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One mindset shift to survive the crazy Chaos Monkey

I’ve been working remotely for more than 6 years now. In those 6 years, I’ve been helping two companies turn from a non-remote company to a remote friendly company. Starting remote working in a non-remote company is hard. The cultural shift that needs to happen can seem daunting at times.

Before signing up with Spoon in December, I had been working at the Shadow Robot Company for 9 years. I was well settled in my position at Shadow. The deep knowledge I had of our product and market meant that I could tackle issues that arise during my working day, then quite easily disconnect and put on my dad’s hat for the evening with my kids.

Starting a new position in a new company, based on technologies I wasn’t as familiar with, was obviously a shock— although I was expecting, and somewhat relishing it. In a word, I was hit by the Chaos Monkey pretty hard. Here’s the mindset change that made me go through this chaos.

Who’s the Monkey

The Chaos Monkey is a term employed by Netflix as part of their plan to improve reliability and availability. They’ve basically implemented a service that terminates some of their virtual machines randomly, introducing chaos on purpose to make sure that their system is good enough to cope with it.

We have found that the best defense against major unexpected failures is to fail often.

Fighting my brain

When things get tough, my brain has a tendency of trying to tackle everything at once. As you start a new job, you want to prove that you can do a lot quickly. You also need to adjust to the cultural shift, meet new colleagues, learn new technologies, discover a new product… This is a lot to take in at once. It makes you want to sprint from one thing to the other.

https://www.headspace.com/blog/category/mind/productivity-focus/

But I went deliberately slowly. I forced myself to enjoy what I was doing, be it working, spending time with my loved-ones, or working-out. It sounds simple. Enjoy the present time is probably one of the most repeated mantra of all times. Corny though it is, it is not trivial to truly access this state of mind, especially in those hectic times.

For working productively, I made sure I was focusing on one thing at a time, using the different techniques I know work for me. Setting myself up for a distraction free, deep focused session of work: no notifications, only the relevant tabs opened, Todoist opened to jot down the tasks that inevitably arise during that time — easily freeing my mind from them.

Using the “noting” technique that I learned using Headspace, I was able to let go of the distracting thoughts when they arose. Not judging them. Not berating myself for thinking about work instead of truly being with my kids — or vice versa. Simply acknowledging there presence and letting go of them.

Final words

Thinking slow is a great way to achieve more. The more pressure you have, the harder it can be to actually keep your brain calm. Being able to keep your mind free of this rising clutter is a great skill to learn. It takes some self-discipline, but the time spent is well worth it!


And you, what’s your trick when you receive a visit from the Chaos Monkey? Let’s discuss!