Friday, December 2, 2011

Because It’s Fun!

Twelve years ago, computers were a mystery to me, but a friend of mine showed me how I could just go down to the computer parts store, pick out a motherboard, CPU, RAM, hard drive, power supply, &c., and put it together myself. It was so empowering! Those mysterious black boxes that our lives depend on were one step less mysterious.
I learned how to download Linux and install it myself for free — then, FreeBSD and OpenBSD. Then, I was building my own servers. Now, the whole web server/Internet thing was less of a mystery. This was, again, fascinating and empowering.
Ten years ago, I was the founder/owner/CEO of a music distribution company that grew from just me to 85 employees.
As the company grew, I enjoyed building all of the office PCs and web servers myself. I enjoyed setting up the same FreeBSD distribution for everyone, and writing shell scripts to automate the installation of everything. It was a fun challenge, and I’d often stay until midnight setting these things up, totally “in the zone” and loving it.

Ten years later, I mentioned this to a friend. He said, sarcastically, “Pffft. Yeah, that’s a good use of the CEO’s time!”
In the moment, I laughed, but later I thought, “Well… yeah! It was my company, and I was the CEO. So, I could do whatever I wanted, and that’s what I wanted to do! What else should I be doing? Something less fun? Sitting in meetings? Why?”
Just this week, an investor friend asked what I’m working on now. I spun my laptop to show him a screen filled with PHP. He said, “Why are you doing this? You can hire someone to do it!”
I said, “This is the only thing I love doing. Programming is pure creativity. Why would I hand off the fun stuff to someone else?”
It was clear that both friends were just assuming that what I should have been doing is whatever is the most profitable thing, as if that’s the only measure that matters.
Even now, I’m trying a geeky project; I’m setting up a JSON-only REST API and requiring even my own site to use only that. When I tell this to other programmers, a few have asked, “Why go to that trouble? You don’t need it!”
My answer is the same for everyone. “Because it’s fun!”
No other reason is needed.
Never forget that all of these things we do — making money, building a company, whatever — are all leading to the eventual goal of having enough money to do whatever we want. So, take a shortcut to that goal, and do whatever you want in the meantime. Never feel embarrassed or defensive about doing something just because it’s fun.

Developer Gift

I recommend any loud, ticking timer to use with the Pomodoro Technique.
Don’t use an app. Get the actual physical ticking thing — it really makes a psychological difference.

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