January 21st, 2005


Another excellent essay by Paul Graham

I just finished reading What You'll Wish You'd Known, which got posted to Slashdot today. It's directed at high school students, but it covers a lot of topics of more general relevance, such as: how to decide what to do with your life, how to avoid feeling bored, how to choose personal projects, how to do great things.

Here's a choice quote:

If I had to go through high school again, I'd treat it like a day job. I don't mean that I'd slack in school. Working at something as a day job doesn't mean doing it badly. It means not being defined by it. I mean I wouldn't think of myself as a high school student, just as a musician with a day job as a waiter doesn't think of himself as a waiter. [3] And when I wasn't working at my day job I'd start trying to do real work.

I like Graham's idea of what it means to do something as a day job. Oddly enough, I feel like I had the whole "day job" idea figured out when I was in school. I went to classes and got my work done, but in every spare moment I was working on "real work" projects of my own--like writing music, learning to program, and piping audio signals through the dorm's unused ethernet ports. Those projects were more richly rewarding than anything in school, and the audio/ethernet project even helped me get my first job.

Nowadays, I have a job that I really like, and I even find myself working on it when I'm at home. I think I've forgotten a lot of the benefits of taking the "day job" attitude. My biggest outside projects in the last five years have been learning the guitar and getting better at juggling. Those have been great fun, but they're not enough. Maybe Graham's essay can help rekindle my inspiration.
  • Current Mood