Jøhnny Fävòrítê (johnnyfavorite) wrote,
Jøhnny Fävòrítê
johnnyfavorite

are you there, god? it’s me, johnnyfavorite

I’ve read hundreds of stories of people in startups. One common theme is that you’ll feel a lot of different emotions. My experience so far: “different emotions” my ass. More like: another day, another planet.

Almost everything I’ve attempted on this job is something I’ve never done before. Technologies I’ve had to learn that are entirely new to me: Flash/Actionscript, Javascript, MySQL, Amazon S3, Amazon EC2. And unix system administration, which I’m mostly unfamiliar with. Every now and then I get to write a little C++, but I’m already an expert at that, so it flies by. Then I’m once again stuck picking my way gingerly through foreign technology documentation.

Actionscript is a distinct programming language, in case you didn’t know, used to author Flash applets. It’s like a cross between Java, C++, and Javascript. I was already pretty good at two out of three of those, fortunately for me. The Actionscript compiler has a very different view of the world than your standard C++ compiler, though. That took some getting used to. This one should have been hairy, but wasn’t, too much. The biggest problem was that Adobe is a big fat liar-head. They want you to believe that Flash is free and open, to drive adoption, when it very much is not.

I’ve always had some sort of mental block about SQL-oriented databases. I guess because the database admins at most of the jobs I’ve had have been jerks. They tend to treat the database as their own personal fiefdom, and you must supplicate yourself before them, if you want access to this richest of resources. Bleargh. But MySQL turned out to be pretty easy as well, once I stopped flinching and realized I could do whatever I want with it. Relational database concepts haven’t changed much in 30 years, it’s just the details of the implementations you have to figure out.

I could tell stories like this about all the other stuff I’ve learned, but it’s going to start sounding the same. It’s this story, over and over again: This particular technology wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, once I realized that I can do whatever I want with it, and there isn’t some stupid person I have to placate before I can bend it to my will.

My attitude sucks.

I’m just now realizing that most of the “work” I’ve been doing on this job is battling constraints that don’t exist anymore. Decades spent in standard workplaces have conditioned me to think about all the roadblocks stupid people are going to put in my way, which I have to carefully step around, so as not to offend their stupid widdle egos. Then I can finally tear into my usual full-speed implementation mode. So much of my mental energy has been frittered away, fighting political battles.

Also, I’m mercurial. One week I can get as much done as it would take the average IT guy five weeks to do. The next week, I can’t motivate myself to do anything but putter around on the web and watch movies. This hurts my self-esteem, and makes me feel lazy, which makes it that much more difficult to get back to work. Then one day I wake up and I’m curious and motivated, and I have another burst of creativity and productivity that most people couldn’t duplicate in their wildest dreams.

Then I pretend that my slacker days are behind me. I’m certainly never again going to putter around doing nothing for a week. Not me. No sir!

Some days this feels like an obvious Big Win. There is no doubt this will work. I’m about to become the CTO of my own small company. From now on, if anybody around here is going to need his butt kissed, it’s going to be ME. If this particular idea doesn’t pan out, then another, similar one will. Other days I’m just cautiously optimistic: okay, I’ll work on this for awhile, I’ve got some time before my savings run out, all the while keeping an eye on the job listing sites. Other days, this feels like two or three months of hard work down a rathole. Oh well, at least I learned some new stuff, right?

My head hurts.
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