mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Timing is everything...

A few days ago, one of my tasks at work was to setup and deliver a new laptop to a new employee. One of my coworkers informed me that "by the way, she's really cute". I drop off the laptop and show her the basics, and have to agree with my coworker's assessment - she was cute, in a hipster sort of way.

Fast forward to near the end of the day. I get a call from a department that I had ordered a bunch of macs for that they want them delivered - and could I do it now? It was late, but I suck at saying no, so I agreed. I threw a 30" cinema display, 2 mac pro's, and an iMac onto our handtruck and start wheeling it across campus. It's cold outside, and I hate the cold - it makes me wheeze, and makes my nose run. I'd overloaded the cart - say what you will about Apple, but they build some heavy machines - so by the time I get near the building on the other side of campus, I'm panting, grunting, with snot running down my nose. I'm almost in, sounding like I'm about to keel over, and hear a "hi Anthony".

It's the cute chick from this morning, and she's just seen me in the worst possible light.

The lesson from this? When it comes to timing, mine is the worst.

I recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, Gladwell discusses the fact that, while success certainly requires things like skill, hard work, and intelligence, it also often depends on luck, on being at the right place at the right time, on culture, on things that nobody would have thought of. Bill Gates had access to a mainframe computer at his high school and a number of other opportunities that let him get into software development. Many of the successful lawyers involved in takeovers got there because they couldn't get into the big WASP law firms, so they worked for smaller companies that did takeover law before takeover law was cool/acceptable/profitable. In Canada, many of the best hockey players were born in January - just past the birthday cutoff for joining leagues, meaning they were nearly a year older than players born in December of the same year, and thus at an advantage.

This doesn't, of course, mean that successful people succeeded only because they were in the right place at the right time - Chances are plenty of other people had the same opportunities and didn't take them, and presumably some people overcome bad timing.

But I do seem to have hit some trends at the exact wrong time. I graduated college in 2002 with a degree in Management Information Systems, right after the IT bubble burst and after 9/11 dampened the economy. Had I graduated a few years earlier, I would have been able to easily get a job, though how long I would have kept it I don't know. Had I graduated a few years later, I probably also would have had an easier time finding a job, because the number of IT grads decreased thanks to, well, the lack of jobs a few years earlier.

The same applies to buying a house - I bought in 2006, which made sense from my perspective - I had a few years to save up some money and get an idea what I wanted. I couldn't realistically have bought in, say, 2003, since I started the year unemployed with a negative net worth. But I managed to buy pretty much at the top of the bubble. Maybe I was dumb for buying when I did - but there are plenty of people who bought in 2002 or so and made a shitload of money not because they were incredibly smart, but because that happened to be when it made sense for them to buy a house.

Now, I can't complain too much - I can think of a number of times I was in the right place at the right time, where things worked out - getting the job I currently have happened because of a series happy accidents, from applying for a job as a student to having someone leave when I was looking for a job. And in terms of the lucky sperm club, I certainly could have done worse - I was born to a middle-class family that placed a high value on education, during a time of economic and technological prosperity, at least when looked at in the whole history of time.

Still, there are so many small, insignificant things that can make a big impact on the path of life. I can't help wonder if I wouldn't be single if I had made one small different move somewhere - talked to someone I didn't talk to, go somewhere I decided not to go, clicked on an ad on a dating site that I didn't.

Or delivered a load of heavy computers in two trips.


At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are over thinking and over analyzing things. Timing works both ways for everyone, sometimes its good timing sometimes its bad timing. It shakes both ways for everybody, its just life.

And if being single is your biggest problem you have good problems my friend.


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