How to Make Your Life Cooler When You’re a Software Engineer

Imagine someone asks you, “What do you like to do for fun?” Do you feel excited to talk about your life outside work, or do you just shrug it off like you do nothing special?

There are times when you would rather face a horde of murderous orcs than talk about your weekend. You spent Saturday afternoon playing League of Legends, not painting a beautiful picture or tutoring underprivileged kids. It was fun, but it doesn’t sound cool enough to talk about. Normies don’t understand, and at worst, they’ll think you’re some kind of weirdo.

Still easier than talking to uncomfortably-friendly Jeff

Well, strap yourself in, bucko, because I’ve got a two-pronged stick that will roast your fears over an open campfire until they burn up like the insignificant leaves they are.

Your Uncool Hobby is Actually Cool

First, it’s not about how “cool” your hobby is. It’s about how you talk about it.

Imagine that you mention that your favorite video game is League of Legends (Sorry, DoTA fans) and a non-gamer asks you, “What’s it about?”

You have two options on how to respond. Which sounds more interesting?

Option A: Uh, it’s a game where you have a team of people trying to take out the enemy base.

Option B: The premise is simple: You’re trying to destroy the enemy’s base. The trouble is, they’ve got all these defenses–minions, huge magic turrets. And each of the players gets to pick a unique character with a bunch of crazy abilities and their own backstory. You’ve got your jock swordfighters, elemental spellcasters, monsters from other dimensions… It’s wild. And at the same time, the other team is trying to do the same thing to you. It’s really hard to get your team to work together, especially when you’re matched with randos from the Internet. But it’s really fun.

Me trying to tell my teammates to ward the river for the 852nd time

Option B makes them feel something. You’re not getting into the details about AD vs AP, what lane you play, or complaining about how you’re stuck in bronze league. You’re giving them a window into something that you really like.

It doesn’t matter if you think League of Legends is not “mainstream” enough* or “cool” enough1. You’ve given the other person some hooks to ask more questions. Maybe this will segue into a story about a time you snatched victory from the jaws of defeat or why Riven mains are the most arrogant players. Or, you can ask them a question about their favorite movies, how they handle teamwork, or what they wish their secret superpower would be. That’s interesting.

Take the Initiative

Second, if you feel like you haven’t done anything interesting, go do something!

It sounds simple. It sounds stupid. But if it’s stupid and it works, it’s not stupid.

Pick something that you wanted to try, and do it. It could be something at home, like reading about a new subject. It could be something outdoors, like horseback riding. It could be something that isn’t “mainstream cool” like Dungeons and Dragons. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re trying something new. The more unusual it is, the better chance you’ll come up with a good story.

It’s important to pick something you actually want to do, not something you think sounds cool. I signed up for some Pilates classes thinking, “Maybe I’ll meet some women to date.” My classmates could tell that I didn’t really want to be there. 0 new friends, 0 new dates.

I’m doing the same thing over and over again. Why isn’t it working?

In contrast, I’m a total board game geek. When I heard about a local board game convention, I bought a ticket. It was amazing! I got an introduction to Twilight Imperium (now my favorite board game), tried a wacky political LARP, and met a guy who eventually invited me to be on his community TV show. It was fun in the moment, and I can tell other people about the convention and how exciting it was.

Start out by trying just one thing. If you re-spec your calendar and add a ton of chaos to your life, you’re going to burn out. Instead, it’s easier to make gradual changes over time by building momentum with small wins. Grinding a real life skill is a marathon, not a sprint.

To keep the momentum, set a recurring reminder on your phone. Every month, remind yourself to schedule one new activity. Soon enough, you’ll have a decent breadth of interesting experiences.

And once you’ve completed a fair share of adventures, talking about your weekend will be as easy as pie.

1Yeah yeah, I know LoL is pretty mainstream. I wanted to pick an example that some of y’all might understand instead of something as obscure as HoI4.

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4 Responses to How to Make Your Life Cooler When You’re a Software Engineer

  1. Pingback: How to be an Interesting Person Even if You don’t have an Exciting life | Sheldon's Software

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  3. Pingback: CS Internship Guide #18: Five Things CS Professors Won’t Tell You About the Real World | Sheldon's Software

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