Leaving the Job I Wanted Most in Life
I was working for a company about 20 miles outside of Paris, just around the corner from where we lived at the time when I heard about the adventure. An Australian genius was putting together a team to develop incredible graphics software in a kind of think tank/lab. It sounded great, finally a chance to be a part of something really advanced. In fact, this was to be my first encounter with the Internet, in 1987, when the workstations they installed required an "Internet address" in order to communicate. We used it daily to transfer files back and forth between Rungis and Huntsville.
I investigated, and the more I heard about this project, the more I wanted in. I drove way out in the suburbs and met the Australian and his family. I was convinced he was a genius, but he was also a wacko, a mad scientist type. Although I was not going to be a programmer, they needed coordination, someone who could understand enough about software to handle that. It also required frequent trips to Huntsville, AL, and it seemed like a good idea for them to have a native English speaker on the team. After weeks of back and forth, which made me want the gig more and more, I finally did get it. I gave my notice and my boss told me he couldn't offer more money. I told him it wasn't about the money, it was about the opportunity to do something really new, significant. In the end, right before I left, he actually did end up offering a raise, which I turned down.I was going to be a part of something, a group that was developing something important.
Well, I got there and got setup, and within about two weeks, I found myself in a world I never would have suspected. A world of Lord of the Flies, or "Lost", where all these crazy people were constantly at each other's throats, playing stupid mind games. It didn't help at all that this American company subsidiary was a part of a parent company with the French corporate culture which could be summed up as "keep all information secret until you can use it to your personal advantage". So, the odor of back-stabbing was nearly omnipresent. The only straightforward human I recall seeing was the receptionist with the nice smile and the cute bangs.
I might have lasted 10 months to a year, I don't recall, but what I do remember distinctly is this. The people in that project were the biggest wasters of their own lives and time that I've encountered among people capable of actually controling their own destiny. Yes, I've met and interacted with hookers and junkies, and frankly, I have a lot more respect for them in general than I do for these educated wankers who constantly vied for power and status, rather than actually caring about what they were supposed to do. Addicts and prostitutes don't have an easy path to rectify their situation whereas these college graduate types could have done anything they wanted. They chose to be piranhas. They may as well have been on the Lost island.
Be careful what you wish for is a very real concept in my mind. It took years for me to get over the disappointment that came with that job I wanted so badly. The job I wanted so badly is now something like the memory of the time I did in the armed forces. I'm glad I did it because, although it was horrible and a waste of my own life force, it taught me a lot. I picked myself up, left the dream lab and started a consulting business that developed into a career I never expected to have.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to be yourself. Find your strengths and leverage them to do what you do best.