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Ben Patton
Ben Patton

Posted on • Originally published at Medium on

Work, Thanos, and Philly Cheesesteaks

Photo by Thomas Bormans on Unsplash

How food, Marvel, and conversations on work is helping me find more value in the workplace

I have written a decent amount on varying thoughts of being great at work. The assessment I wrote about, The Working Genius, has helped me think through a lot of things related to work and why work tends to be so incredibly frustrating to me.

But with all of the things I have written, lest any of you should think I am a guru on work, I still walked in and sat down and felt frustrated everyday. I can see how and where things need to be better. I think they must be better at some point. But this thought was trapping me because they are not going to get better immediately. Change does not work that way and if it does, we all tend to rage against.

So what I was really wrestling with was the knowledge that ‘even if this thing is fixed, there will be a new problem tomorrow that I am focusing on.’

So how do I work at a place where I see change needs to happen, knowing that I still have to contribute, and not become another ‘cog-in-the-wheel’ so to speak? This was difficult for me to think through because in my mind if I do my work I will have more work added to me leading to me just ‘falling in line’ with the established order and giving up on the things that I think are truly important for us.

A Bit of Clarity

I was talking with my wife as we were heading out of town. She asked this simple question, “But how can you try to make change if you have not worked with the team on the problem and have that credibility?” She is very wise. The reason I know she is wise is because it made me uncomfortable. I did not like that question because I immediately believed that she was saying, ‘can you not just do your job?’

How wrong I was. Let me say it again, I was SO WRONG!

What was frustrating? I knew she was right. She asked a probing question and I knew she was right. If I don’t work with the team and know the pain ‘with them’ I am simply complaining. Now, I know she was not telling me to ‘just do your job.’ But what I do know is that if I do the job for a time, I will have more ability to work towards change rather than just being a voice that says, ‘this is a problem and needs to change’, even if I was providing solutions.

Cue the space stone opening a portal and Thanos walking through.


Now, this metaphor may have been better if I referenced Gollum’s riddle on time, but I like Josh Brolin’s voice better.

There is a scene where Thanos is talking about destiny,

I know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail nonetheless. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.

I was doing some hard thinking and realized that this problem can either eat me or I can submit to it and then work from within to fix the problem.

But both will take time.

Time feels like an enemy. But it can be a friend. Dread from it. Run from it. It still arrives, or should I say, comes and goes. Mountains rise and are ground to dust. Years pass like the wind. For those in web development, new frameworks rise each morning and go to rest each night. I think you get the point.

It occurred to me that the more I agonized over what I perceived the problem to be, the more I agonized. Like ‘the power of the sun in the palm’ of Doctor Octopus’s hand from Spiderman 2 (forgive me for that reference), I cannot manage the problems of work because there will always be a flare up.

It feels like losing. Oh man, it feels like I have lost big. But the really funny thing is I feel a lot freer right now to get good at things and then begin making change from inside. If you’ll permit me one more movie reference, it is like taking the red pill. I know, I know I will lose some of the glamorized view of what ‘I want to do.’ But now I get to actually see the and be in the mess of everything and work towards change. Call me NEO.


One thing that helped me in this was when I was having another one of these ‘everything needs to change’ conversations with another employee/friend. We had this really long discussion on some of these things that needed to change and I was getting fired up internally (I worked remote that day and wasn’t having this conversation in person). I went in the next day and had a long conversation with him. The conversation was fine. But we went to a new Sandwich shop in our area for lunch. We bonded over Philly Cheesesteaks. The owner of this new shop gave us complimentary food for being new. He was from Philly so he yelled at some people in the parking lot being ridiculous with their parking jobs.

The point is, there was an element to getting lunch that kinda made the problems less !important and gave me clarity that I am in this with others.

Career Goals

I could spend days and weeks speculating on how we got here as a culture but it is wildly insane to me, as I reflect, that career has lost its meaning. Let me ridicule myself.

I say I want a ‘career’ in web development. But what most of us tend to mean is that I want to work in a career where I can retire when I am 34 years old. It is so silly to me that people ask if they are too old to change careers between the ages of 25–30. We have done a poor job as a sub-culture of emphasizing the importance of longevity.

But I do this as well, all 👏 the 👏 time! How? I want to be in the Developer Relations business. But I am a year into my coding career. That is not a problem. The problem is that I think I should be moving that way now, within a year. There are things I can do now to have a path towards that career. But everyone I have read about who is in DevRel spent between 3–7 years in the field before moving that direction or getting their first job in DevRel.

So remember, time will pass. Be okay with it passing. Choose things that you can do today to build future success(es) but don’t fall prey to believing that if things are not where you want them tomorrow that all is lost.

If you are in web development, you know that things change fast, so find ways to be good at things that last.

And most of all, give your time to the more !important things. Make friends. Eat good food with people you love. Use your platform for building others up. Educate. Encourage. It is too easy to get lost in ‘wanting to succeed.’

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