Reading Paul Graham's comment on Bronnie Ware's post about the regrets of the dying I was struck by his advice "don't be a cog". For all his great articles and advice, I can't disagree with this more. We're all cogs of one sort or another; the advice should be to "become a happy cog".
I respect the Hacker news community; it is composed of smart people with the gumption to follow Bronnie Ware's advice to live life taking risks and chasing dreams, but I find the community a little too pleased with itself for having done so. If you don't work for a boss, you work for your users, or possibly your investors. You may have an enviable role in the machine, you may even be a big cog, but you are a cog, and if you aren't a happy cog then that is a shame.
Look at this, it is the last post of a blogger about to succumb to cancer. With death approaching he has focussed on the subject most important to him - his family. It is the most coglike and genetically predetermined role a human being can play, but despite the well-lived life described elsewhere on his website, his family is the only subject worthy of his final thousand words. At the end of the post, with his words about to run out, he seems incapable of thinking of anything else, and he is driven to discard even full sentences as he scrambles to express his love for his family.
The moral I take from Bronnie Ware's article is that we have a choice between being happy and being sad. It is never presented as such, it manifests as a long string of minor choices between doing what we want to do, and what we are "supposed" to do. We should choose aspirations over convention, and we should never postpone our dreams lest we be writing our last blogpost sooner than we think.
I've never worked for anybody. I hope never to do so. I like to call myself an entrepreneur, if only of the most junior grade, and I am as addicted to building cool technologies as anyone in the Hacker News faithful. I am not criticising the lifestyle or the goals, but the dissatisfaction that drives us to create great products is a part of our lives, and without care one can peg one's happiness to the same unattainable goalposts of perfection that one should use when developing a product. Do not confuse living the life your investors want you to live with living the life you want to live.
Anyhow, I will set aside these philosophical ponderings for now because this cog has an iPad Lisp editor to perfect. Drag and drop is coming in this week's update, and Clojure will follow soon after.
Posted on 23 Apr 2012
Slide to code blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://slidetocode.com/blog/.