When I was in college people would always ask me what I wanted, what my goals were. What I wanted to do when I grew up. I would tell them, "have a hammock." Many would write me off as a weirdo and never talk to me again. The majority, would ask me, "What the hell does that mean?" Well clearly it is deeper than just owning a hammock, they are not terribly expensive, and if you really wanted to you could make one out of miscellaneous materials for probably around $30. So I explained to have a hammock and be able to use it, really use it. To have the freedom to wake up, hit the hammock with your library book(s) and your glass of lemonade and enjoy the outside and some reading for a good 8 to 12 hours. Obviously the way to achieve this kind of freedom is through having enough money to support this lifestyle. So really it is about freedom from the bill collectors and the massive debt incurred attending college.
I figured the way this would happen would be I would make a big pile of money by a few years after college, pay everything off and have enough left over to live off of the spoils of having money, *interest*. Spend about 15 hours a week tracking my investments and the rest of the time enjoying my various hammocks.
How to achieve such a lofty goal. Well what do engineers actually do when they graduate. Many go to industry, they go work for giant engineering farms, where they ripen their young engineers by surrounding them with the color grey and bathing them in fluorescent light. Some pay well, some pay poorly, they all have pretty good benefits. The downside of course is engineers here are resources like the copier or the conference room. They get cataloged, tagged and are called on to do things that are understood to be their bailiwick. There are growth paths here, that involve fighting bureaucracy and red tape and really after 10 - 20 years you could be pulling down a nice paycheck. The problem I noticed when working at $BIG_COMPANY was you don't really need to excel and many of the big rewards are fairly arbitrary. You could be there 30 years and barely have your job change. Do the same or similar things every day. Sounds like I am describing prison. Anyway I initially chose this route, but as you can see from my description above it just wasn't for me.
Well what else is there? Graduate school? Two more years, for what another piece of paper, that gets me a nominal raise at $BIG_COMPANY, or the chance to switch to another big company. Will I learn more? yes and no. I will learn more about specific topics, not necessarily things that work in Industry, but certainly things that work in the academic world. I sort of also chose this, when I was at the big company, I started grad school at night. It was... not compelling, hell I was **bored**. I had just finished about 5 years of this, and I was looking at 10 more classes, which quickest possible way to get to the end of that would be 2 and a half most likely 3 years. And it was hard to see how that would get me closer to my goal of the Hammock.
Other options? Start a business. Be my own boss, do what I want. And most important, do something really, really cool! Now this is something that sounds interesting. But how the hell do you do that? Well there are tons of steps involved. Some hard, some boring, some tedious and some deliciously fun. To start a business you need to have an idea, something really clever, something no one has thought of before. Also I am in college and I have a senior design project coming up, where Engineering school does it's damnedest to simulate the real world. You need to come up with an idea, propose it to someone for approval, do some or all of the work to get at least a prototype working and present it. There are opportunities for funding and opportunities to start a business with that idea after school. Of course there was some stupid rumor or fact that the school has the opportunity to get some percentage of any business arising out of a Sr Design project, which would be fine if they were *letting* me use their resources to help accomplish it. But I was paying dearly for that privilege. But that's a bit off topic here.
When I was working on ideas for my senior design project, I sought the advice of the professor who wore the most expensive suits and talked the most about entrepreneurship in his classes. It didn't hurt that he was the incoming IEEE president either, his advice had to be worth the price of admission. While I was focused on coming up with some ground breaking new *thing*. He kept saying that your proposal doesn't have to be so, unattainable. He kept picking up his pen and saying, something simple, and enhancement to an existing product, for example somehow making this pen better. I left the meeting figuring he had been in the academic life too long and had lost his mind. Why the hell would I improve the ball point pen, when I could do something exciting, like, um, well something more exciting than that, surely. So I continued my search for the **idea**. Finally with deadlines approaching, picked something, but wasn't terribly jazzed about it.
Over the past 3 years I have slowly come to learn, that the [big idea is a myth](http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/archives/2005/10/the_myth_of_the.html), if only Ramit could have told me that about 5 years ago, I'd surely have my hammock by now. Of course I would have thought him as a guy who just lost his desire, or was really never going to be the one to come up with the great idea anyway. But really, now, I am finally in what I feel is the right frame of mind to start gaining that freedom. I have learned much in my career, and like every other time in my career, I think I know it all. But I do know more now. And since after a brief stint with a big company I have spent most of my time working at small startups, and learning.
So I think I'll save my big ideas for any Science Fiction that I eventually get around to writing. And continue to take action on my current [general goal](http://logicaldisconnect.org/archives/2005/08/27/mind-games-2/)