May 23 2011

This is the start of something cool

“This is the start of something cool.” How often do you really get to say that? Even if you’ve got a great job, something cool doesn’t come around every day. Something cool is elusive. It hides from you when you go looking for it, and pounces on your lab when you’re least prepared for it. Some people spend their whole lives chasing after something cool, constantly disappointed that they don’t find it. Everyone wants to work on something cool. Everyone.

Once something cool is in front of you, it grabs hold of your brain and refuses to let go. You’ll be eating a sandwich and thinking about how you should be working on something cool. You’ll have to learn all sorts of new things in order to make something cool work, and then you’ll have to learn even more when you discover that what you had already learned was not nearly enough. something cool will take longer than you ever thought it would. It’ll make you doubt your skills. It’ll make you regret ever getting started. something cool will keep you from getting to the gym. It’ll make you drink more high-fructose corn syrup. something cool will make you its bitch.

But something cool is worth it. When you’re done and you’ve got something cool sitting in front of you, you’ll marvel at the fact that you were able to make it a reality. You’ll think back to all the garbage you had to endure and it’ll make you feel like a super-hero. You’ll want to tell everyone you know about something cool, and they’ll pity you because they won’t understand or care about something cool the way you do.

I’ve been lucky enough to start something cool a couple times now, and what I’ve learned is this: the only difference between something cool and everything else is all in your head. something cool to you may not be something cool to anyone else, including the other members of your team. You decide what is and isn’t something cool. And sometimes you think you’re starting something cool and part way through you realize what you’re doing really isn’t. something cool is make-believe.

The truth is any project you start can be something cool. You just have to want it to be. You have to want to keep it on the tip of your brain. You have to want to learn as much as you can to make your project come to life. You have to be ready to engulf yourself in the project, in very unhealthy and probably self-destructive ways. Most importantly, you have to view the project after completion as a worthwhile accomplishment. If you feel like what you’re doing isn’t something cool, the problem isn’t the project, it’s you.

From now on every project I take on is going to be something cool.