October 20, 2012

My Reminder

This is a reminder. A reminder for myself to always come back to when I’m facing a difficult decision about what I want to do with this life. Time is short – none of us are long for this world. The time we are given is just but a tiny sliver of all human history – past, present, and future. The key is to make the most of this time. Of course making the most of time is both a relative and subjective goal.

One thing I feel I have learned during these 21 years of life is that we all have at least one or many unique/natural abilities. Not all of us have discovered what that is yet, but I believe most people are searching. All of these abilities are important – never forget this. Whether that ability is designing 3D models in CAD, growing a garden, raising a child, or just making others laugh. Have you ever stopped to think that even just your presence as a person can make such a positive impact on your friends or others?

I believe myself to be a “maker” at heart. I love software, hardware, and the combination of both that produce meaningful outcomes. I’ve launched my fair share of websites, built “cool” gadgets, and even tried to launch a new social media app. That last one was a failure by the way. A failure that has had such a major and positive impact on my life.

I love the idea of failure. Knowing how to lose is crucial. Although I never became particularly skilled at skateboarding, I believe it to be a great analogy for failure. One of the first things I was taught when learning was how to fall. You learn this because you will fall A LOT. You can’t expect to get on a skateboard and land each trick the first try you attempt it. Only through the process of understanding exactly what you’re doing wrong can you correct yourself. As with just about any skill I’ve attempted to pick up, I find the same exact concept applies.

Another area I’ve been thinking a lot about as well has been focus. I believe my generation suffers greatly from a lack of this. It definitely shows through in all areas of my life, whether that be writing music or developing software. It’s all about being able to deliver. To see something through to the end. Even if that something is rough around the edges, finished is ALWAYS better than perfect. Of course you strive for the best that can be achieved, but getting so caught up in the details that the end goal becomes out of sight is useless. To me, simple completed projects are immensely more impressive than complex half completed projects.

Back to this failed social media app. I teamed up with a few other buddies I met in college to try to build a next generation chat/link sharing website. At the time it felt like the most important thing in my life. 8-10 hours of coding a day and the project never left my mind. My buddies and I ended up in silicon valley for a week to work with another startup company. While out there I had a major realization; so many smart people are pouring so much energy into projects that were more or less incremental improvements on social media sites, music playback, and mobile games. All very cool stuff, for sure. But is this really what we need to be focusing on as a society? It began to hit me that I was no different than all of the others just trying to build something cool without the thought of how it fits into the grand scheme of things. We ended up canning the project shortly after this trip; mostly due to a lack of being able to define the real problem we were solving.

I’m down to my last several months of college and time is quickly running out before my structured life comes to an end. It’s required me to think a lot about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I keep coming back to the same conclusion: I want to change this world for the better. There’s that tricky word again: better. Tying this back in with the unique ability thoughts from above, my answer to this is to link my personal skill set with what I believe are some fundamental issues that we face as a society. Just looking at my notepad, I’ve written down energy production, crime, food supply, and space colonization. I’m sure my skills and this list with both change with time, but it’s important to think about both of these things. To think about what really matters and how to be most effective at solving those things.

© Eric Barch 2023