Here’s a story I’ve never shared publicly but I shared it with my team this morning and I thought it would be worth sharing with you guys.
Give it a read and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Love, for Sale
This one’s going to hurt a bit so read this with care: Do not sell the things that you are in love with. Don’t. It’s far too painful and you won’t be a success (at least financially).
When I was a young developer and still very hot in the pants about my own “apps” I learned a very valuable lesson on this dynamic. One of the first places I worked for professionally as a young 14 year old software developer was at Johnson and Johnson, a Fortune 50, Dow 30 company.
At age 14.
I didn’t know diddlysquat but thought I was the cats pajamas. I knew just enough to be an “asset” (not even “valuable asset,” just an “asset”) and they paid me really well for my front-end/back-end ninja-like code (or at least I thought it was).
One of the guys I got to work with was an incredibly brilliant Oracle database engineer and architect. I forget his name because it didn’t matter what his real name was – his nickname, “Guru,” was his real name and that’s all that mattered.
This individual was on contract (40-60 hours per week contract) for about $850 dollars per hour. If you do simple math that’s about $136,000 dollars per month and over $1.6MM per year.
He was cool, collected, had gray hair, and dressed super modestly. He came as he pleased and went whenever he wanted. No one appeared to bother him – yet his influence was everywhere I looked. He came to meetings in what appeared to be a random fashion and ate McDonalds like everyone else.
Yet he was the architect that oversaw the core database to a $60B dollar enterprise. I guess he was worth it.
I got to know him slowly that first year as he wasn’t really available and just smirked everytime he saw me. I eventually was able to (by accident I think) talk with him on a long walk to another building about what he did outside of work (I thought he might play video games or something).
No, he had this other application which he built at home which networked all his physical devices into a common repository of music in a state-of-the-art home stereo system which shamed most mortals.
This was in the mid 90’s. What he had essentially built was Napster before Napster did it and Apple iTunes before Apple did it.
At the time I thought this was amazing. I asked him if he sold it and he told me “No. Never. I’ll never sell the things that I love to do.”
I never forgot it and although at the time I was still so young and very very stupid I thought he was even more stupid for not selling it (or at least letting me have a copy!).
You see, the better you are at your craft, your job, your business, your “thing” the less you seem to confuse external rewards (like money) with the ones that matter. The internal motivations.
Because the things that you love you can’t price well – in other words, emotions cloud and you get too close to the thing that you’re selling. Some people somehow “find” a way, perhaps, but otherwise they aren’t, just an iteration off of what they love to do.
I sell products that I really do like. Do I love them, as in with-all-my-heart-now-and-forever type of love? No way.
But I do love creating value and accelerating people. And I love who I work with more than what we build. You see, I can do that in a number of different ways. I don’t have to sell my love though.
[Image via Creative Commons, mateusz]