Many developers out there want to create their own work, and have it become the “next big thing”. Who doesn’t want to be a founder of a successful Silicon Valley startup? Even at a young age we are exposed to images and symbols of entrepreneurship; for instance, the stereotypical kid business, a lemonade stand. I think it is reasonable to say that we are programmed to believe we need to make an enduring contribution to our society. As a result, there is an ongoing struggle to “prove” ourselves to others and ultimately, ourselves.
Asian kid: You think we’ll get As if we keep drinking this lemonade?
White kid: Yeah, we’ll get that and a Rhodes Scholarship!
The education system also does a good job of perpetuating this attitude. Often you will hear (or are led to believe), “If you work hard enough and get decent grades, you will be able to attain your goals in adulthood”. Of course any Wikipedia search will show you that there are have been plenty of people who have excelled without completing formal schooling. Growing up, I would always wonder how I would “make it” in life. Would I do really well in school, graduate eventually with a degree of some sort, and land THE dream job? Or would I create a startup or business and eventually go on to make millions of dollars?
Now I realize that these questions are extremely naive. There is too much focus on succeeding but no focus on why succeed? Seriously, I ask myself this everyday! Many of my developer peers are knee-deep in some kind of startup project. Only a small handful of them will truly see their project through – make it a meaningful one, a passion project. I am surrounded by many startup and media incubators at my school and in the community. There always seems like there is pressure be a part of one and create the next viral wonder.
It just feels like the “success machine” is on steroids and producing more than it can handle. How do you know that your project is something you are truly passionate about or if it’s just another résumé stocking-stuffer? As a result, I am very reluctant when I select development projects. Many developers put immense pressure on themselves to be original and “innovative”. In my opinion, that type of stress is only worth it if you’re having fun along the way.
Maybe you have to be a risk-taker? Fumble around with dummy projects until the best one emerges! The best one may never be “successful”; win awards, get huge recognition, etc. But somehow, you are fully invested in it. Then you’re in luck, you have found a passion project.
What constitutes as a passion project? Do you have to eradicate world poverty? Can it be a new social network? I think it boils down to YOU – what reflects your individuality. You could be the most morally repugnant person and have a passion project. This project could already exist, but that’s perfectly fine. We put so much pressure on ourselves to “save the world” that we either: fear being ourselves and doing what we love OR out-do ourselves by taking on too much and caring too much about what others think. It’s the people who do neither who make it out alright (well at least, I like to believe).
Now, to find mine… *Sigh*