The Happy Engineer Podcast

094: From Hyper-Stressed Panic Attacks to the World’s Happiest Software Engineer with Erik Andersen

In this episode, we talk about the transformational journey from hyper-stress to world’s happiest with Senior Software At the beginning, nobody gave Erik the title of World’s Happiest except himself. NoEngineer, Erik Andersen.

Wow. To the ER once, cuz I was having internal bleeding and the diagnosis was too much stress. Right? Wow. Nothing, nothing else going on.

He is known as the World’s Happiest Software Engineer.

Why? Because he chose to be.

Erik is a Senior Software Engineer and Developer Advocate for YUM! Brands.

Now he is getting opportunities just like this one (being interviewed on The Happy Engineer Podcast) and he’s making a huge impact in the world because of the personal brand he has created.

You can do the same thing in ANY area of your career and life you want to level up. We talk about how.

So press play and let’s chat… it’s time to make a courageous claim of your new identity.

Join us in a live webinar for deeper training, career Q&A, and FREE stuff!  HAPPY HOUR! Live with Zach

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The Happy Engineer Podcast




Previous Episode 093: How to Become a Top 1% Communicator in Your Industry with Brenden Kumarasamy | Founder of MasterTalk




Often in our careers, we may feel frustrated when we are told that we have to do the job of the next level before being promoted to that level. 

It can seem unfair to put in all the work and effort of a higher-level leader without getting the benefits that come with that level. 

However, there is truth buried within that frustrating sentiment that we must recognize.

The truth is that we must take on the identity of a leader at the next level before manifesting the results of being promoted. 

This means that we must shift our identity internally, and then the external results will follow. 

It’s not about doing all the work of the next level first, but about embodying the mindset and values of a leader at that level.

For example, when I was a senior engineer, I had the opportunity to take on the scope and leadership of a lead engineer on a project.

Despite still having the title of senior engineer, I spoke to my boss about expecting lead engineer level leadership from myself. 

I took on the challenges and work of a higher-level leader and performed at that level, leading to a promotion.

Similarly, one of my clients, Derek, wanted to become a director but was stuck in a senior manager role. 

During our coaching, I challenged him to start seeing himself as a director and take on similar challenges to those of other directors. He even put a sticky note at his desk with his desired title. 

Within a year, he became the director of supply chain optimization.

The key is to start identifying with the next level before actually getting the promotion. 

It’s about having the courage to say, “This is who I aspire to be. This is the identity that I’m going to take on.” 

It’s about throwing off any labels that don’t serve us and claiming a label, identity, and core values that align with who we want to be.

We should start seeing ourselves as the person we want to become in the present tense and take on that identity immediately, before the results come. 

This is the champions mentality, and it’s the opposite of the runner up mentality. 

We don’t need to prove to the world that we’re ready for the next level before taking on that identity. We can start embodying it now and let the results naturally follow.

If you’re struggling to make this shift, we can help. Our coaching program, the Lifestyle Engineering Blueprint, can help you transform your habits, mindsets, and actions to align with your desired identity. 

Book your 15-minute Clarity Call here.

We believe in you and know that it’s possible for you to make this shift. Let’s start today and become the leaders we aspire to be.



Erik is a Senior Software Engineer and Developer Advocate for YUM! Brands. He is also a co-organizer of the Dallas Software Developers meetup and mentor for new developers trying to break into tech.

Erik is known as the world’s happiest Software Engineer, and provides Software Engineering and career coaching to new programmers looking to break into tech.





Please note the full transcript is 90-95% accuracy. Reference the podcast audio to confirm exact quotations.

[00:00:00] Zach White: Erik, welcome to the Happy Engineer Podcast, man. I’m so glad you’re here. 

[00:00:04] Erik Anderson: Thank you for having me. I know we’ve been talking about doing something for a few months. Glad we finally connected.

Expand to Read Full Transcript

[00:00:08] Zach White: Way too long. I’ve been busy. I’ve been traveling and we couldn’t get this as soon as I would’ve loved, but, but now it’s better than never.

[00:00:16] I’m so glad. That’s right. We can have the time I’ll tell you the same thing I said from the first moment we connected it was your tagline on LinkedIn that gave me an immediate yes, Erik’s coming on the podcast . So right there on the cover photo and in your title, you’ve taken on the identity and made the bold claim of being the world’s happiest software engineer.

[00:00:42] And I love that. I love, I mean, this is the Happy Engineer podcast. You can’t have the Happy Engineer podcast without bringing on the world’s happiest software engineer. So what I thought we’d explore first that I’m honestly just pure curiosity from myself. Erik, would you take me back to the very first moment that you pinned those words and said, you know what?

