This post is part of Project: Inception, written ~8 years ago. It has been untouched from its original, pseudonymous, form. It is also part of the larger “farewell” tour and countdown as I turn-off this blog and head to the
metaverse where I will live out the rest of my wonderful days. I hope to see you there!
Love for Sale
I learned something very early on that I’ve held on dearly as I’ve walked through tons of different jobs, work environment, and professional circumstances. It’s something that I didn’t understand for a long, long time but it’s something that I now dearly hold onto as I try to figure out what the future of my own “employment” might be.
Even though I am a full-time entrepreneur I still ask myself the very important and very difficult questions as often as perhaps many other people. Such questions as: “What the fuck am I supposed to do with my life?” and “Why am I not completely satisfied with life – what am I missing, what am I doing wrong?” We are all on a quest to find meaning in our very existence and oftentimes the first signal is the actual work that we do.
And quickly into my professional career I learned an incredibly valuable lesson: Do not sell the things that you are in love with. Don’t. It’s far too painful and there’s a good and strong case that you won’t profit much if you did anyways.
You see, when I was a young developer and still very hot in the pants about my own “apps” I learned a very valuable lesson on this dynamic. One of the first places I worked for professionally as a young 14 year old software developer was at Johnson and Johnson, a Fortune 50, Dow 30 company.
At age 14.
I didn’t know diddlysquat but thought I was the cats pajamas. As I had mentioned previously, I felt like I had the mental capacity of an adult and yet I had the emotional stability of a child. But I knew enough about myself to not be a total screwup (or at least more than what is typical of me) and I knew just enough to be an “asset” (not even “valuable asset,” just an “asset”) that didn’t get in the way too badly. So my talent and my desire to stay out of the way resulted in work that they would pay me for, pay that was very good at 14 years of age helping them to build both the front-end system and back-end solution for an enterprise application.
One of the men I got to work with was an incredibly brilliant Oracle database engineer and architect. I forget his name because it didn’t matter what his real name was – his nickname, “Guru,” was his real name and that’s all that mattered. And besides, even if he had told me his name I would have forgotten it anyways! This individual was on contract (40-60 hours per week contract) for about $450 dollars per hour. If you do simple math that’s about $$90,000 dollars per month and just north of $1MM per year. Not bad, right? Of course at the time I had no concept of money or what it was literally worth – I just wanted to program.
But this guy, shit, he was cool, collected, had gray hair, and dressed super modestly. He came as he pleased and went whenever he wanted. No one appeared to bother him – yet his influence was everywhere I looked. No one would mess with him and no one wanted to be around him for more than they absolutely needed to be. He came to meetings in what appeared to be a random fashion and ate McDonalds like everyone else.
Yet he was the architect that oversaw the core database to a $60B dollar enterprise. I guess he was worth it. I got to know him slowly that first year as he wasn’t really available and just smirked every time he saw me. I eventually was able to (by accident I think) talk with him on a long walk to another building about what he did outside of work (I thought he might play video games or something). This was only because he opened up the conversation with me – I wasn’t about to be the guy to mess up his flow. I told him that I did some small web-based applications and such. He told me that he had this other application which he built at home which networked all his physical devices into a common repository of music in a state-of-the-art home stereo system which shamed most mortals. My small apps were like dog poo compared to what he was working on.
Now remember, this was in the mid 90’s. What he had essentially built was Napster before Napster did it and Apple iTunes before Apple did it. At the time I thought this was amazing and I asked him if he had sold it to other people and he told me “No. Never. I’ll never sell the things that I love to do.”
I never forgot it and although at the time I was still so young and very very stupid I thought he was even more stupid for not selling it (or at least letting me have a copy!). But I learned that he was right, in so many ways. I realized over time that the better you become at your craft, your job, your business, your “thing” or in my case my obsession, the less one seems to confuse external rewards (like money) with the ones that matter – the internal motives and the heart.
And that theory is right because I could never sell my obsessions. It would be like I had sold my own soul for a few dollar greens. I can’t even begin to “price” them to begin with! They are essential to my survival and I am essential to their existence as well as they would not be used, leveraged, created, or even exist without me. We’re a happy couple and I plan on keeping it that way.
Sure, my companies sell products and I really do like them. Do I love them, as in with-all-my-heart-now-and-forever type of love? No way. Not even close. I do love creating value and accelerating people and here I enjoy the idea of educating and encouraging others. If I can do that in a number of different ways then I’ll be really satisfied. I don’t have to sell my love though. I don’t have to compromise who I am to do it.