I gave up the last of my residual computer junk to the AKLUG (Alaska Linux Users Group) the other day. It was like three towers and a ton of cables and mice and stuff that I finally realized I would never touch again. Now I'm down to just my macbook, some books, and a small box of essential stuff that I use on a regular basis, which feels really good.
The remainder of all my "techy" stuff that will come with me. Notice the inclusion of real, actual, books.
I became a bit of a loner kid by growing up an only child moving between my dysfunctional parents' houses a few times a week. Always on the go, I adapted to the transient lifestyle by becoming deeply involved in individualistic hobbies like legos, remote control cars, and video games. I was primed for a life on a computer.
Families that don't spend much time truly opening up to each other on an emotional level create environments that raise solitary, bored kids. Their houses get bigger so they can stay further apart, they watch more TV as a "family activity," and their kids end up in doors playing video games and relating to their friends via proxies like text messages and online social networking. Families that spend more time relating their deeper emotions become closer, and less forced into loner activities like video games and facebook.
As I grew up I got into the habit of drinking tons of coffee and coke-a-cola while staying up all night coding my brains out, and as a result developed a significant problem with insomnia and poor resistance to asthma and allergies (sound familiar?). In college I spent 100% of my energy cranking on my senior project by walking between classes and on the subway with my head down working through design problems on my notepad. I was telling myself that if I was going to be the best I had to be putting all my effort into being the best. I was thinking all the time and never gave my chance to rest.
Then, one day while on a business trip this last January I looked around the snazzy Hollywood studio that I was working for and started to notice how the dark, window-less environment was extremely conducive to solitary, inwardly confined work (although this was one of the better offices I've worked in). Later I slowly started to see how I'd built a lifestyle around controlled environments; working on a computer, living alone, working alone, even participating in non-team sports like cross country running and skiing.
PK in the mountains.
I took a step back and noticed that all the energy and orderly living is centered around the desk, and ultimately the computer screen. The kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living area had become dirty, cluttered places with no chairs and empty walls. They had little value as places of habitation, and served only as compliments to all the energy and color that surround the computer desk.
This unbalanced lifestyle is counter-productive to realizing your potential.
Since I was in high school I've sporadically spent a lot of time training and trying to find what it takes to succeed at the top level. While I never managed to make the jump to the next level, I learned that succeeding only requires two things: a genuine, and deeply personal interest in the sport, and an adequate balance of all parts of life which enables you to train well enough to be the best.
A shot I took of the fastest skiers in the country while covering this year's US Distance Nationals.
This applies to any kind of success you want in your life. If you really really love something then you're all set to be the best. If you really really love it and are content in the other parts of your life, then not only are you set to be the best but you also have what it takes to be the best. I believe that's the meaning of "talent," and it applies to everything I've tried to be the best at - music, endurance sports, and computer programming.
That's why "talent" is so complex. If someone wants to be the best ski racer because they simply want everyone to love them for being the best, they will become an ego maniac and will eventually hit the wall when the public praise doesn't make up for the price of commitment.
A friend of mine, a top mountain runner, slowly becoming a bionic man from repeated ankle rolls. Looks like something needs to change.
If someone's got the genetics for a bone structure and cardiovascular system to make them a naturally fast track sprinter, they might also have a tough family life that results in a drinking problem or some other vice, and will never be able to see their potential through the bar bills and hangovers.
If someone only likes computer programming because it provides them a job where they only have to communicate through instant messenger, they might develop into a worker with tunnel vision and poor people skills that has a hard time knowing the difference between a sexy implementation and the user's real needs.
A friend demonstrating "no pain no gain" yesterday in the mountains behind Anchorage.
The point is that no matter what you're doing, you will do better the more you are able to balance your talents. That's why I think that programming computers from a social jail cell is about as awesome as writing powerful music having never been in love or had a rough breakup.
Purging all my old computer junk is a great start. Game on.