[00:01:06] This is something I want. Put out there in front of the world. I, I’m the world’s happiest software engineer. Like, when was that? Where were you the first time that idea became reality for 

[00:01:20] Erik Anderson: you? 

[00:01:21] So I will say, taking a look back, this was about three years ago. Uh, I was walking out of a therapy session and I was thinking, what do I want to be? I was in a place in my career I was hyper stressed all the time, to the point where, I was yelling at my kids a lot at home.

[00:01:47] My relationship with my spouse was not great. I was having panic attacks at work where I couldn’t breathe. I even went Wow. To the ER once, cuz I was having internal bleeding and the diagnosis was too much stress. Right? Wow. Nothing, nothing else going on. And I struggled because I know a lot of this was coming from my.

[00:02:12] but I also loved my work. Uh, I think most developers get into the profession because it’s like playing with Legos all day, right? You’re putting pieces together, you’re playing with toys. Um, so I wanted to keep doing that, but I wanted to be a happier engineer set my own personal weight loss or exercise goals, I know an important component to any.

[00:02:37] goals. Success is public accountability. Yeah. So I remember sitting at my desk and like, how do I make being happy? How do I set that as a goal? How do I get that accountability? Uh, so I figured that the first step was to make the bold claim. I’m the world’s happiest engineer. So I said that, and I say that now to indicate more of a journey.

[00:03:05] uh, than really a destination to force me to put positive energy out there, hold me accountable, but also to attract that positive energy. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And this conversation is one of those, one of the karma aspects. 

[00:03:19] Zach White: Exactly. That’s kind, played out a great point of attraction. Mm-hmm. . So you’re coming out of a therapy session.

[00:03:26] and I mean, is this just percolating in your mind? Like who do, who do I want to be? I like it actually. You said, what do I want to be? Mm-hmm. a really cool question. Did it just come in like that? Like, you know what, I wanna be the world’s happiest software engineer. And that night you were on LinkedIn making the, the shift or, or was kind of take us through like what actually happened for you in getting to that specific.

[00:03:50] Erik Anderson: the first goal that came out of that therapy session was, I want to be a better father and I want to be a better husband. Okay. And then you start asking, right. That the five why’s you start digging deeper, right? Well, or how can I do that? Well, it’s, I need to be happier, right? I need to find.

[00:04:12] fulfillment. Okay. Well, well, what makes me happy? Well, I enjoy being an engineer, but what are the aspects that I don’t enjoy? so then, uh, ultimately I realize it has to be a professional development thing. That my corporate persona is so tightly coupled to my personal life that I, I can’t treat these as separate dimensions anymore.

[00:04:36] I need to find a way that they can merge. . So the follow up was, okay, I’m a half world’s happiest engineer. And then identifying what does that role look like for me? Okay. Okay. And then identifying five, 10 different aspects of my profession that I enjoy, that I don’t enjoy ranking them, going through that prioritization process and then start looking for a new job that, that aligns.

[00:05:04] Zach White: That energy. There’s so many things I want to come back to on this, but first, something that stood out, and I know many of the engineering leaders that I’ve coached can relate to this. You described the declaration or the the decision to take on this identity, create public accountability. leading up to that, you were under this immense amount of.

[00:05:30] much of which you would say directly contributed from the work that you did as a developer. The, the culture, the pressure, the deadlines, the hard work, the people, all those things. And yet you loved your job, you loved your work. And this tension between work is the source of my greatest pain, , and it’s this source of something that I am passionate about and love, and it’s like playing with Legos and it’s a dream come true.

[00:06:01] That is really hard for a lot of leaders, whether you’re in technology or hardware or mechanical engineering or civil, it’s like you got into it because there’s a part of you that is a problem solver who loves engineering. We have the knack like. Jokes about you. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . But then we go into the company and the environment to do the job and it is this immensely challenging, very stressful environment.

[00:06:27] So how do you reconcile those two?

[00:06:30] Yeah, 

[00:06:30] Erik Anderson: so in my process of trying to identify how I could find that happiness, I, I, I mentioned part of it’s a new role, but I realize that no matter where I go, I can never escape. , right? I’m gonna take whatever bad habits I have in my current role and I’m gonna take it with me.

[00:06:54] So there’s no guarantee that even if the environment is better, that I will be better. So I’ll, I’ll give you example. Uh, and this is what I was talking to my, therapist about my own self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. some of them including being a people pleaser, right? I want to always say, Yes.

