May 23 2008
People usually advice me to do ‘the rational thing (R)(C)(TM)’ and to ignore what my feelings and my guts tell me. It always goes like ‘you should not do that, because then this will happen and that and pibadeebah and pibadeebuh’.
Too often, I took the advice and listened to them. The result never made me happy on the long run, and usually not even in the short term.
For example, one of the reasons why I did not go to movie school after I had finished the Gymnasium was because most of my family had told me that it was ‘a breadless art’. (The other reason was me, the boy from the small village near the Autobahn, being afraid of the big city. But that is another story to tell at another time.)
And if I had listened to one of my uncles, I would not even be in IT now, because back in the early 80s, in his opinion, computers were the same kind of ‘breadless art’ as movies or games. History and literature, which both interested me as well, were also deemed ‘breadless arts’. So where I come from, everything that I love was regarded as a worthless dream world.
By now you probably have already guessed that I grew up in a worker class environment. And in that very same world, even thinking about starting an own business was ditched as pure insanity: ‘All that we workers have is our work force, and that we need to sell at the highest possible price’, as my grandfather once said.
Since everybody disapproved of what I wanted while at the same time nobody gave me any real advice about where to go and what profession to choose, I was completely disoriented for years, and worked stupid jobs before I finally had the chance to make some money with writing some code for others. So I made some money with my computer, the formerly so-called ‘breadless art’.
I stumbled into that profession because it turned out that there was easy money to be made, not because I really loved writing boring business software. I enjoy working with computers and I do have a very strong affinity towards them, fair enough, and I really know how to do my job, but my true love is with the other ‘breadless arts’.
Deep inside me, I still think that computers are only there for games, and games are the closest thing to what I would call ‘complete art’ that we can create with the limited technological possibilities of our time. Games involve stories, graphics, music, and interaction. Interaction is where they are different from movies, which are the second greatest thing for me.
But so far, these things really have been rather breadless for me. Maybe that is only because I have spent my time hunting down the bread somewhere else and always have been too worried about my next income then about what is really important to me.
Lucky me that I have finally found a real partner in my life who believes in me and supports my ideas and dreams and is not trying to talk me out of them because they are a ‘breadless art’. So not everything is lost. I hope that you, my reader, will also find or have already found somebody in your life who supports your dreams.
Making up your own mind and decisions is the hard thing to do. I am an indecisive person when it comes to myself, but I have learned the lesson the hard way that you should not do what others tell you. And you certainly should not settle for anything that does not make you happy, just because it is ‘the rational thing’ to do. At the latest when you begin to develop daily stomachaches or dizziness and headaches, because you have listened to the good advice of others and walked down that path for much too long, you know that you are doing something very wrong with your life and that this ‘rational thing’ was not the right thing for you.
I have been working in jobs and companies that I loathed and despised, but some of them had the public image of being on the high end of the food chain and great places to be. In reality, they quickly turned out to be my personal forecourt to hell. I stayed there because of the prestige points my friends and family gave those employers, and because it was ‘the rational and safe and well paid thing’ to do. My roots and upbringing were triumphing over me.
But in the end, it was me who could not sleep anymore at night because of all the stress that I took home and that I was not able to leave on the desk, in my office, or somewhere else at work. It was me who was losing himself, not the nice folks who had given me their good advice. It took me much too long to realize what I was doing to myself. When I finally woke up, I decided to do the irrational, the unsafe: To quit, leave that life of somebody else behind and be myself again. If you are in a similar situation, get out before the first unhealthy symptoms appear.
We are not on this world to punish and agonize ourselves, but letting somebody else’s ideas rule your life will do exactly that to you.
‘Tyler Durden’ in the book and movie ‘Fight Club’ says it in easy to understand words: ‘We work jobs we hate to buy shit we don’t need.’ The simple message is that we shouldn’t.
The Japanese Samurai tried to follow the rule of deciding anything within three seconds and then follow the chosen path through to the end, so they would stay determined. This is different from making decisions ‘in the heart of the moment’, so don’t mistake one with the other. When we have put up with our own self-torture for too long, we easily become tempted to let our anger, fear or any other strong emotion of the moment take control. Don’t. Calm down first and wait for the dust to settle a bit.
And then, when you can focus again, listen to your heart, inner voice, guts or whatever you want to call your intuition. They are the only ones that know what is right for you.
Do not listen to this blog, your colleagues, neighbors, friends, family or lovers. Listen only to what your inner self is telling you and be true to yourself.
Do the hardest thing that you can do: Be yourself.