). Even when I felt frustration and despair , when thoughts of me not finding a job and being a complete useless not fully functional human being (some people might agree in the not fully functional thing) , i managed to stay hold, and keep going.

According to wikipedia, frustration is a common emotional response to opposition, related to anger, annoyance and disappointment. It’s the kind of thing that might drive you away from pursuing your dreams. And you can feel frustrated with so many things. Disappointing family members, society, physical or emotional attributes are amongst the most common reasons for frustration. Sometimes it’s very easy to point it out. I think I come across as a friendly honest person, which is why many people get to feel close enough with me to share their feelings and emotions (Babies love Juan :D). I’ve met people with severe family or working situations that forced them out of pursuing many of their dreams or opportunities. And when frustration started kicking in at the hardest times – pushing people really out of their comfort zone – they would normally struggle to see things with perspective. Their emotional situation would overwhelm them and cloud their judgement. This situation of frustration would normally force them to take wrong decisions in life, which would keep them even further away from their dreams and aspirations.

Now, i’m not trying to be very condescendy about their decisions. I don’t know if I would have done any better in their situations. This is not the point i’m trying to make. Each person lives it’s own life and experiences their emotions in a different way. While a problem might seem as trivial for me, I am unfit to know how someone else from a different point of view would solve it. The things we take into consideration when making decisions are different in each case. Like in a quantum universe, you can’t really know what would YOU have done unless you experience it for yourself.

I’ve felt my own share of frustration myself (as we all have). Of course I felt frustrated when I failed my first test in college, or when that girl I loved didn’t love me back. I felt terrible when I didn’t get that job I wanted, or screwed up badly with that close relative. Frustation is what you feel when you just didn’t make the cut.

But what does that really mean? What are you talking about with “you didn’t make the cut”? What cut? This is nonsense. Are you high on drugs again?

Over time and experience i’ve come to realize how much I expected from myself. I wanted things done quickly and properly, without completely focusing on the task ahead. As a result I would fail miserably and either lose the chance or have to re-do it again. (OH MAN, I’ve failed badly at so many things… why did I open this box in my memory? FUCK, I locked it for a reason!)

I remember I had to take this exam in college that I constantly failed to pass. It must have been the fourth time i was taking that exam and I had had it. I didn’t care a thing about it. I was convinced that exam was complete bogus about stuff that I would never ever use (never ever still haven’t used) in my life. So I designed a masterplan. One of the hardest parts of taking that test was that you needed to use many formulas and equations to get the answers right. In today’s magic -type a word in a box and see what shows up in google- world I find it very stupid to be forced to learn with these obsolete educational methods . I don’t believe I know more about history because I know the exact dates when I can google that information in under 4 seconds and know the answer. I was one with the external mind and learning those stupid formulas was against my lazy religion.

So I cheated (of course I did, come on, what were you expecting?). I carefully handscripted all of the formulas into tiny scratchings in one of the pens I was carrying, and I discretely slipped a couple of A4 university standard exam papers I had secretly holded on to with some extra formulas and previously resolved problems in the cupboard underneath my table. Once the exam started I switched some of the papers and left the unused ones aside, so teachers passing by would think they were solved exam problems, and the scratchings in the pen were so small that no  one could figure out what I was up to. The plan was carried out perfectly. A masterpiece of unscrupulous college  deceivery completed to absolute perfection.

Now, I know confessing you cheated in a college exam with such professional expertise might not be the best of ideas but that’s not the point i’m trying to make. Can you believe I failed the exam? I scored under 20% (you friggin dipshit what the hell is wrong with you again? Did you fall to the floor and bang your head like humpty dumpty?) . I – and this is the important thing to remember – cared so little about the exam that I just couldn’t be assed to study properly the exam.