[00:07:15] Uh, and that would mean I say yes to more work, even though the timelines are tight on the existing work. I say yes or take on an accountability that’s really in somebody else’s domain. I also had a hero complex. Okay? So I want to go in and save all the teams that are failing. I wanna save them. I’m intentionally putting myself in really stressful situations.

[00:07:39] And then the last thing Put me in a bad place was I was tired of corporate drama and politics. There was always finger pointing and blame. So I would just declare, Hey, it’s my fault. Everybody blame me now let’s just solve it. Right. I got tired of the back and forth. Hmm. I got tired of the, you know, how am I gonna craft this narrative so that it keeps my team safe?

[00:08:03] No, I will absorb it so we can get through that process and we’re just gonna go. Those three things combined. just destroyed Yes. My mental health. Yes. Wow. So part of it was identifying roles that would give me more energy, but part of it was, So for me, tactically, I’m, you know, engineer, I need something like tangible, right?

[00:08:27] Yeah. Uh, I went through with my therapist. I created a list of 10 or 20 different faulty beliefs and behaviors. And just like we have at work where we have a regular retrospective at the end of a sprint, I do a retrospective on those 10 or 20 behaviors and the counter behaviors that I want to. Okay. And I grade myself on it.

[00:08:48] and that’s how in my new role, I’ve been able to keep myself at bay, my, my own bad tendencies from, from taking over and putting me in a bad 

[00:08:58] Zach White: place. so you’ve made the public declaration, there’s new level of accountability there that I’ve told everyone this is true. Even though my experience today is that it’s not.

[00:09:11] Were there any times where you said, this isn’t me, like I need to take this down. This isn’t working. I shouldn’t have done this. Maybe some negative self-talk or a downward spiraly, like, oh, you know, I’ve made this big bold claim and I’m still stressed, I’m still unhappy. I’m still not the dad I wanna be.

[00:09:28] Mm-hmm. , what was that like? Did you have moments where you thought maybe I shouldn’t have done that?

[00:09:35] Erik Anderson: Engaging on social media has been incredibly difficult with that persona depending on your platform, the audience can be very demeaning and very aggressive. . so I’ve had to withdraw from being really active, for example, on Twitter, . Okay. Uh, or Reddit. They tend to not be as supportive as something like LinkedIn, right?

[00:10:02] LinkedIn people are more professional in. Approach, even if they disagree, everybody wants to look good on LinkedIn. Sure. So they’ll respond in a professional manner. so I have had to address the social media that I consume and where I participate mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , to make sure that while I want to be challenged, I want to be held accountable.

[00:10:24] I, I also. I wanna make sure it’s done in a way that doesn’t just destroy my 

[00:10:29] Zach White: self-confidence. Right. I was just gonna ask, if you think back to those Twitter days, maybe before you withdrew, how did that attack or that sense of like, like you idiot, how could you say you’re the world’s ha you’re not happy.

[00:10:43] Stop putting up a Fri. I could just imagine. Yeah. You’re just pretending you’re fake the trolls and, yeah, yeah, yeah. How did, how did hearing that, you know, reading that affect you during those. , it really makes, 

[00:10:53] Erik Anderson: you, reflect a lot on that goal. Like, is this who really, who I am or who I wanna be?

[00:11:00] was a growth moment. I had to really, well, I set this goal, easy to set a goal and then six months, a year down the road, maybe you revisited, okay, maybe this is really who I don’t want to be. But every time I revisited, Who do I want to be? This is who I want to be.

[00:11:17] Yeah. And I had to learn, how to self validate more than rely on external validation. Cuz you know so much of life is I get a good grade on a test, my teacher tells me I’m good. I thus I feel. , right? I get a promotion at work or a raise. My boss says, I’m good, thus I feel good.

[00:11:37] Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Um, I avoid conflicts on social media. I put forth optimistic things. People say I’m good, I feel good. I, I couldn’t rely on other people saying I’m good anymore. I had to make sure that I was confident with my motivations. And yes, I’m gonna make mistakes. I’m gonna say things wrong, but I know what my intentions.

[00:11:59] and I have to be confident in myself, and that was a, a new, a new belief 

[00:12:03] Zach White: I had to adopt. Yeah, I like that Erik. I have a statement that I use in different places and I’m not as direct. It’s not the first thing I lead with. I’m considering maybe doing more with this, just seeing your boldness here. I call myself the world’s best lifestyle.

