Sep 25 2008
Since I also blog a lot about IT topics here, I feel compelled to translate a few bits of the first part of this article to the technology sector. If you are not working in IT, then this part might not be as interesting for you as the first one, although it’s probably the same in any other business; you only need to exchange the buzzwords.
In IT, you consistently have to choose and learn new technologies if you want to survive in the rat race, and I think you should always question your own decisions about the technologies that you choose and about the next stuff that you are going to learn. Your emotions define you and make you a human being, so I don’t think that rationalizing decisions is a good thing. You should feel good with your decisions. You should feel yourself in what you are doing. A decision that looks great in an Excel sheet is not worth the paper it is printed on when you’re agonized by stomachaches on your way to work.
Let’s have a look at a few popular things in the IT world.
Let’s imagine you have to pick a new programming language. For example, would you want to learn Java because you are really interested in it or would you be learning it because it is listed in so many job ads, meaning you would choose it because seemingly everybody else has already chosen it?
If you are leaning towards following the Java route, why do you think Java is so popular? Is it because it is really that good and that’s why all the geeks are running towards it in hordes? Or is it because all those pointy-haired bosses from the Dilbert cartoons (who don’t know shit about technology) have selected this technology because some external consultants – sometimes also known as marketing people who sell their soul to the highest bidder – have told them that Java is a safe choice because everybody else is also using it and that therefor they should impose it on their development teams?
In case you are not sure what the answer is, just take a second and think about why almost nobody uses Java for their pet projects at home. Java has always been available free of charge, but it doesn’t seem to reach people’s hearts. It was designed with the corporate world in mind, and not for the people who actually have to use it.
When you have to pick a new server platform, you can ask yourself similar things about Windows and Linux servers, for example. Many people are very vocal about their belief that Linux is more cost-effective than Windows because it is ‘Free Software’ and that it is ‘better’ because it is ‘open source’. It has become very chic to bash Windows and evangelize Linux instead. Everybody in IT is doing it. Unlike Java and Windows, Linux obviously reaches the hearts of certain people quite easily.
The funny thing for me about this is that in my self-gained experience (where most lessons are usually learned the hard way), it has always taken me much longer to get a Linux system or network fully running than a Windows machine or Window-based network. With Linux, you have to fight with much more hardware incompatibilities and tons of user-unfriendly software and configuration utilities and poor documentation than people would ever tolerate in the Windows world where you shelf out money and expect things to work.
Still, the brain-washing machinery will tell you exactly the opposite and how much more complicated and restrictive everything in Windows supposedly is and that no Windows installation works without millions of additional drivers that need to be installed separately. Well, when you use a ten year old Windows CD, that might even be half-way true. But again, in my experience, the few bucks that a Windows license costs are well spent, because I do not believe that my time is free and I always got everything working much quicker on a Windows system than on a Linux box. As a side note, a FreeBSD installation usually is also done much quicker in my experience than a Linux setup, and I’ve installed many more Linux systems than FreeBSD boxes.
The only difference between this debate and the Java debate is that this time it’s not the pointy-haired boss that has been brainwashed by a marketing department who’s proclaiming the bullshit. Here it’s the geeks who have been brainwashed by the deceptive promises of ‘openness’ and ‘freedom’ that were given to them by some widely respected “Übergeeks”. The fact that you actually have to be a ‘real’ geek to master Linux and to gain some benefit from it makes the system also very attractive to its audience; it’s a bit like the middle ages where you had to be fluent in Latin to be able to follow a theological discussion.
So this is not really about an operating system or a technology platform. It’s about meeting the standard’s of a certain crowd and becoming accepted before they allow you to play with them. You have to share their mindset, speak their slang, play with the same toys as they do and you must be on a mission to ‘convert’ others to ‘their’ platform. To make it short: First become brainwashed yourself, then go and brainwash others.
I don’t know about you, but this could never be my choice.
Staying with the examples above, the question you should ask yourself is “will it add more quality to your life or make you a happier person to learn Java and Linux?”
Sure, especially with Java there is a buck to be made. But being where everybody else is also means a lot of competition and that normally presses the hourly wages down. If it’s money you’re interested in, then you can actually make more when you find a niche that is in some demand but no longer served by anybody. Like COBOL on mainframes, for example. Nobody’s learning COBOL anymore, but millions of code lines have been written in that language and they are still being used every day. You don’t think that’s attractive? Well, then tell me why Java and Linux are attractive except for that you have been brainwashed and bought into the shallow hype?
But should money be a factor in your decision in the first place? If you allow money to be a driving force in your decision making process, doesn’t that make you a simply structured, predictable machine that can easily be manipulated?
Where are you in all that?
Learning can be fun, but it can also be a strenuous, nightmarish effort. Especially when money is the only motivation why you are doing it. Fun should be your motivation. But things are only fun when you yourself are involved; when it’s about you, not about some externally induced motivation.
I have wasted a lot of my life time playing catch-up with all the buzzwords that you can read in the job ads. As a matter of fact, I am still wasting too much of my limited life time on that shit. The brainwashing sits deep, and its simple message is: When you want to make a living, you have to do what we tell you. And there’s a LOT that we are telling you. Not because we actually need it, but because it makes you feel unworthy of this job and thus you will work for us for less.
I could now start with another long text about whether we are meant to be employees or if we should be self-employed and not have a boss other than ourselves in our lives. Although this is another brainwashing against which I am still fighting (the one that tells me that I am a worker drone), I firmly believe the latter (that I was not born to be an employee).
Once you accept that you should not be an employee anymore, you’ll soon realize that you don’t have to go where the job ads want to have you. It’s no longer about them. Now it’s only about yourself.
Why would you want to waste your time with that popular curly braces language when one of the many non-curly braces languages feels more natural to you and will make you magnitudes more effective and productive?
Why would you want to burn your time on things that do not talk to your heart? Here’s a simple statement: Everything that’s not relatively easy to grasp does not speak to you and, in all probability, is not meant for you. When you feel a lot of resistance inside yourself, you are betting on the wrong horse. Things that speak to you might still be hard to learn. But you won’t feel that resistance when you spend your time on them.
I’m convinced that our subconscious mind knows much better what we actually want than we are willing to realize.
As much as you can feel when something’s wrong for you, you will also feel when something’s right.
The Klingons from Star Trek have a saying “always follow your instincts”.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where most people have forgotten how to do that and nobody is around anymore who can teach us how to listen to our instincts, sometimes and more colloquial also known as stomach-feelings. In fact, we usually are being raised to ignore those feelings and to rationalize everything. Which, as I’ve basically said before, probably is the safest path to unhappiness.
But we should listen to our feelings and follow our instincts. They know who we are and what we really want.
Don’t rationalize. Choose what feels right for you.