April 9, 2006

Drive wanted...

i am not driven by money. i'm not. the funny thing is, i just realized this a few weeks ago. how does one go about determining that he is not driven by money? well, a couple of months ago, i was talking with phil (about a bunch of random topics) and he said something to me that was particularly sticky. i'll paraphrase:
'i have these two conflicting desires. one is to do something good for society and make a real positive difference. to really help people. the other... the other is to drive a maserati. and i *really* want both of them.'

and he meant it. this is by no means a critique on phil and his desire to own a maserati. after all, somebody builds maseratis, meaning that it is perfectly reasonable for someone to dream about buying one. what's wrong with that? i have often gazed longingly at a beautiful piece of machinery like a ferrari or audibly wondered, "how'd he get that fing thing to BUMP that loud?" i wouldn't mind owning a maserati someday, but having one doesn't drive me as a person. i actually find that unfortunate because it'd be pretty frickin' easy if i could fulfill myself by owning a tricked out 2006 bmw m5.

whew. figured that out. IT is not money. so what is IT? and here is the difficult part, as i've spent the last three months asking this exact question of myself. i went through several iterations of thinking about this and got nowhere.

i thought long and hard about professional sports. after all, i know more about sports than just about anyone i know. i have strong opinions about sports about on-the-field issues, management decisions, and philosophical (chuck klosterman) levels. what better role than to implant myself into the sports world? however, in addition to realizing that whoring myself out to professional sports is harder than it sounds, i realized that i would inherently detest the business of professional sports (or at least i think i would). and there was just something "missing" about it. so scratch that.

what else do i love? well, i love poker. i enjoy playing it when i can. i've made a really solid chunk of money playing it in the last few years. i enjoy talking and thinking about the games. maybe i should go do that for a living? then i thought back to a conversation i had with a local pro at mirage in november. we had been sitting at a 2-5 NL table for most of the day and had progressively built up some sizeable stacks. he asked me whether i was 'local,' implying a local pro. i told him i wasn't but i had thought about becoming one. he told me that he had been paying the bills by playing at the mirage for about four months:

"it's much more of a grind than i ever thought it would be. when i take a big loss, it's no longer just feeling like shit. it's actual worry about where my rent will come from next month. when i book a big win, it's more like relief than excitement."

hmm, not exactly a ringing endorsement for being a professional poker player. i think i also realized that playing poker for a living would never fulfill me deep down. i would always feel that i was missing something. 'missing what,' you ask?

the answer came to me last week at work. i had been assigned to handle product management duties for a quick (almost emergency) project. it involved elements of interaction design, usability design, information presentation, and infrastructural understanding (ambiguous i know, but can't really talk about it). because it was such a quick project, we were freed to some degree from the usual constraints of product design at a gargantuan software company, with all of its restrictive technologies and processes. it was product management without the over-management. it was product. i loved it.

for the first time in several months, i felt excited about my work. i made concerted design decisions and spent all day thinking about my users. i debated for an hour about whether there should be a line break in a certain place and obsessed about font/icon colors. it made understand that "missing" feeling was when i thought about playing poker for a living: the challenge, excitement, and sense of pride in building a product. it's what i wanted to do in the first place and it's why i chose product management (over consulting or more technical roles). now i just need to find a place where i can really get that feeling every day. search in process.


At 4/11/2006 01:33:00 PM, Anonymous king said...

um, thanks jack. I'm pretty sure you mentioned something like this in a previous post, but good to know you've figured it out. Holla

At 4/11/2006 04:03:00 PM, Blogger half & half said...

well, to clarify, the maserati isn't so much the destination or goal, as it is the journey to that destination or goal...wait, no, that came out all wrong; it really just is about the maserati.


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