[00:12:22] and lifestyle engineering is the methodology and the, the system and the beliefs that we bring as an organization in our coaching practice. So what we do with our clients is called lifestyle engineering, and our program is the Lifestyle engineering blueprint. And it’s this whole idea of. The work you’ve done, the work we do with our clients of building the career of your dreams and the life of your dreams and being the person you want to be.

[00:12:48] And we call that process lifestyle engineering. Ed said, Hey look, I’m the world’s best lifestyle engineer, and the first few times I said that, There was that same kind of backlash from people. Like, what are you talking about? You know, there’s so many people who’ve done more than you in this domain.

[00:13:05] There’s people who have the lifestyle businesses or travel all the time, and you’re still attached to your, you know, location or Yeah. All, all the excuses or reasons or attacks about how that wasn’t true came in. And the thing that actually was hardest for me, and this is what I’m curious about in your experie.

[00:13:26] Was being really mindful not to make that claim from a place of ego, but making. Statement and that claim from purely a place of intention. it’s not about me and no others. If, if someone else wants to make the same claim, that’s fine. There’s room at the top for more than one world’s best lifestyle engineer.

[00:13:49] It’s, it’s not about ranking or measurement, it’s about this aspirational identity to live into. But I caught. Falling victim to my own ego at times. Yeah, yeah. You know, like, oh, I, I am the world’s best life, you know? And kinda puffing my chest up, rather than just saying, what would the world’s best lifestyle engineer do in this situation?

[00:14:10] And how would the world’s best lifestyle engineer show up to this challenge? And so for you, what’s been the journey with being the world’s happiest software engineer? How has that played out? Yeah. Is the ego there? What, what would you describe? Yeah, 

[00:14:27] Erik Anderson: the, the ego is there at times in the sense that I never put it out there originally with the intent of developing a following or with the intent of having a coaching business.

[00:14:42] it was purely my own personal. and then, but then people start asking me questions of, well, how did you become the world’s happiest software engineer? Yeah. Can you help me? Can you help me come all these questions are popping up. And I then start trying to help and then quickly realize maybe something’s only worked for me, that it’s not working for others.

[00:15:03] People are, slapping me in the face saying, oh, you, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And that’s when, you know, some of my ego gets hurt and I want to, flare up. I like what you said. When you are responding to a challenge, you ask what would the world’s best lifestyle engineer do?

[00:15:21] that has been a consistent theme in my journey. And most of my content is, is written. I don’t do a lot of video or, or audio content, so I find myself mostly in the weeds uh, Twitter threads, uh, going back and forth and, you know, a potential argument. Okay. that question of how would the world’s happiest software engineer respond?

[00:15:45] Yeah. Has been very important because sometimes I can get a little defensive, sometimes I want to come off a little sarcastic, sometimes demeaning. so having that constant question has been very helpful. Uh, and then now you, so you talk about the journey so that. , maybe a year or two ago as I’m kind of middling around figuring out what I wanna do.

[00:16:07] and now it’s in the last year I’ve been able to speak at some conferences, you know, podcasts, uh, and it’s been amazing to me the amount of need in this space that I didn’t even know was there until I put my name out there. Yeah. Uh, and now all these opportunities are, are opening up to help and collaborate and build and there are so many great engineers out.

[00:16:28] that need help. So appreciate being, I’ll talk to you, Zach, cuz I think you and I are aligned on a lot of 

[00:16:33] Zach White: things. Oh, for sure. So Erik, before I get into some tactical things that people could take action on and use in their own journey, if you were going to describe the biggest difference between Erik walking out of that therapy session and the Erik who’s sitting across from me on Zoom.

[00:16:55] what stands out to you the most of what’s changed? 

[00:16:58] Erik Anderson: my intentionality as an engineer, it is easy to develop a skillset or get known for a technology just because it’s expedient for your current company. They need somebody to maintain an old legacy.

[00:17:15] they need somebody to work with this difficult client. And you kind of just, follow the waves at work to wherever it pushes me. yeah, that was old Erik, but now I feel like I have a lot more direction in my career. , I’m a lot more intentional with the, projects or the work that I say yes to, even at work.

[00:17:36] Even if my boss asked me to do something. I’ve said no to promotions cause I think that’s gonna put me in a bad place. 

[00:17:43] and then being vocal at work about what I want to work. . So similar to how me putting that tagline in on LinkedIn has created a lot of professional opportunities. Being vocal at work about the type of things I enjoy doing has opened up more venues for me to do more of that so tactically, for example, being asked for space to do more advocacy work, community.

