I think it’s really important to notice when I should take a break from something. The amount of times I’ve spent hours and hours bashing my head against a problem, feeling progressively worse about myself/my skills/etc; to then go to sleep and solve the problem within like 5min of looking at it the next morning. Just because I take my direct attention/focus/conscious brain away from the problem doesn’t mean my subconscious doesn’t keep processing away. And sometimes that little bit of distance is exactly what you need for things to fall into place in a way that I just never would have even dreamed possible prior.
Paying attention to my own internal self talk, and what I am saying to/about myself. Sometimes little ‘negatives’ can inspire me to push that little bit further, that little bit harder. But once they start to become a repeating downward spiral… time to stop them in their tracks. Noticing the pattern starting is the first step, then being able to ‘step back’ from that and really dig into it, get curious, ask what the real underlying fear/concern/insecurity/etc is. Oftentimes what we think we are feeling on the surface is a high level ‘meta label’ for some more intricately detailed feeling deeper down. And I suppose… that isn’t just relevant to when i’m building/breaking things… but just to life in general. Self reflection, introspection, healing past traumas/insecurities, overcoming limiting beliefs; they may not be easy, they may take time, they may take me working with professionals to help me in areas my own skills fall short (be that a psychologist, mentor, coach, etc). But putting in the hard yards on that self development pays off many-fold over in the long run.
As others have mentioned, having a good set of friends/peers either that you can bounce ideas off and help figure out the harder problems with; or just to disconnect from the problem and go and have some fun. In our ever-connected digital world, why is it that we feel more isolated and disconnected than ever before? Hacking is fun, interesting, challenging… but don’t forget that there is this whole beautiful intricate interesting world unfolding in each and ever moment outside the confines of our screen. Whether bounty hunting is some play $$ or a full time job, I see it kind of the same. Life is about more than just work and achievement, and we absolutely need that balance between push/strive/achieve, and relax/recover/play/fun. Push too hard, and life will push back and make sure you get the other… but burnout and depression is a far less fun way to ‘slow down’ than making conscious choices towards allowing your body the rest it needs.
Also, know that what you see of others isn’t necessarily their reality. It’s easy to hold up these perfect idols/heroes of our peers, other researchers, etc; but just like on social media/instagram/etc, a lot of the time what you see of someones life is a finely crafted vision of what they want you to see. They may seem like they go from success to success and never slow down or feel bad. But how about all those parts you don’t see? If you could peer behind that curtain, you would often find just as many little setbacks, critical self thoughts, etc. It’s kind of a problem with our world in general, but in a lot of ways in our industry too; for whatever reason, a lot of the time people feel like it’s ‘bad’ to talk about these feelings, these struggles, these thoughts. Like by admitting and naming them we’re somehow ‘weaker’ or ‘lesser’; that by sharing our vulnerabilities it will harm us. This is my personal opinion, but I see more strength and power and feel way more ability to connect with/trust someone who is able to share their vulnerabilities; rather than someone who presents themselves as ‘perfect’ and ‘unwavering’. Life isn’t perfect, we all have our weird intricacies and imperfections. That’s what makes us real. And that realness is what I put value in.
I could probably ramble on about all sorts of things here… it’s an area of such rich potential not just in the hacking game, but in life. We’re always going to run up against challenges, times where we feel we may not be enough… but each time we stand up against that, work our way through, and then notice that we made it through fine; it gets easier. It’s kind of just like another skill/muscle, if we keep training it, it gets stronger, and easier.