What work is and what it could be

This blog is a place where I work through subtleties of how I approach the world.  I haven’t written in a while because I’ve felt fairly pleased with my recent approach.  Or at the very least I’ve been in a new stage of life that demands some conviction.  Since the last time I’ve written my wife and I have had a baby, I’ve bought a large share of the family business, and I’ve been challenged to revamp the finances and the workflow of that company.  It’s been a challenging, exciting, stressful, and enriching time.

For the longest time I’ve been circling the notion of independence.  What it means to me, my family, what it takes, whether it’s possible, etc.  At the core of that process is a soft goal of being able to work on what I see as most valuable at a given moment, be that interpersonal relationships, the stability of the lives closest to me, things which might have a positive impact on humanity, or just mastering Scrabble bingos.  This desire runs at odds with many prevalent notions of success.  To reach the top of any skill set takes many hours, focused effort on specific aspects of your flow, a balanced life, a solid reputation, and possibly even some luck (that’s a potential rabbit hole which I’ll hand-wave away for now).  I don’t want this notion of independence to make a drifter out of me.  I think that’s what I’m trying to get at in this post.

Excellence demands focus, day-in and day-out.  So financial stress is not the only thing which causes someone to ignore a large percentage of the interesting things in life.  I am both ambitious and curious.  A life spent exploring many different topics needs some common threads if it’s to lead to meaningful contributions to the world.  I could imagine a happy life, travelling from campsite to campsite reading various books and never laying down community roots.  I could not imagine that life leading to the creation of a new culture in an area, not while on the road.  After the fact you could tell about it or let the experience seep through you, but an impact requires some social constancy.  Maybe it could be virtual, if one were to write books or software or other intellectual property that has an impact no matter where you are.  In this internet age that’s increasingly common, but if one wants to plant crops and enjoy the fruit there is no way forward but to work in the same area for a long and consistent time.  Even intellectual crops require consistent effort in the same regions of the brain.

For yet another time in life I’m approaching the end of a long-standing goal.  I’m within a few weeks of finishing the development of an extensive enterprise-level system for the business.  I’m very proud of the work and the ways in which it has shaped me.  When the project is over I’ll need to decide what the next step is.  To continue producing private software that accomplishes a specific task, or to move towards abstracting the current project into a more general solution that could be sold to other similar businesses.  To achieve excellence in the open market will require a reputation, a support staff, a business model, a core philosophy, and a hundred other things.

Over and over I’ve seen that  what you think, how you think, your philosophies, will be reflected and will definitely shape the course of your life.  What sort of career am I building and why, is intricately tied to what I think life means and what I want to accomplish with my life.  Of course this is a moving target.  What I want at the age of 20 and the age of 25 and the age of 30 are all distinct.  There are common threads, and those are perhaps the best bet of seeing what will remain important at 35, 40 and beyond.

At this stage in life every hour spent working is an hour I’m not bonding with my daughter.  That adds a cost to work that wasn’t as severe before.  However, if I were to set my sights a bit lower in order to increase my hours at home this week or next, will it end up costing more hours when she’s older and guidance is a bit more meaningful to her?  Or worse, if I end up not achieving something meaningful with life will it set the precedence that the best life is one spent at home and not creating a better future for the world?  It seems absurd to hope that she can achieve great things that I don’t.  That’s actually controversial but great things don’t just happen.  It takes focus and dedication and work to create excellent output.  So at what level do you set the bar?

So again it forces the existential responsibility, my decisions about what life means create a prescription for humanity.  My actions and inactions alike create my concept of what a life could and should be.  Maybe it’s a bit simpler to look at what life could and should be.  I enjoy knowing how to do many interesting things.  I enjoy making meaningful contributions to other lives and am constantly working on how to do so with more efficiency and talent.  I have always wanted to be an excellent parent and that requires thought, sensitivity, principals, and setting a good example.  So what is the career equivalent?  How does one balance the ability to produce and actual production?

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