[00:18:07] my employer, yum. Brands, has been great at supporting me in my personal goals and allowing me space at work to dedicate time, energy to accomplishing what I’m doing in this conversation. Right? This, this is a work call for me, even though we’re talking about topics that maybe aren’t necessarily day-to-day at my current work.

[00:18:26] the more you talk about, , the more opportunities 

[00:18:29] Zach White: will come. I love that. And big shout out to young brands for creating that kind of culture where they welcome your advocacy and input and self-guided career building without punishing people for that. You know, I think a lot of engineers are afraid that if I was to say no to a promot, , that’s the black spot.

[00:18:51] No more opportunities for me. You know, if you mm-hmm. , you know, Erik’s the kind of person who doesn’t want what we give him, so we’re not gonna give him anymore. Those are real beliefs and in some cases, sadly, real cultures that exist in corporate AmErika and around the world. So I love that. And what was Yum Brands, the role that you transitioned into?

[00:19:12] Mm-hmm. , um, when you mentioned earlier that was of decision to make. Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah, I love that. I love that. Maybe we’ll come back to how you made that decision in a moment, but Sure. I wanted to talk around this idea of becoming happier and Erik, we’ve had a lot of amazing. leaders on this podcast who speak to that from a, a philosophical or ideological lens, and some of the mindset and heartbeat of this, and really, really powerful conversations.

[00:19:39] But since we’re both engineers, I thought it would be fun to take a more tactical angle to this. Most engineers want to know how, and therefore what do I do? You know? Sure. Less around the, the, the being and this more difficult to articulate side, the consciousness around happiness and they just wanna know like, what should I do differently?

[00:20:00] Yeah. How, how can I move in the right direction? So what would be Erik’s roadmap to happiness if we were gonna. You know that top on the Pareto distribution of the things that matter most that you’ve discovered that work for you, for your clients. If somebody simply said, Erik, I wanna be happier, where do they begin?

[00:20:21] Yeah, so 

[00:20:22] Erik Anderson: for me it was, and the term that I use is what gives me energy and then defining tactically. How I can have a system of accountability around that. so for example, when I was looking for a dream job, I went, I’ll, I’ll just list, I got the document pulled up right here. I’ll just read through what some of the things were important for me.

[00:20:45] Yeah. Right. So what, what would make me happy on a team? Uh, creativity. And I have a scale of one to five and I’ve listed four different roles that were tangential to my current. I was looking for, you know, management position, sales engineer going in-house, you know, tech lead, 

[00:21:03] Zach White: all the ones which one we’re building our CSM in our minds, right?

[00:21:06] Yeah, that’s right. That right. 

[00:21:07] Erik Anderson: Got you. We got you. Whi Which one’s gonna make me gimme opportunities to be more creative? , uh, which one is going to give me a large enough team size? I, I was tired of wearing multiple hats. I wanted to share responsibility, uh, and I wanted to have a defined role. So, which one’s gonna help me do that?

[00:21:25] what sense of ownership do I have or am I gonna be stuck by, you know, gatekeepers, different stakeholders, different approval gates I have to walk through. is the group of people I’m gonna work with consistent or not? Or am I constantly gonna have to be meeting new people? That’s an energy drain for me.

[00:21:39] I wanna develop friends at work. what’s the time expectation? Travel expectation, compensation. sure. Emotional safety. You’re 

[00:21:48] Zach White: taking all the qualities about work that you said. These are the. adders. The things that give me energy, the things I resonate with these others are things that drain energy from me.

[00:22:01] Mm-hmm. , ranking, prioritizing, and not taking an a, you know, your best assessment for the roles and opportunities you have to give yourself guidance. 

[00:22:10] Erik Anderson: Yep. So I identified the role and then every time I interviewed for a company, it, it gave me some very targeted questions to ask. Absolutely. 

[00:22:19] Zach White: Potential opportunities.

[00:22:20] Yeah, absolutely. If we extrapolate that, that concept, I’m actually curious first, energy and happiness. In this example, you know, the question was like, Hey, how do I become happier? Yeah. And it’s interesting that the kind of direction you went first was, well, what gives me energy? So talk to us about how you see that relationship between energy and happiness.


[00:22:44] Erik Anderson: use the term energy in the sense that’s something that I could feel a little bit more tangibly. Sometimes happiness, uh, depends on the situation, depends on the day. energy though, for me was a, a consistent metric that I can, uh, evaluate against, large group meetings. I am more tired after I walk out of that meeting.