It had nothing to do with me being retarded or stupid. I just wasn’t bothered. My frustration was with myself, and I knew I wasn’t seeing things with a clear perspective. I was stubborn and persistent. I needed to pass that test so I decided to try a different and much harder approach. I went to see the teacher in her office to try to figure out what the best approach would be to pass that test. She wasn’t really my type so instead of taking her out on a nice dinner I slipped an envelope with an undetermined ammount of money and the issue was gone forever…

Seriously? You believed that? What sort of a blog do you think i’m writing? What kind of person do you guys think I am? Come on! Of course I didn’t. What did I do? I put my mind to it even when boredom suffocated me. After many many many hours of studying (and no envelopes with money I swear ,your honor) I managed to barely pass that exam. I could have done better but passing was good enough for me. That exam didn’t stop me from achieving my goal and years later I finally graduated and became a Computer Engineer.

Always remember, walls are not meant to keep us from achieving our dreams, they exist as proof to how much we pursued them once we achieve them. Life is full of equally lovely and hard moments. For you, my reader, I wish your life is always plenty of lovely moments. But sometimes life beats us up a little and makes us fall down. Standing up again is hard but in my opinion that’s what falling is all about. (I strongly recommend you watch this video after you finish reading). You can’t control the cards you are dealt, just how you play the hands.

Over time and experience I’ve learned to place myself as an observer of my own mind when frustration appears and this has truly helped me overcome fears and negative emotions and thoughts. It hasn’t been an easy task, and i’ll talk about how I managed to do this sometime in the future. The way I see things is simple. When you fail at something you trully want, you can just stand there and complain about life, repeat the pattern on and on… or you can learn from your experience. I’m not saying you must achieve everything you dream about in life, but there is also a lot to be gained when you don’t achieve your dreams and goals. It’s very important to be able to make peace when we fail, but this doesn’t mean we are not good enough, but only that we didn’t do good enough.

It’s funny how your brain works when you know something for certain. We all know we can’t fly. We don’t have wings, we weren’t designed for it and we haven’t needed to evolve wings at any point in time, so our body doesn’t feel frustrated with the fact that we can’t fly. Oue mind hasn’t cared enough for it, we haven’t given it enough time to care about it. If your mind knows for a fact that something cannot be done, it will not struggle with it. The problem i believe comes when our minds can imagine a plausible universe in which that could happen and take place. It’s pretty much what causes people to be frustrated when their superiors or parents deny them the possibility of doing something they want to do, or causes you to be on the hook with another person that doesn’t feel the same way about you. Again ,you can’t control the cards you are dealt, just how you play the hands.

I’ve heard people tell themselves what I consider to be the same lie. “I know I can’t do anything about it so it doesn’t really bother me” but it does! Because if their mind knew it couldn’t happen the same way they know they’ll never have wings that allow them to fly, then they  really wouldn’t bother for it. But, sometimes we tend to have that human “what if” feeling.

Learning from errors made has been key in mankind’s evolution, yet we seem to repeat so many mistakes over and over again. Why?

After my experience, I’ve learned to see life as a movie, and it’s only up to me to make it as interesting as possible. At the end of the day, we truly don’t owe anyone an explanation about what we choose to do in life more than we owe it to ourselves. I’ve learned to enjoy as much of the film i’m living. I know it’ll be full of ups and downs, but that’s just life, isn’t it?

I managed to overcome my frustration. To learn from my mistakes and take every failed opportunity as a lesson that life taught me. I made my mind up. I overcame fear. I just kept trying harder for the things I really cared about. And doing this allowed to me make peace when something couldn’t be done, learning from what went wrong and keeping it up. It gave me clearance to see what things I could achieve, what things i wanted to achieve, and what things I couldn’t achieve. It is important to make this distinction because i believe them to be completely different things. And I believe figuring out these things easily is key to avoiding useless frustration and achieving a happier life. To realize you failing can only mean creating a better version of yourself.

I could pass that exam so I studied for it. I wanted to climb up to 5000 meters so I really trained myself hard to do it and forced willpower into it. I learned that if there was no pain, there was no gain. I had to put effort into things I wanted. I wanted to go and Volunteer and I did it. I wanted to study in Italy, I could, so I did it.

There really is a lot to be learned from frustration. The most important being how to deal with it the next time it shows up. I know it might sound easy to say but difficult to do. However, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When I realize something seems to be wrong, I tend to pause and take a breath to think about what is going on. Maybe next time (if I nailed this post again and you need it) it could work for you.


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