Just the other night I was watching a video of a live music performance on YouTube of my favourite band of all time Manic Street Preachers. While watching I observed how young they looked in the video. It then struck me how I remember the era when the video was recorded as if it were yesterday. The only problem is that it was nearly 13 years ago!
I’m pretty sure that I had many more ambitions and hopes back then – I would have been around 18-19 at the time. Certainly over the years my hopes and ambitions have changed. For better or for worse? I’m not sure.
There are things that I knew I really wanted. One of them was to attended university, my parents never forced me into this, I simply wanted to go (I was the first person in my family to do so). During my 4 years at uni I became certain that I wanted to do a PhD. However, by the end of my 4th year, the only real post-graduate opportunity was at the University of Bath, and I wasn’t really interested in moving. As a result, I ended up taking a job at OKI. The week after accepting the job, I was contacted by someone at a local children’s hospital about an opportunity to undertake research for a PhD in 3D modelling of the eye for the early detection of certain diseases in children. I turned it down. I thought to accept it would be unfair on my new employer.
After working at OKI for a year I moved on to work with at Cisco Systems. Eventually after 3 years at Cisco (the last year being pretty miserable, but I was kind of holding out for a possible redundancy payment) I got made redundant. As it happens, just before I got made redundant, I had applied for a PhD position in the area of algorithms, and was fortunate enough to have been accepted (I ended up obtaining a really great supervisor and was glad I held off). So not only did I get a pay off as part of my redundancy, I also had been accepted for my PhD prior to being made officially redundant. Sweet. Persistence pays off.
So, why the life story I hear you all say. Well, it was basically to illustrate the point that if you want something, you really need to go and get it. During my time at OKI and Cisco I had become stale – you just settle in and accept what is coming to you. It was rare when I tried to force what I wanted in those jobs – and in actual fact when you did, you were usually met with resistance. When you meet this resistance to ideas it is probably the time to move on. In large companies you have too many people protecting their own jobs.
Now, what exactly is the relationship between what I’m saying and the music video? Well if the band in the music video has aged that much, then I have to – despite the fact that it doesn’t quite feel like I have! And I think the older you get the less likely you are to make bold moves in your life. But you shouldn’t let this happen. You should always have goals, if you don’t believe me, believe Seth Godin.
I often find myself writing/talking about poor management and poor working conditions. However, it’s not just me, with the increase in the number of blogs and social network sites, people are finding it easier than ever to express their opinion. It’s not too difficult to find people saying: “I need two monitors and a Herman Millar chair”, and “My manager doesn’t have a clue how to do his job”. The thing is, many will be like me, that is, they have never been a manager and never owned a company. Both myself and others have a total barefaced cheek to criticize something we have no experience of, but it also shouldn’t stop us.
So, this brings me round to my point. If we are going to complain about, our managers, our co-workers, or the company we work for, then maybe we should get off our arses and do something. Stop sitting about telling people how things should be done or moaning that nobody listens. The cost of doing something for yourself these days in minimal, so if we all really believe that we can do things better then do something about it. This is what moves society and technology forward.
Not everyone is going to read this and think “Yeah let’s do it”. You will have the folk who say “It’ll never work”. You just have to ensure that you don’t surround yourself with these people – I’m not saying ignore advice here, as you may genuinely be exploring something that is never going to work, but ignore advice from those who say a lot but do very little. It will be the same folk that say “He was just lucky with that business”, or “I could have done that”. Their procrastine nature will only dampen your enthusiasm.
Surely there can’t be a person who is happy to live in mediocrity? The only glowing benefit of Capitalism (and it’s the one that allows it to beat all other systems into the ground) is that it promotes the bettering of oneself and in turn society in general. It’s easy to mistake Capitalism for greed, but they are two different things. So if you find yourself hit by the credit crunch and unable to find work, moaning about your job, or moaning about how everyone else appears to be making all the money, stop it and try to do something positive. I’m not the only one saying this. The legendary Paul Graham wrote and essay about it and many people who own their own software companies are saying sales are as strong as ever.
Just remember “Libraries gave us power, and then work came and made us free”.