#13 Existential


I keep looking at the word. Looking up the definition.

“Grounded in existence or the experience of existence, having being in time and space.”

I sit at a desk in my childhood room. Back on the farm again, for a week. Processing.

The last sixteen months…what a ride. Walking away from a secure, comfortable job. It seems so long ago polos and golf outings were a thing, weekly meetings that lasted hours and got seconds of work done. Feeling trapped in an office, trapped in a truck, trapped at someone’s kitchen table.

I genuinely miss my customers and co-workers, for nothing else but the fact that we all shared in the grind. Serving time together. It’s a far cry from Victor Frankel’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”, but at times it felt quite close. I became so disenchanted with the business model, the sales campaigns, the marketing pushes.

There was a point at which we rolled out a new product that was, quite honestly, utter dogshit. It didn’t do what it was advertised to do. It barely did anything other than force a decision. All the folks like me, the ones whose reputations and integrity were constantly up for review by customers, we had to decide whether or not to push it. I’d had previous experience with a tech start-up that rolled out a product that was a shell of what they sold it as, and those lessons cut deep.

This went on for almost two years. Lots of “ra-ra” meetings, fancy marketing materials, incentives to get people signed on, and constant pushes from middle management, who was being pushed by upper middle management, who was blind to truth that the thing simply didn’t work but had upper management to impress.

Turns out it takes very little to impress upper management. Throw double-digit millions of dollars at everything but the issue, compromise the entire customer-facing workforce, and leave a sour taste in trusting customer’s mouths…and then dump it.

“Fail fast” they call it, and I remember the self-congratulatory email that went out when the whole product was shit-canned. Pats on the back all-around for giving it the good ole college try, an obligatory sentence on valuable lessons “learned”, and announcing promotions of those involved at the core level. Oh, by the way – don’t forget to let the folks know that thing they were convinced to buy, spent hours trying to make work only to find it was basically a box with no bottom, and heard monthly promises of “what’s to come” – don’t forget to let them know it’s over. And by the way, here’s the new “promotion”.

I’m involved with software engineering now, and I don’t envy the team that tried to create the product. It would have been difficult I imagine, having learnt a bit of the complexity. Nor do I blame anyone involved – just the way things go. Nothing justifies middle management more than motion, regardless of direction.

But I’m working for myself now, and I’ve become intimately aware of my own standards, and those of people I work with. I heard a quote, whose attribution I forgot, but it’s prescient:

“You can spend two months building something and years trying to market it. Or you can spend two years building something, and your customers will market it for you for the rest of your life”

– unknown

Of course the time is irrelevant, but the point remains. Don’t half-ass something when you can whole-ass it. There’s no such thing as a “half-finished” job. It either is or it isn’t. It works or it doesn’t.

There’s a very stark reality change to setting out on your own. You’re used to checking off other people’s checklists, groaning about the absurdity but grunting through it.

When you become the person assigning yourself tasks to check off, you do the same! “This is f&%$ing stupid, waste of my time, not worth it.” And the truth is – you’re wrong.

It’s worth it, doing dumb shit and then congratulating yourself on what you learned from the dumb shit, assuming you actually learn. And that’s the tough part, because corporations don’t learn. They just keep doing the same shit, day in, day out. Churning, “deepening relationships”, progressing. As such, you don’t need to learn to stay there. Just keep doin the same shit, day in, day out. Churn. Deepen relationships, progress.

The day comes when change is necessary, and damn is it painful. But with it comes growth.

“Growing pains”.


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