Finding Happiness

Friday, March 18th, 2011

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about obligation and how it relates to personal happiness. Both Justin Williams and Daniel Jalkut have written excellent responses (and Daniel includes a summary of what’s gone on). I feel the need to weigh in on one small part of it.

Truly being happy with yourself is an incredibly difficult process. Our minds may be born free, but quickly become bound up in chains. And unlocking those chains is no easy task — ask anyone who has tried therapy.

It turns out that simply deciding what you want and then doing that is an incredibly complicated process that takes place in both your conscious and unconscious mind and is rife with opportunities for self-sabotage. I’m learning to unwrap it all and peer directly into the black box of my mind but it’s a slow process that will likely be ongoing for the rest of my life.

The above may seem irrelevant and you may not care, but having the freedom to engage in this kind of self-improvement is one of the main reasons why I began freelancing in the first place. No, I’m not “changing the world” by writing iOS apps1 and I probably could have more money and stability if I had a full time gig, but my clients are grateful and happy and they also pay me for my services. That’s a big deal to me.2

Is that really a waste of my life? I would argue no. It’s certainly noble to want change the world through the power of technology and to want to make the maximum amount of impact possible, but criticizing someone for not working on “ambitious” enough software stinks. There’s so much more to life than software — like actually living your life.

  1. At least not in a way that would ever be featured at, say, TED. 

  2. It turns out, if you create nice things from scratch over and over all by yourself, eventually you’ll be forced to admit that you may in fact be competent. 


  1. Victoria Wang replied on March 19th, 2011:

    Colin, thanks for writing this. I love how you and Justin have very similar opinions but your posts read totally differently. As a budding humanist who’s still trying to shed her old religion-based guilt, I’ve been thinking a lot about your particular points.