I wanted to quit my job. I hated my boss. He always yelled at me. I hated my co-workers. They always yelled at me.
I was addicted to playing chess online. One time my girlfriend called at 6pm and said, “don’t forget, we have guests coming over for dinner in a half hour.”
I said, “I’m just going to play one more game and then I will be home.”
At midnight, my girlfriend was banging on my office door but it was locked and I was in the middle of a set of 100 straight games in a row and couldn’t answer her.
Finally, at 5 in the morning I stumbled home. When I walked through the door she threw a backpack of books at me.
So something was wrong in my life. Something was making me unhappy.
Here’s what I tried:
I tried writing novels. I wrote four novels. But nobody wanted to publish them.
I tried writing a comic book. I wrote a script for one that I thought would be very good. I send to DC Comics but they never wrote back.
I went to the venture capital arm of PNC bank and tried to get a job and they laughed in my face because I didn’t have an MBA.
There was this new thing called “The World Wide Web”. There was maybe 100 websites in existence.
I wrote to every publisher and said, “Ultimately all of your books are going to be in digital form. I can make that happen for you.” Not a single one responded.
One night, while I was playing online chess all night, I went to the bathroom. Another guy was there. “What are you doing here so late?” Although I thought I knew the answer. He had three kids or so. Why wouldn’t he be here?
“I’m trying to write some software that takes random web pages, figures out what they are about, and catalogs them. I’m thinking the government might fund this project.”
I was thinking to myself, “good luck with that” and smirking on the inside while I went back to play another eight hour marathon of chess.
The name of that guy’s computer was lycos.cs.cmu.edu and eventually he started Lycos and made $200 million for himself.
Finally, I wrote to HBO and I said, “You guys should work on virtual reality projects. I can help with it.”
They wrote back and invited me to visit.
I took a few days from work. My parents were really excited. My dad took me to his “Suit man”. He got me a suit.
I went to the interview. Four different interviews. I was so excited. Someone named “Winnie Ho” worked there. I wanted to work at a place that had employees named “Winnie Ho”.
I bombed every interview. “Do you know Macintosh programming?” No. “Do you know how to do networking programming?” No. “Do you know how to configure an Internet server?” No. No. No. No.
After the interview I called my girlfriend and said, “I don’t think i got the job.” She was relieved. She didn’t want me to move. I was depressed.
I sat down and played chess in Bryant Park with the chessplayers that still gather there 20 years later. I was going to cry.
I looked up at one point and there was the boss of the boss of the boss of the first guy who interviewed me. It turned out he was into chess.
We took a walk around the park and talked about chess and music and programming and virtual reality.
I went home to Pittsburgh and applied for a job at a comic book store. They didn’t hire me.
Then two weeks later, Rob, the chessplaying boss, called me and offered me $40,000 a year to work at HBO. I was making $27,000 at the time but had lied and told him I was making $38,000. He offered me a job.
He offered me a job!
A week later my boss yelled at me about some random thing I did. He yelled at me in front of everyone.
He yelled, “did you really just tell me you blah blah *&^*&?”
And I said “yes”. And he yelled again, in front of the team, “I don’t think I heard you. Is anyone that stupid?”
For the entire prior eight months I had diversified my possible outcomes.
Every day I had tried every possible way to get a job.
Everybody rejected me for everything. I probably tried 20 different ways to create the job of my dreams.
Finally one thing worked. One thing got me lucky. I bonded on some random thing with a decision maker. But in chess there is a saying, “only the good players get lucky”.
So when my boss wanted to humiliate me and he yelled at me that second time in front of everyone I finally had a perfect response.
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