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Reflections on turning 40.
I’m turning 40, and I’m feeling reflective.
I’m writing this while sitting at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, waiting to board my flight back to the US. I’m traveling for work. I’m jet-lagged and tired, but I feel content. I’ll step back from writing about tinkering, creativity, technology, and philosophy and share my unconventional path and what has helped make it all possible.
A side note while editing: when I look over my thoughts below, none would be possible without the strong foundation built in my relationship with my wife, Sarah. We’re a team through and through, and for that, I feel fortunate.
Suppose you find someone to share your life with; invest the time and energy to hear them and truly be heard. It’s such a force multiplier for both of you. No matter what comes up, we’ve always got each other, and that has allowed us to take calculated risks over the years that have led us on paths neither of us could have imagined taking on our own. With the second law of thermodynamics, order (low entropy) will descend into chaos (high entropy) without effort to maintain order (external low entropy energy source). Cultivate and nourish this relationship. If you neglect them, they will break down over time; that’s how the universe works.
If I look back at my life from age 20 to 30, a few critical events set us on the trajectory we are on today. These are:
That — I’d married my high-school sweetheart. We were still in college. We had no money. Looking back, it seems we were babies, but we didn’t feel like babies. It was a no-brainer then and is still a no-brainer now.
That — I’d earn a BA in Theatre (with a focus on Design and Technology). Though I never used it directly, its emphasis on cross-functional collaboration, working under constraints and deadlines, and performing primary source research prepared me for the startup world in a way I couldn’t have imagined otherwise.
That — I’d pivoted to working in IT with the encouragement of my wife. I knew instantly that working in tech was where I wanted to be. It just felt right. I feel very fortunate that a small business IT consultant in Baton Rouge took a risk hiring me; I flourished, which changed the trajectory of my life.
That — I’d run my own IT consultancy in Austin, which would allow me to work with over 100 companies in Austin, and this would put me on a path to becoming an expert in cloud computing. This would never have been possible if I didn’t have stability through Sarah to afford me to take this risk. Getting my first clients took me almost six months, but after that, I never had any shortage of work.
I’d never guessed where life would have led from 30 to 40.
That — I’d be a dad. That we’d be parents. That our kid would already be eight years old. Rearing a child has introduced me to a form of love I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. I don’t think you must experience parenthood to have a rich and fulfilling life, but I don’t think there is a replacement for the unique experience of parenthood. It has taught me a lot about myself. I take myself less seriously and strive to be the least-worst version of myself. Kids model what you do, good or bad.
That — the bet I made on going all-in on cloud computing in 2012 would pay off so well, and I would fall in love with working in early and mid-stage startups. Because of this, I’ve had the opportunity to continuously grow my skills while working with amazing people on interesting problems.
That — We’d sell our house and most of our stuff and move to Costa Rica for three years with a small child. (and it would be a significant, life-changing experience for all of us).
That — Sarah would go back to school and earn her Masters in Analytics from Georgia Tech, and she’d be amazing in her new field (well, the second masters is the surprising part; her being amazing in what she sets her mind to is never surprising).
That — I’d copy-cat her after she finished and started my Masters in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. I’m not finished yet, but I expect to graduate next spring. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s also been gratifying.
That — We’d end up in Colorado, a solid home base for this phase of our lives.
While past performance does not indicate future results, I look forward to my 40s. I’m excited to see what happens over the next ten years. While I have no idea what surprises might come, I’m confident in what won’t change. The combination of a willingness to try new things, learning and growing as I go, and the foundation of a supportive family has been a cornerstone of the last 20 years (in truth, I’ve always had a supportive family, both the one I was born into and the one I’ve formed with Sarah, and again, I feel very fortunate for that).
I don’t see that changing anytime soon.