Shattering A Bullet Proof Glass

Since I was a little kid I was into making things. From my wooden toy truck that used ball-bearings for wheels, and my paper kite that I flew with my friends, to my bouncy ball made from rubber bands, were all made out of a fascination with making things and a necessity to improvise due to a lack of resources during the long fought Iran-Iraq war. When my dad brought home an IBM XT286, the physical toys turned into digital games and my target audience changed from myself to my friends with the discovery of QBasic.

Its funny how as we develop a sense of society, we start giving into its expectations. Soon I found myself at school, then university, and for the past five and a half years at a large corporation in Silicon Valley. My fascination with making things is still there, but social pressures in the valley turned the fascination into a need, and the satisfaction into a constant anxiety, and not for lack of trying. Finally I came to the realization that the only way to get back to making interesting things would be to leave the corporate world. However, that is easier said than done.

In the past five years I’ve sat in my cube and stared at a very thick bullet proof glass on the hundredth floor. On my side there is the corporate world with great pay, benefits, and a feeling of security, but lacking interesting projects or clear visibility of the impact I’m making. On the other side of the glass and a thousand feet down is a place where I can decide on what things I make or what I try to impact.

Three weeks ago, in a visit to the YC headquarters, I ran into an intriguing YC applicant who was there for the winter 2011 interviews. He was in his early thirties and had quit his high paying job to work on his iPhone app. In an attempt to build on my analogy of the bullet proof glass, he said:

“One day, when no one is looking, put on a parachute, take a sledge hammer, run and shatter the glass, and just jump. Once on your way down, open your parachute, and if it doesn’t open, in the moment of desperation you’ll be able to improvise much better.”

He continued to explain that he had done the same and had gone through some hard times, but everytime he had managed to find some short term way of making enough money to survive and get him to where he is today.

So today I shattered that glass, and am in a free fall. It feels quite good at first as free falls usually do. A feeling of excitement and fear. Lets just hope I don’t faint on my way down.