This is a polemic against the well-written blog post of Adam Conrad called “Do What You Love or You Will Destroy Yourself.”
The same warning that he applied to his post, I am applying here. There’s lots of stuff, but feel free to skip down to the useful bits at the end.
I start off by presenting what I took away from Adam’s impassioned piece. Like me, Adam had an early career in computing. I wasn’t lucky enough to have the web be the thing when I turned 19, but I knew enough Perl to get a job coding at the university. I used Perl to create mailing labels that would be stuck on envelopes for snail mail.
My aha moment came with a Perl-CGI freelance gig that I got in the 90s. I spent most of the 90s as a sysadmin. When I saw that my code was “live.” That was such a great high and experience. I felt powerful and influential, even though it was just a dentist’s website.
In a similar “listening to my internship moment,” I decided working on the Internet was where I wanted to be. I took about 2 years from this aha moment until I code work as a coder.
Where’s the problem?
My true love in life is philosophy.
For me this means reading and writing in a way that brings up questions and edifies, an existence that sees the beauty of a question not answered, a life that from a coder perspective is highly suspect and irrelevant. How many coders do you know *love* philosophy?
I would honestly love to spend my days having sex, drinking coffee, reading, writing and more sex – with travel and several residences on the Mediterranean coast of Spain and Costa Rica (Pacific side), thrown in.
I lived in such a way for nearly two years without the residences but with travel to London and Rome. The sad, sad truth of it is that there is no money at the end of it, and I ended up very much in debt and almost bankrupt. I just became credit card debt free 2 years ago. *phew*
If you believe that if you do what you love and you will save yourself, you are believing in something that is not true for everyone, and it wreaks of the Cargo Cult. What you love will not determine what makes you thrive; the world figures that out for you.
There’s a bunch of Joseph Campbell crap floating around that goes, “Follow your bliss.” So many people have followed it blindly to their doom. But you know what? “Follow your bliss,” sells books because it makes people feel better.
Let me leave you a quote from one of the great philosophers of the Golden Age of Advertising, Don Draper:
“I hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system, the universe is indifferent.”
Here are the take aways and useful bits:
- As a coder you have to be logical and realistic. Don’t let your sources of inspiration lead you astray.
- Doing what you love can either make you thrive or ruin you. If it’s choosing between front-end or back-end dev, you’ll thrive either way right now. Think things through.
- It is all about work-life balance but going all-in makes a great story.