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If Today Was Your Last Day… To Code

February 6, 2011 3 comments

This post comes courtesy of Nickelback, one of my “top 20” bands. I’m listening to their song “If today was your last day” and thinking happy thoughts, so walk with me for a bit. Pretend it’s your last day to code, what would you do?

If today was your last day [to code], and tomorrow was too late…

Would you spend time in meetings discussing the next cool project? Sit through yet another status update meeting while a coworker reads bullets from a powerpoint?

Would you write new wiki pages / document all the arcane parts of the system that nobody else understands? Would you finally finish the interface documentation you keep putting off? Would you clean up your desk and blurt out epithets at random passers-by?

Would you spend an extra hour teaching a coworker or junior engineer how to write cleaner/better code? Would you spend your last day tutoring, mentoring, making sure those you leave behind get the last ounce of wisdom before you go?

Would you start a new project, cut your teeth on the euphoria of starting something new and creating something from the ground up? Or would you rush around trying to fight the last few bugs blocking your product from shipping next week, in the hopes that your efforts will make the product better for the customer?

Would you seek out the hardest, gnarliest, most beasty multi-threaded race condition and kick it to the curb? Would you grab the nearest flyswatter and quash a few bugs just for old times sake? Or would you coast through, take an extra long lunch, and try to enjoy the last few hours of your coding existence?

Would you rewrite that one butt ugly section of code you’ve been ignoring? You know, the one that makes your skin crawl and makes your eyes bleed. Would you rip it to pieces and give it another go?

Would you explore new tools, migrate to git, drop MySQL for PostGres, check into the new code profiler or finally use valgrind to kill memory leaks? Would you improve the validation for your project, check out cruise control or Hudson / Jenkins?

Would you write in C, assembly, python, perl, Ruby, Haskell, C#, Java, Erlang, Go, Lisp, or would you invent your own language just for fun?

Would you write a new compiler, OS, GUI, database, web browser, or iOS/Android app? Would you migrate up the stack to functional programming or get into research? Or would you learn more about hardware, get closer to the processor and learn more about transistors?

Summarizing the song… Live today like it’s your last day, and do what you really wanted to do all along.

“It’s never too late to shoot for the stars regardless of whoever you are. So do whatever it takes…”

Best

Atto

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

Running Towards Something

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Warning: this post contains no code, no technological jargon, nothing interesting to the average geek.

Instead, I want to tell a semi-personal story which I hope will inspire others to greater heights. Failing in that, I’m sitting on a train and have nothing better to do… so here we are.

I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance a few months back, he was talking about the importance of running towards something. His point was basically that too many people spend their careers (lives?) running away from the things they don’t want to do, when instead they should be running towards the things they want.

I know, he’s a flippin’ genius.

But in general I think he’s spot on… You tend to get what you focus on in life, so why not put your focus into figuring out what you actually want to do, and go do it? Instead of running away from bad decisions… Make good ones.

I know I’m belaboring the point, but it’s pretty awesome that something so simple can have such a profound impact on your life. Well, in this case, my life.

A few months ago, I started getting a little bored at work. Things were a bit slow, and I always get a bit moody when I’m not insanely busy or when I have too much time on my hands. I shouldn’t have been bored – I really loved my job, it was challenging and rewarding technically, socially, and many other ‘ly adverbs. I had carved out a niche where I was respected and treated well, and the team had some top notch people on it. We were working on some pretty revolutionary technology that could someday make big headlines and change computing in cool new ways.

But I found myself getting agitated. Well, maybe that’s not the right word. More like, unfulfilled. I’ve always had some vague general career goals, but never really put the whole game plan together. I just knew that someday, somehow, my goals would take me away from my current job and in search of something else.

So when my friend brought up the “run towards something” speech, it really hit home for me. I had a great job, was comfortable, my family was settled into a nice routine in a great family town, and everything was status quo. So I knew with 85% certainty that I should just put my head down, enjoy life, and take a chill pill. And above all, not give up what I had for the wrong reason… I shouldn’t run away from a great thing.

But what he said bothered me a lot too, because it made me realize that I didn’t have a concrete plan for my career. I honestly didn’t know what I would run towards, career-wise. I’m a low level, OS and drivers and filesystems type of guy who loves tinkering with Linux and wants to make an impact on the real world and real end users. But what do I actually want to DO with my career?

When I get to the end of my career and look back at what I’ve done, will the world be any different because I was here? And if not, will I be OK with that? What do I want to look back on and be proud of because I did it, and did it well?

While I think there are much more important things than work and technology — relationships, how you treat other people, your family, people you can teach, etc — these career-centric questions bothered me for weeks.

The good news is, I figured it out.

I have a plan for my career, I know what I want to run towards. I now have several goals I want to reach for, things I think will make an impact on the world in some small way.

My friend was right, this is awesome. It’s seriously an amazing feeling to finally know what I want to do. And in the end, maybe I won’t actually get it all done. Maybe I’ll fail, and fail big a few times. But at least I will have tried.

The tricky part about this knowledge is acting on your plans.

One of my first plans is taking me and my family on a wild sprint out of our comfort zone, to another city and another job… but I’m ok with that. I’ve taken a job that will require us to relocate, and it’s a bit weird because of a transitionary commute while we make the moving arrangements.

So as I’m sitting on a train watching the world go by, I find myself feeling super excited about running towards something I want. Tired, exhausted really, and a bit overwhelmed by all the new ideas/people/work and things to learn… But excited.

And I’m super excited about seeing my family at the end of the train ride… So technically that’s TWO things I’m running toward. 🙂

Anyways, this rambling story has gone on long enough. If I haven’t put you to sleep already, here’s wishing us all insane amounts of success.

Run towards something! You’ll be glad you did.

Atto

Categories: Life Tags: , ,