The Answer

I’m 42 today (hint, hint), which would be a thoroughly unremarkable fact were it not for Douglas Adams.

It shouldn’t be surprising that so far I’ve been unable to divine any kind of pattern (or even overall purpose) to Life, the Universe and Everything other than what is immediately apparent, or that I’ve had no more success in anticipating the twists and turns of the tech industry than most, so that’s clearly off the table today.

But thanks to Douglas this date is somewhat more significant than my last major milestone, which probably explains why I feel driven to impart a few words of wisdom (or at least make a credible effort at doing so) rather than wax lyrical about age, kids, and a Restaurant (with capital R) at the ass-end of the continuum.

I like to think that there is, in fact, an Answer (with corresponding capital A), but that it is, in and by itself, the whole nine yards of the lengthy and insanely untidy process of living.

And, as such, that we’ll eventually get it, although I certainly hope it will be a long time in the future and that we’ll thoroughly enjoy figuring it out by dint of using our wit and (optimistically) that of those around us, regardless of whether or not they’re small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri1.

So, without further ado:

  • Do not rely solely on your past experience to make decisions. Instead, make sure you’re on the ball and can shift direction on a dime (having backup strategies is good, but will never beat inspired improvisation).
  • Work with people that humble you. Not just for the continued challenge, but also for the learning experience. And I don’t mean that in a purely technical way. In the same vein, make sure you get your nose dirty from time to time with some drudge work so that you know what you’re demanding of your team.
  • Be wary of dogma. Anything or anyone too set in their ways will eventually find themselves stuck when change is required, and even if it’s not you, they might well tie you down in unforeseen ways.
  • Whenever you meet someone who succeeded by way of a brilliant idea, look around for the guy who put his back into getting it to market. They are not always the same person, and the latter has more to teach (You can’t learn innovation/inspiration – it has to come into its own – but you can learn how to turn it into effective reality when it happens).
  • And, finally, never stop tinkering. The day you stop learning new things is the day you start dying – if not physically, then at least in spirit.

Carpe diem.

  1. Truth be told that small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri tend to be rather more fascinating than large furry creatures from Earth, except those who grok UNIX – at least they have an excuse (and a reputation to hold). ↩︎