If you’re lucky in your life

For as long as I’ve worked, I’ve worked hard. I reckon anyway.

You have to learn how to do it. If you’re lucky in your life, you’ll find yourself at some stage surrounded by extraordinarily driven people who found their life’s work. They’ll show you how to harness your own spirit and pour it into something you believe is worth achieving. You’ll learn how to focus, to the exclusion of all other things on the goals you’ve set, how to grind, graft and persist, especially when it gets hard.

You’ll learn that to be successful requires sacrifice. The rewards can be enormous, but there are things you’re going to need to do, and times you’re going to need to put in, when you’d much prefer to be doing something else. It’s not in the genes. Those that work hard were taught how by something, someone in their past.

I learned from a guy named Graham.

As my instructing master tradesman, Graham showed me that it’s true, you don’t have to be the most talented. You have to be the most dedicated. He worked longer, harder than the boss, and the boss knew it. For Graham, it meant job security and more money than the other guys. For me, it meant hope. I wanted an edge, and I now knew that although Graham was as smart as a whip, any dumb arse could work hard if he put his mind to it. I would be that dumb arse!

If you’re lucky in your life, you’ll meet a guy like Graham.

Years later, I met another hard worker. Brian.

In the meantime, I’d made a habit of putting my job first. I gave away footy, I put in long hours. I’d begin with US sales calls at 4.00am and do EU support calls in the evening. I began whittling back my sleeping hours, fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, until I became functional on about 4 sleep hours a day. Later on I would be overseas up to ten weeks a year. I missed anniversaries, birthday dinners, even seeing my kids first steps. I made sure that I was hungrier, harder and more driven than anyone I thought might threaten to match me.

Brian wasn’t bothered about trying to match me.

After 25 years in software development and in business, Brian was more than ready to let somebody else have a go. He’d been up and down, but when I met him, Brian was in a good place, ready to teach me the ropes of project leadership.

I knew Brian had a lot to teach me about software, but I thought I could teach him a thing or two about working. No matter what I did though, I couldn’t seem to move him to compliment me on my staying power. We became friends. He and his family spent time with mine. He saw my routine and as eager as I was that it impress him, he remained unenthusiastically bemused.

Then one hot Friday afternoon at 4:00pm, Brian said “Adrian, I’m calling that the end of the working week”

“Ah, yeah mate, just got a few more things to do” I responded, without looking up.

Equal to the challenge, Brian closed my laptop as I typed. Staring straight into me, through gritted teeth he went on.

“Go Home. Get Rachel and the kids. Take them to the beach. There’s still a lot of light left in the day”

His tone and stare grew more intense still, then out of nowhere…

“Listen to me now. I’ve seen guys that worked like you before. I’ve known a few since I started out…… Adrian they’re all divorced. They don’t know their kids or their wives because they stayed at the office long after they should have been home. Night after night, month after month. When they did spend time with their families, they couldn’t switch off. They were absent, even though they were present…know what I mean? Eventually it takes its toll. Now really listen Adrian. I’ve seen family after family broken up by this stuff in the name of a career or a project and for what? A computer program?”

Brian preferred the term “programmer” to “developer”. Raised in the game on punch cards and then on to bit level code, he considered that even as we built web technology, we were all still doing the same thing. Writing computer programs. Brian loved software as much as anyone I’ve ever known. He owed all he owned to software and when he worked on his code, he was raised into a state of contentedness and satisfaction known in very few other professions I’ve seen. He “got it”, and yet, Brian continued . . .

“What do these guys have to show for it? At the end of the day, they made a computer program.”

His voice began to trail off. He looked out of the window and concluded

“Just a bloody stupid fucking computer program.”

If you’re lucky in your life, you’ll meet a guy like Brian. If you’re clever, you’ll never forget how lucky you are.


For Daniel Law

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