Making a Dent in the Universe
Something very interesting happened recently. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs attended an interview. They discussed many topics, ranging from the current state of their projects, how they viewed the other person and company, and their position on the near future and evolution of the industry, amongst other topics. We even learned that they have been secretly married for the past decade. There have to be dozens, if not hundreds of mainstream media venues and blogs talking about this event, so I wont go into detail. If you want to know more always remember: Google is your friend.
This reminded me of “Pirates of Silicon Valey”, which is a top movie for any nerd, and yet I have not seen it. I took it upon myself to utilize the occasion and watch the land mark film, since these two behemoths will probably not rejoin any time soon to offer me inspiration, or for any other reason. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie it tells the tale of the surge of Apple and Microsoft, although that’s not really important right now.
I was very surprised at how Steve Jobs was portrayed in the movie. He’s eccentric to say the least, and some of the things he did were unreasonable to say the least. I don’t really know how much of the movie is fact and how much is fiction. Again, unimportant detail. The one thing that really caught my eye was the passion that the character of Steve had in the whole movie. This passion has also characterized Jobs himself in the few press conferences and communications I have seen in the recent past. I’m guessing it may be more fact than fiction. He took risks, he stuck with them. He is today one of the most successful and charismatic men in the industry. He has an almost cult like following that will defend him at any cost. A real Cinderella story, if I’ve ever heard one.
This reminds me of one of the many failed attempts I have had in this short but interesting life. Like many others I quit the day job in order to pursue a start up company. As for school, I had already dropped out a couple of years ago at that point, so don’t even bother questioning that. I got together with a couple of my friends and started working on software that we identified that was needed in the market. Software that was inexistent in the market for the most part, and if not, fundamentally flawed.
I was the self appointed software architect. I would dream up most of the designs, and try to plan the stuff to the best of my ability. This does not mean by any extent of the imagination that I had the credentials, experience or know-how to actually do an adequate job. I simply was the guy in the role. I designed a couple of applications, and swiftly started working on them. I was full of life, full of passion. I was glad I had escaped the corporate shackles. I was living my life, my way on my terms. In the end, everything would be alright, or so I told my wife (at that time still girlfriend), every day.
The idea of doing your own thing was very appealing to me. My current day job, considering the market, didn’t have a too bad salary. Yet it got to a point where it was a simple repetition of outlined steps. It quickly became very redundant and boring. To make matters worse, corporate politics, company oversights and bad management made my experience there a whole lot worse. I was escaping all of this. I was going to do what I wanted to do, AND GET PAID TO DO IT. If you add to that family and friends, you’re set! What else do you really need to be happy? Aaahh… the eternal unanswerable question.
Yet the dude (that’s my cute nickname for God) is not without a perverse sense of sarcasm. My planning skills, as I have mentioned before were not stellar. Therefore implementation time was becoming more and more extended due to unforeseen complexities. Discussions turned into fights. People started pointing at my code, ridiculing it. Saying I was a fanboy of a particular technology or a particular construct of a language. I did my best to keep my cool and keep working. After all, our survival was at stake. I had alredy quit my day job, and a couple of the other guys were on their way to do the same.
Then an defining day arrived. One of the guys popped. I don’t know why. I have several theories. Maybe he felt unimportant. Maybe he felt ignored. Maybe he felt that his contributions were not taking into serious consideration. Who knows? Up to this day I still haven’t asked him. He sent a very beautiful email insulting everyone in the group and their mother. The group was already in a tense state. This was just adding a tank of propane, bathed in gasoline, to the fire. Keep in mind I had invested a lot of my creativity and time to the group’s objectives. Hell, the current code base was at least 80% all my own handwritten code. All the designs were mine. Never the less, I promptly quit, wished everyone good luck and started to look for potential job opportunities. I was simply too frustrated and didn’t want to put up with it anymore.
I know have another job, at another corporation. This one seems to be much more friendlier, flexible and comfortable to work with. They try to keep bureaucracy to a necessary minimum and make their employees comfortable. This is a world of change in comparison to the old job. Yet I still feel the same sense as before. I am repeating the same steps over and over again. I am doing a job that in the end will not positively influence someones life. I am simply there, because justification is necessary.
Steve Job’s character (in the movie) in the beginning said that their objective was nothing mediocre, but to make a dent in the universe. He was out to make a difference. He was out to change everyone’s life. I had that kind of passion once. Probably not to the extent of Mr. Jobs, but definitely something palely comparable. I think it’s still lurking down there somewhere. Yet I have lost hope. Not in the group, but in myself. To actually get a start up going takes a lot of hard work. To do it while maintaining a day job, going to school or having other major responsibilities makes it near impossible. Yet there was a day where I laughed in the face of this feat. That day is long gone. I miss being fearless. I miss working to reach objectives I truly believed in, not just for the next paycheck.
Now, making a dent in the universe is pretty big deal. While there are some talented few that are meant to lead, most of us have no choice but to follow. I wanted to be a leader. Apparently I did not have the chops to make it happen, or maybe I gave up too soon. Who knows? Can I still turn it around? Or will I just be another sheep gladly following the herder, reminiscing of a short period of time in my life where I made my own rules, before it all crumbled down to the ground?