A Comfortable Couch

Friday, October 15, 2004

Moving to Charlotte

So now the house is officially off the market. We close on November 3rd. I'm very relieved, for the first time I feel like I can relax and take a break. A break from worrying.

In the past couple of weeks I've felt a kind of grieving for everything I'm leaving behind: all my colleagues and friends, the area, my house and a good paying career. I feel a sense of loss from going from a place with lots of software and technology companies to Charlotte, a place known for its banking industry. I kind of worry that if things don't work out with my plans, then I'll be forced to get some programming job in a bank IT department where I'm surrounded by corporate drones and I have to fill out paperwork to take a leak. I'd rather work construction than take a job like that.

But now I'm feeling very optimistic now about the move and about Couch. I'm really optimistic that I might be able to actually build this thing and have it be successful and live the kind I life I want.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this is because I didn't want to spend much time away from home. I want to be able to see my wife and daughter a lot, and working long hours at an office just won't cut it. I want it all: family, career and time.

Have you ever seen somebody who has some cool job, like bike builder or stunt pilot and wonder how they got that job? I have a theory. I call it the juggler's theory. The theory as follows:

If you want to learn to juggle, just start juggling.

I know its sounds obvious, but let me explain.

At Kubi Ned kept juggle balls on his desk. Ned used to ask hire candidates if they could juggle, just to see what they would say. The best response he got was from a QE candidate that Kubi did hire. When asked if she could juggle, she replied "I don't know I've never tried". Isn't that the best response ever? Ned gave her the balls and she tried to juggle them, with predictable results, they went everywhere. But I digress.

Anyway, Ned is a pretty good juggler. I hated Ned for that. I hated people that can juggle, because I couldn't juggle, just like I hate people who can whistle because I can't whistle either.* I had to work fairly closely with Ned, so obviously I didn't want to hate him, that would suck. I figured maybe if I could learn to juggle we could be friends.

So I tried to learn to juggle. I tried starting out with two balls. But the leap to three balls was much larger. I tied to watch how Ned juggled and carefully make my hands do the exact same thing. I intently concentrated on each throw, the movements and timing of each hand to get the balls to go where they're supposed to. I could do it for a few throws, but I always got out of control and lost it. I was horrible. I did this off and on for months, occasionaly picking up the balls and trying to learn to juggle them, never getting past a few throws.

Then one day, I was doing an imitation of Ned juggling (I do one heck of a Ned). And suddenly I was juggling much better! Instead of worrying so much about actually juggling, I concentrated on the big picture of what it was like to be a juggler.

I just stopped being so concerned about what my hands were doing and instead I just sort moving my hands in a circle. It's a very wax-on wax-off kind of movement. What really surprised me was how even though I wasn't concentrating on the balls, they mostly did what they were supposed to do. Instead of being concerned so much about getting every aspect right, I just started doing what it looked like other jugglers do. I simply acted like I was a juggler and then I was a juggler. Wow. Once I had the overall movements down I could fine tune them and become more proficient.

So maybe that's how you get to do cool things, you stop worrying about getting every part right, and just start doing it. Just start doing the things that someone who does what you want to do does. Got that? The best way to become a painter is paint. The best way to become a guy who builds cool things is to build cool things. Maybe you'll suck horribly at first, but you'll learn from your mistakes. Keep on going and eventually you won't suck, eventually you'll be good.

So what started me down this whole path? I was thinking about some interesting technologies like the Google file system and how cool it is to work on something like that. I thought about how I could get to work on something like that. Then I started to think about not just what kind of job I want, but what kind of lifestyle I want to live.

I thought really hard about it. I just had a baby girl and I really want to spend time with her and my wife. But I also want to work on cool stuff and be productive.

So that's when it hits me, there are people who build open source software, they work on cool things that interest them and yet they find a way to make a living. So my goal is to be a guy who works on interesting things, works very flexible hours, sees his family a lot, and makes a comfortable living. But like my juggling theory, if I worry about getting everything right, I'll never get there. I need to just start doing it.

So even though I don't know how everything will play out, I feel like as long as I follow my heart I can make it work. Sometimes that seems unrealistic, maybe it is. But it feels better then any other path I can take right now, it feels like the right thing to do.

*It's true, I can't fucking whistle. I suck.


Ned Batchelder said...

You go, girl!

7:53 AMlink  
Anonymous said...

Well, *there's* your problem, Damien...

When you whistle, you're not supposed to suck. You're supposed to blow. :-)

6:28 PMlink  
Liz said...

Amen to that Damien. I hope you plan on instilling that attitude in your little girl - that will be what makes you a great parent. I admire your courage and chutzpah and wish you much luck and success. And shit, you'll avoid the nasty winters we have up here!

And isn't it incredible - that one line from an circa 1980's movie, "The Karate Kid" - has taken on a life of it's own?!

7:16 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

Great juggling theory! I rock climb, and when I get into a tough spot, I try to relax and...(this is the goofy bit)... I make believe I'm a ninja. Goofy, but it works amazingly well. Major focus and confidence boost. (Not that I don't get schooled by any ten-year-old on the rock, but hey...)

7:13 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

Wierd, I have no idea how I wandered onto this site. I am Moving to Charlotte at the end of this month, after turning down an extremely lucrative offer to relocate with my job to NY or CA. WHy? Because it's close to the blue ridge parkway--great motorcycle riding. Because it's close to my mother. Because its closer than a live now to the beach. Because I've heard and read thats it has historical appeal and that its beautiful. Because its growing, so, as to career, its as good a place as any to start over. Beyond that, I'm not sure what exactly lies ahead. The house just went on the market two weeks ago, but we are moving in two months no matter what. The juggling story was great affirmation for my plan. Thanks.

11:19 PMlink  

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