[00:23:03] then I’m going in. Okay. I can identify that, being on call at 2:00 AM like that definitely drains my energy. so it, it just seemed like a more useful metric for my own evaluation. Mm-hmm. , and maybe this is some commentary while I think I was raised well, but I feel like in the community I, I grew up in as a young man identifying emotions.

[00:23:30] was not something that was commonly taught. Right. the negative 

[00:23:34] Zach White: emotions don’t emote in general. 

[00:23:36] Erik Anderson: Don’t emo. Yeah, exactly. So yeah, being happy. What is happy? I don’t even know. How do I identify when I’m sad versus I’m happy when I’m angry versus I’m not.

[00:23:46] So energy was just 

[00:23:47] Zach White: easier to work with. Okay, this is really important. I wanna sit on this for a moment and I’ll share a concept that I coach, and maybe you take this and run with it in your own frame, Erik. But I like the connection because what is happiness at some level? Happy is an emotion. like it, it falls into the category of one of the many emotions that we can experience in life.

[00:24:08] And you know, I believe emotion can be thought of as energy in motion. Emo energy in motion. Okay. Yeah. And it takes energy to experience an emotion. , if you wanna be angry, think about like violent anger. It takes a lot of physical energy to get into a very angry state. So if you wanna spike the anger meter, that’s an energy draining experience for people, right?

[00:24:35] Mm-hmm. , if you wanna spike the meter of happiness, that also takes energy. You know, you’re not going to reach a high level of happiness without bringing a high level of energy into that moment, right? Mm-hmm. , and now the energy, we could talk all day about where’s the source of that and how’s it coming, and is it external versus internal, and blah, blah, blah.

[00:24:55] But the point remains peak happiness. is going to happen at the same time, in the same moment as some peak energy. It’s gonna require energy. And I talk about this idea of, you know, high vibe versus low vibe. You know, so kind of mm-hmm. people think that way. It’s not a perfect metaphor. All models are wrong.

[00:25:13] Some are useful, right? Yeah. So happiness might be considered a high vibration emotion and maybe depression or sadness is a low vibration emotion. But you know, the physicist inside of us, both as engineers, Revolts to that concept, but, but anyway, the, the point remains, you know, it’s an energy thing. So I love your concept of focusing on energy because for one, it’s easier for us to wrap our head around will this bring energy or steal it.

[00:25:40] Mm-hmm. and knowing that if I have the energy, the opportunity for happiness is, , and this is where I want you to pick up and, and maybe run from your experience or how you coach this. I’ve also seen though that an abundance of energy doesn’t equate to happiness. You, you can do the things that bring you energy and still not be happy.

[00:26:02] Yeah. And so how do you actually bridge the opportunity? Because you have the energy, the work is aligned with what you love, but if someone’s still not happy, what’s. . 

[00:26:15] Erik Anderson: I think there are a lot of inhibitors in normal life. Mm-hmm. . And what I mean by that is you can have different addictions that we use to cope with difficult emotions can also cap our ability to feel positive emotions.

[00:26:31] And that was what I had to work through with my therapist as. . even things like like coffee even can affect y your ability to process an emotion cuz it’s, it’s si it’s stimulating you to such a degree that it removes your ability to, to feel the primary emotions that your, your body’s trying to fire off.

[00:26:49] Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm . Um, social media, right? That quick dopamine hit prevents you from feeling higher spikes of happiness. or for me, I, I still play, but video games even, right? You get that, that constant Yes. Uh, feeling of, of dopamine for, you know, beating a level or whatever was for me, I felt robbing me feeling higher peaks of joy when engaging with more long-term, goals.

[00:27:17] So, uh, my life was filled with kind of short term pleasure seeking behavior, and then once I was able to address my social media consumptions, some negative addictions that I have, that gave me a more accurate baseline and allowed me to actually feel greater amounts of joy at the same time.

[00:27:39] Greater amounts of negativity and I had to develop other coping mechanisms. And I realized a lot of my behaviors were less about finding more joy and more about mitigating the pain. yeah. 

[00:27:51] Zach White: Did any of that make sense, ? I No, I loved It does. It absolutely does. And there’s two things I’ll highlight from what you said that I think are important.

[00:27:58] One is the time horizon, getting out of moment to moment short. social media is a perfect example. These micro doses, this incredible pace of stimulation, but it’s all very short term and it’s not connected to these deeper purpose and meaning focused objectives of our life. Mm-hmm. our calling, the things that really matter in the long run.

[00:28:22] The other thing that you said that I thought was interesting, is this idea of the range, the emotional range that we experience, you know, the con. of numbing, whether that’s, through behaviors, maybe extreme examples like alcohol or mm-hmm. , whatever. But at any level, when we fall into that, like keeping it in a narrow band of emotional experience, you have to recognize your, you know, you’re limiting how much joy and happiness you can experience.

