Sunday, February 24, 2013

The King

The interesting thing about growing up is that when you are younger you have no idea how the things you are doing and the person you are will create who you will become, but when you are old all of your personality quirks, oddities, and odysseys make sense. One of the biggest fallacies of college is that it assumes you know what you want to do with your life when you are eighteen. It's even worse in, say, England, where you pick A-levels at age 16. I've met very few people of any age who know what they want their future to be. People can make decisions about what classes sound interesting and what will help their careers, but declaring a major is almost always a challenge. I understand that colleges and universities have to have some organizational system, but if you think about majors too much your head starts to explode. I am a sophomore in college. My brother is 23 and has graduated. The two of us are remarkably similar to how we were as children, but when we were small I never would have been able to predict where we are today. I know my childhood self would be proud of the person I am right now. His would too. My third grade teacher was the best and convinced me unshakably that I was a writer. He has been an entrepreneur and programmer within my memory. This is me with a sign for one of his companies. As long as he has been creating companies I have been writing stories. So far, the children of my parents are doing fairly well.

Google and some of the other most innovative and successful companies in science and technology (Atlassian, LinkedIn, 3m) subscribe to "20 percent time" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9Y) which is the idea that eighty percent of an employee's time should be spent grinding away company tasks like putting cover sheets on TPS reports, coding log-in pages, arguing with managers, and other miscellaneous responsibilities, but in twenty percent of an employee's time they are allowed to do whatever creative project they want to do for the company. It works because people actually work harder when they have autonomy and are intrinsically motivated. Self-direction works really well. If you are interested in what you are doing you actually do it better. More than half of the new products that come out in a year from Google are imagined and worked on in twenty percent time. I want to do things that I think matter.

I hear pretty often that my majors are a bad choice. Sometimes the sentiment is less tactfully put and I'm told, "that's stupid," but it's what I want to do. It's what I've always wanted to do. Writers have the most powerful jobs in the universe. I'd be a great politician, but authors are the politicians' police. They are so powerful that Plato threw the poets out of the perfect society. He saw their truthtelling as dangerous and destabilizing, but sometimes society needs to be destabilized so it can grow. A King has nothing to fear but a poet and in some cases the King should be afraid. Sometimes they need to be questioned.

I was not born as a tourist. I am a citizen of this place, this Earth. I am not here just to watch my life and my world change. I am here to shape the lives of the people around me.The only way I know how to do that is through knowledge and information. Writers, teachers, and speakers expel that information so people can be more successful than they were when they met you. I don't have a clue what I'll be writing in the future, but I am fundamentally a wordsmith. Be it video games or the great American novel I need to get my message out because I have the right, as a citizen, to be heard.

I really would rather write books, become a motivational speaker, or, especially work for ArenaNet than just about anything else. Those things I can set as a Plan A, but I will always have to fight Plan B. The problem with Plan B is that it exists as a default future. Unless I put in remarkable effort none of my Plan As will happen. I will just revert to my Plan B, something that will make me happy and fulfilled, but not a genius or a threat. Teachers change the world of their students, but writers change the world of thousands. The dreamers are better off. If you don't set a Plan B your default future is wild success. Being practical often leads to a fulfilled life, but not a heroic life. I am still working on setting aside my Plan Bs and convincing others that I can be amazing, but at least I have a Plan A. At least I'm not still undecided. I know I'm a writer. I love words with their infinite meanings and the way they tell stories, build worlds, and help us to imagine issues complexly.

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