the best piece of wisdom ive ever heard

2012-07-09

It's not often you can point to one specific piece of wisdom as being truly life-changing. I am lucky enough that I do have such a piece of wisdom. It came at the just the right time for me, and I heard it a few times over a few years, and something in it just really resonated with me. I hope someone out there reads this and it resonates with them as well. From _Why the lucky stiff , programmer, cartoonist, and purveyor of great wisdom:

When you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only narrow and exclude people. So create.

_Why was a big name in the ruby community, and then suddenly disappeared from public view. There's a good article that explains his contributions, who he really is, and the abrupt departure of his public persona. He promoted ruby when it was only popular in Japan, and I believe he gets a gold star solely for that.

He first points out who he's talking to: those who don't create. I think most people fall into this category; I did for most of my life. The word he's saying without saying it directly is consumer. We have a very consumer-oriented culture in the United States. People work at jobs they don't love in order to finance their "fun", meaning their consumption of goods and services outside of work. I have a lot fun at work, and if you don't, you are doing it wrong. I'm sorry, but you deserve better. I believe that in this country, we are taught from a very young age that producing is difficult, boring, and unfulfilling, and all the real fun in life comes from consumption. This is the most disgusting lie taught today, and it needs to stop.

Most people I've met, been friends with, gone to school with, or worked with have had a main focus that is different than their (possibly prospective) careers. By this I mean what they think about and talk about and spend their money on is usually some combination of video games, music/concerts, movies, sports, books, alcohol, and food. These are all good things in moderation, but what I've seen missing in other people and in myself until recently is a passion for what you do to make a living. Their passion is always about some form of consuming rather than producing.

The problem comes when you have only your tastes to define you. People will judge you by what you like if you don't create anything. For example, if you're a fan of a sports team, and you meet someone who's a fan of the rival team and you get into a (hopefully friendly) argument. How silly and superficial is it to argue with this person about two groups who neither of you are a part of, but that you just like? Or a more common example may be you and your friends discussing movies. "WHAT?! You actually liked the Star Wars prequels? Let me carefully explain how much of an idiot you are". Why bother? Neither of you had anything to do with making them. You can only lose from having arguments like that.

That's why you should create. I've personally taken this message to heart and worked to focus more on creating rather than consuming. It was draining at first, but now that I'm acclimated to it, I have way more energy than I used to and I feel much more fulfilled with my work. Most of my consumption is now learning new skills and technologies related to programming. And you know what? I don't miss video games or television. I still do both on occasion, but now I can always get up in the middle of a show or a game and not care about missing it. That's a good place to be in. What are you missing by living your life?

The best advice I can give you is this: find something you love, learn it well, and make a career out of it. If you make a living doing something you love, you'll never work another day in your life.