[00:28:53] But a lot of times people do that subconsciously because of the fear of those deep negatives. To your point, you know, the numbing of. also numbs pleasure. And when you open that cap, you don’t have the luxury of only opening one side. Mm-hmm. , you know, if you wanna experience more joy, more happiness, it’s very likely that you’re also going to experience a deeper, darker level of some of the negative emotions.

[00:29:17] Yeah. And being prepared to work through that and process that. And I even say Erik, just a willingness to accept that it’s likely it’s normal and it’s safe. Yeah. You know, I tell my clients like, it’s okay to be really. Yeah, that’s not a bad thing. It’s safe to feel a negative emotion. That’s normal. You, we need to learn how to process that.

[00:29:36] Just like we need to learn how to experience more happiness. So I think those are both super important points to take away from what you just said. Yeah. The, 

[00:29:45] Erik Anderson: yeah, go ahead. I, I’ll say that the big takeaway for me that I’ve been learning is that emotions are not moral. Like it’s not bad. Yeah. To feel sad.

[00:29:56] it’s not even bad to feel. . Now, if we act on that, you know, hurt somebody else, say something. We don’t mean to say, okay, yes, it’s bad, you’re, you’re hurting other people. But really it’s just our body’s way of communicating with ourselves. Yes, just like I would say, it’s not bad to feel hungry. It’s not bad to feel tired.

[00:30:13] Our body’s telling us we need sleep. Our body’s telling us we need food. Similarly, when I feel sad or angry, just take a step back, process the emotion. What is my body trying to tell me? Oh, I need some human connection. , I need to, for me, it’s, I felt very isolated with remote work, so usually my response is, I need to talk to a friend.

[00:30:35] I need to talk to my wife. I need to let somebody know how I’m feeling. Uh, but yeah, emotions are not moral. 

[00:30:40] Zach White: That’s good. Right. That’s, they’re not bad. That’s, emotions are not good or bad. They’re just emotions. Yeah. What you do with them could branch into a moral conversation, so. Exactly. All right, let me come back to my engineered engineer.

[00:30:53] If there was one more tactical, actionable thing that you do that reliably says, Hey, this helps people move up that happiness scale, what would be one more that coach Erik would give us today? . Yeah. So as 

[00:31:06] Erik Anderson: software engineers, we spend so much time around developing methodologies, processes to improve the systems that we develop, right?

[00:31:17] We need to take that same level of rigor for ourselves. And there there’s overlap. So for example, you have a two week sprint that culminates in a retrospective and begins with a planning. I would suggest at a similar frequency. You do the same for yourself. Yes. Right. what are your goals over the next short term time horizon, and how are you doing on accomplishing them?

[00:31:44] adopting the principles for how you develop your software and applying them to your personal life? We, we’ve talked about merging work life. the people I work. had incredible success at just doing just that. 

[00:31:56] Zach White: I think that’s brilliant. We call that the playbook at a Waco is this rhythm of action you know, whether you’re an agile or any methodology, it’s like, yes, we do this and we’re great at it at work.

[00:32:07] Let’s apply it into these other domains. So I think that’s brilliant and it’s very. , easy to do, and yet it’s the discipline, the consistency, the accountability to simply follow through and do it that separates those really happy, successful leaders from the average. So, Erik, tell us then a little bit about what you’re doing as a coach.

[00:32:27] So I know you’re, you’re crushing it at Young Brands. You’re doing the work of an engineer by day, but you’ve also built this really beautiful following and brand. helping folks who wanna break into tech new programmers who don’t know their way. So tell us a little bit about what you’re doing there and your vision for the side hustle in the business.

[00:32:47] Erik Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. So while I do coach developers and how to find more fulfillment at work, the primary thing that I do in my free time is helping new developers find their first job in tech. Uh, it was difficult for me. It was difficult for a lot of people in my, network coming outta school. Uh, so I just wanna pay it forward.

[00:33:06] A big part of my happiness and joy is feeling like my work has meaning. Yeah, sometimes. in a professional context, that meaning gets lost. but being able to have this outlet where I know there’s a tangible output. Somebody has employment, somebody has a job, that’s where I find energy there. So if you’re in the Dallas area, I’m a co-organizer for the Dallas Software Developers Group.

