I’ve been thinking in grandiose terms lately. Words like “vision” and “legacy” and “purpose” have been floating through my conscience. I turned 24 last week—it’s maybe a bit unwise to devote too much of my energy to those words right now. Nevertheless, they’re right there in my mind and I need to choose what to do with them.
One of the major catalysts driving this chain of thought is that I’m finally in my last semester of university. In a few months—after spending the majority of my waking hours in school for the past twenty years—I will receive an electrical engineering degree, and that will be that. Unlike most of my fellow graduates I may never even put my degree into professional use, since I’m planning to work for my web & mobile software development company full-time. (In fact, the decision to continue working for myself is also deeply connected to the big thoughts I’ve been having… I’m not sure which came first.)
I suppose what it boils down to is that I’m at another point that feels significant. If life were a video game, I would “Save Game” for sure. It’s not the first, and it won’t be the last, but since I can’t actually save this game I’m trying to at least take stock a bit; hopefully it will help me to keep perspective moving forward, and have a goal in mind (even if it changes). I want this blog to be a significant part of that—a place for me to keep track of the big lessons, the small ones, and just my general thoughts on life, business, and software.
Right now, the two articles I’ve been chewing on a lot are Nico Colchester’s Crunchiness (sorry, the linked article is incomplete) and Jason Goldberg’s 90 Things I’ve Learned From Founding 4 Technology Companies. I’m finding “crunchiness”, vague as the term may be, to be a surprisingly good proxy for many of my own values—the people, places, and ideas that speak profoundly to me are invariably “crunchy”, a little rough around the edges. Consequently, the aspect of Goldberg’s post which stands out to me most is the utter transparency he exemplifies—crunchy people and crunchy businesses lack the dressing for façades.
I’ve also been ruminating on last year’s bike trip a fair bit (it passes the crunchiness test by a few thousand miles). One of the scariest parts of coming home was realising how easily it could all be forgotten; again, impressing upon me the necessity of constantly revisiting the important things. The most important lesson I learned that trip was the value of people, the value of kindness and of being generous. These are concepts we’re all taught early in life, but learning rarely happens immediately after being taught. Spending days craving a stranger’s smile helped me to finally understand how valuable small kindnesses can be, and being welcomed into strangers’ homes reminded me of the impact big kindnesses can have. Giving and receiving freely from others—knowing that I would never see them again—impressed “giving is its own reward” on me in a way that Christmas never could. Being forced to truly contemplate death made me realise that I hadn’t been doing a good job of leaving things better than I found them, and that I wasn’t doing the things I wanted to be remembered for; it also caused me to re-assess the things I want to be remembered for.
In short, I want to be crunchy, and I want my business to be crunchy. I want myself and my business to be transparent—that “heart-on-my-sleeve” ideal I’m not sure I ever quite pulled off in high school—and kind. Kindness means noticing people, taking an interest in them, and helping them whenever I can. That fits into being generous, too—the kind of generosity that is willing to get its hands dirty instead of throwing money and walking away. I understand that big ideas are nothing without execution, and I know that spending too much time thinking can seriously compromise doing, but I believe in the value of guidelines; these seem like a good place to start.