It felt wrong.

I was one year into working at Google, one of the best companies in the world. People die to get a job here.

But...something was off.

I was bored.

Yes, the amenities were great. The food was delicious. My teammates were fun to be with, we'd even play board games every week.

But somehow each day just dragged on, and on, and on.

It wasn't the team

It wasn't the company

It was the work.

Was the work important? Yes. Google Cloud Platform couldn't function without this critical piece of infrastructure. Was it challenging? Certainly.

But was it interesting? Not for me.

I had never chosen to join this team. I was been re-orged into it a few months ago and this new team's charter was a very different from what I'd signed up for.

The biggest difference: I was now removed far away from my customers. And I couldn't empathize with them anymore.

"Things might change" I told myself, "I should wait a couple months."

A month went by.

Two months.

Six months.

Occasionally I'd get a chance to do something I found energizing, but those moments were far too rare.

Finally, I had to face the facts. This team wasn't the right fit for me.

I started looking for a different team within Google (they make it really easy), and one caught my eye: A brand new team working building tools for Machine Learning practitioners. And I'd get to work directly with our customers.

Now that's more like it.

I joined the team and soon we launched AI Platform Notebooks, which became one of the the most popular AI services offered by GCP.

Best decision I made all year

Your nuggets for the week

Going deeper into motivation and creativity:

  1. Look for work you find energizing
  2. Notice your own ideas
  3. Tear down your creativity barriers

#1 Look for work you find energizing

"If you’re more focused on advancing than on setting yourself up to do work that energizes you, it’s easy to end up stuck in a role you don’t want"

-Michelle Bu, Staff Engineer at Stripe (full interview)

If I could change one thing about my time at Google, it would be to figure out what kind of work I found energizing and go specifically after that.

We spend most of our lives working. It's a tragedy if we don't enjoy it.

Enjoying work starts a virtuous cycle. We have positive mood, that mood makes us more creative. Which leads to us being more productive. And the high output adds to our enjoyment.

#2 Notice your own ideas

We're all creative deep inside, but sometimes it feels like we have no ideas. We did it as kids, what changed?

Those ideas are still there, but over time we learned to suppress "bad" ideas. We discard them so quickly we don't even remember having those ideas.

To counter this tendency, I find it helpful to write down an idea as soon as you think of it, no matter how bad it seems. This practice helps develop the habit of noticing ideas early on before I forget about them.

I don't have to do anything with the stuff I'm written. Rather, it's an exercise to help me notice my own thoughts.

If you do this, you'll be in good company

#3 Exercise: Write 10 ideas every day

A more deliberate exercise for becoming more creative: Spend 10 minutes each day coming up with ten ideas. It can be on any prompt you choose.

Don't try to have good ideas, put down the first thoughts that enter your head.

And if it takes you more than 10 minutes to write ten ideas, then write down twenty ideas instead.

Why? The goal is to train your brain to stop filtering out your "bad" ideas. Those bad ideas are stepping stones to the great ones!

Full technique described in James Altucher's The Ultimate Guide for Becoming an Idea Machine

Your Turn 👊

What's the most vivid memory you have of having to do work you didn't find engaging? What was it like?

Till next time.

Subscribe below to get more stories from my decade working at Google and Microsoft and the lessons I took away from each experience.