[00:33:28] Uh, we meet once or twice a month, so find us on We can chat there or connect with me on LinkedIn. I’ve been more than happy to help support someone. Who’s looking for a job 

[00:33:38] Zach White: there too. Brilliant. And Erik, send me the links to the meetup and everything. We’ll put that in the show notes so happy engineers can find you easily.

[00:33:47] Tell me your perspective, you know, helping these young devs with. what the environment is like right now. So at the time of this recording, February 22nd, 2023, I haven’t kept my tally up, but we’re talking tens if not hundreds of thousands of announcements in terms of layoffs, especially in big tech.

[00:34:07] there’s folks out there who have experience, who are looking for jobs, and anybody who was right at the cusp of their first role is struggling. Actually just talked to an amazing gentleman, 20 years in the Navy. A fantastic leader who came out, went through school, got his masters, wanted to get into tech, you know, has a very different background than a lot of folks had a role at Amazon, but less than a year in and he got cut just recently and sort of last in, first out challenge.

[00:34:38] It wasn’t anything he did or his performance, he just didn’t have that experience. I know there’s a lot of people in those types of situations. What is. You know, sort of thought about the environment and what does it change, if anything, about what a developer needs to be doing right now to find a role if they’re looking for one.

[00:34:56] Erik Anderson: despite the big layoffs announced in 2023, you mentioned, you know, tens of thousands from the big tech companies, developers, unemployment rate is still about 1.5.

[00:35:08] Wow. Which is less than the, the national average right now. Yeah, by far. By far. Which indicates that there is still a high demand for software engineers and most engineers that were let go, were quickly absorbed within a few months. Or most of the people that were let go at these big tech companies were non-tech people, you know, sales, marketing, et cetera.

[00:35:28] Uh, so first I would just say there’s a lot of. Who you are and what you do depends on your years of experience, depends on your prior work history, et cetera. But, uh, not give up hope. Yeah. Uh, if anything like, chat, G B T or the growth of digital systems, systems or remote work during the pandemic has shown us is that more and more jobs and roles are gonna be automated, which means there’s gonna be more and more people that need to support them, which means at least in the near future, there’s gonna be more and more need for develop.

[00:36:01] Zach White: Okay. That’s an encouraging word. everything I’ve seen Erik aligns with that. I, I agree. I think sometimes the news and the hype they’re just trying to create a story through fear, so we’ll read it. Yeah. And if you broaden out and look at the whole scope of the industry and the demand creation, you know, there’s gonna be some individual really hard situations.

[00:36:24] You know, my heart is absolutely touched for somebody who has to go. Being laid off, the impact to your family, the stress of that process. So individually, on a micro scale, it’s a really big deal, but at the macro level, when you just look at the industry overall, probably not as big a deal as the news wants us to think it is.

[00:36:45] Mm-hmm. Erik, I appreciate what you’re doing and we’ll make sure anybody out there who’s listening and is in tech and needs support, especially if you’re in Dallas, Click the links in the show notes and go go chat with Erik. Erik, this has been awesome. I wish we could go all day.

[00:37:00] I know there’s so many more fun things around your own story, happiness in engineering, and how we can live that more and more. One of the things I believe is that great coaching, the work you do and great engineering, the work you also do has in common questions lead the answers. And if we want to be happier, find more success, get better answers, then we need to ask better questions.

[00:37:28] So what would be the question that you would lead us with today? I 

[00:37:33] Erik Anderson: think that the foundational question is asking yourself, why am I an engineer? Or why do I want to be an. , and you can dive deeper into that with some sub-questions as you answer it yourself. But I think what you’ll find is that people will fall into different camps, right?

[00:37:56] They like to build things, they love the community. and I think as you understand your why for who you are and what you do, you’ll have a better understanding for what you need to find a way to do more of as that’s your, that’s your energy. . 

[00:38:14] Zach White: Mm. Why am I an. What keeps me here? What makes me wanna be one?

[00:38:22] Erik, I love that so much. Thanks again for your generosity today, making time for this, and you know, give a thank you to the leadership at Yum Brands for giving you the space to come and be with us today. And I just wanna acknowledge you for having the courage to step up and make that declaration into the world that you.

[00:38:41] In fact, the world’s happiest software engineer, , thank you. That aspirational identity living into it. And I know you and I aren’t perfect in our world’s best statements, and that wasn’t ever the point, right? Just to keep moving towards that North star. And I know it’s inspired me and the happy engineer listening and tens of thousands whos maybe we’re in the hundreds or millions of people who’ve seen and and been touched by that.

[00:39:02] So I appreciate you and thanks for being here today. It’s been awesome. Thank you so much for having.