A lot of my work is motivated by a quest for freedom over my time. Unfortunately, I often consider this in the negative – I want to be free from the constraints of full-time labor-selling. I maintain that this is a valid problem, a noble struggle, and an achievable dream. However, it’s a bad lens through which to view the world, and it tends to make me miserable.

It’s easy to describe what we dislike. I can talk about wanting to “get out of the rat-race” in a hundred different ways, and each time I’ll feel a fire burning in my soul. It takes more courage to drum up that same level of conviction for a specific, positive goal.

Let’s do a framing-exercise. Say you just met me for the first time. Which version of me do you want to help?

I feel trapped at work — as if it’s a pointless pyramid scheme, where in order for me to make X dollars, my boss has to make X * Y dollars, and the company owners have to make X * Y * Z dollars. I don’t want to spend my life playing this game! I want to do something more meaningful.

I’m tired of my job, but I’m saving up so that I can be a full-time teacher one day. I think that teaching is really important, but it’s incompatible with the lifestyle I want.

I really like being a software engineer. Over the years, I’ve developed a knack for explaining complicated things to people, and I’m actually saving up so that I can be a full-time teacher soon.

I’m getting better at managing and mentoring younger engineers. I love helping people grow into the best version of themselves, and I think I can make an even bigger difference if I reach them earlier.

I think my biggest critique of the 3rd & 4th Johns are that, if I heard someone say this, I would just assume that they couldn’t quite cut it as an engineer. This is actually why I haven’t jumped ship just yet – I want to build up some street-cred first :)

But, staying on-subject… running towards a specific goal changes my narrative. It reduces the need to vilify my surroundings for not being perfect, and it yields a clearer strategy. If I’m running away from something, any direction will suffice. But if I have a destination in mind, it’s easier to assess my bearing & keep myself honest.

Supposedly, these destinations are never what we expect anyways, so it’s important to enjoy the journey. Doing good work today is not just a means to freedom — it is an end in itself.