I'm not a hedonist; I am not saying we should pursue pleasure for its own sake, only that we can find enjoyment and meaning in the moment as we experience it, instead of always planning the next big thing. (As an achiever, this was a hard lesson for me to learn, but it was worth learning.)
6. All of this is going to end. Yes, we may get to work on a few big projects. You may one day look back at something special and say, "I contributed to that!" But, ten years from now, it is unlikely that anyone will remember that story you worked on to “add middle name to profile and display it on a half-dozen pages.”
However, we can hang our hats on our reputations and relationships. A huge part of why I pushed myself so hard at Socialtext—right next to building a great product—was the people in the trenches next to me—people like Luke Closs, Ken Pier, Audrey Tang, Chris McMahon, Jeremy Stashewsky, and Brandon Noard. I wanted to impress them.
If you are stuck on a dead-end project, if the application isn't cool, or if the business isn't great, take a look to your left and right. Ask what you can do to belong to a group like C.S. Lewis’s "sound craftsmen," who “will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.”
Ten years from now, your company might be gone. But, If you really care, I suspect those relationships will still be around.
7. Be thankful for what you have. There's nothing quite like waking up one morning and realizing you don't have a job. Wait, yes, there is. There is not knowing where you will get food for your children, clean water, clothing, or shelter.
When Socialtext let me go earlier this year, I was perfectly poised to launch a freelance software career. If that didn’t work out, I still had my investments and retirement. If I needed it, I could have applied for unemployment benefits for additional income. Things might have been tough for a while, but my children weren't going to starve. We would have our daily bread and our health.
Someone once told me that we have no control over the past. Likewise, we cannot control the future. All we have is this moment in which we are living. That taught me the final lesson: to make every season as valuable as the time I spent at Socialtext. Life is too short for anything else.