How I learned the Value of Meaningful Work

mortal-kombat-fatality-finish-himWhen you start a new job or formally meet new partners there are typically a round of introductions that may include the question “Tell everyone something about yourself that they wouldn’t know.”  With the internet this has become a more challenging endeavor.  Since I have no co-workers I figured I’d start re-introducing myself to the world on this blog.  So, here is something just about everyone reading this didn’t know…

When I was 11 years old I ran a magazine business. Well, calling it a business would probably be a stretch.  I convinced my friend we should try to make a living playing video games.  I figured that next to “Professional Toy Tester” a career playing video games had to be as good as it could get.  I fired up my Atari ST and we wrote game reviews and hard-hitting editorials that, for example, explained why it was OK for your kids to rip the heads off of characters in Mortal Kombat.

Each issue was self printed, copied, and stapled together en-mass.  We then convinced the managers of any rental shop within bike range to stock issues above the video game sections.  It turned out people liked them and the issues were being picked up by kids and parents alike.  It was awesome and it felt good to have people read what we wrote.   We simply forgot about the whole making money part at the time. Smile We were happy with distribution and doing something we loved at the time.

But doing something you love, even for a short while, can have long lasting impact on your life.  From this experience I can trace the following path…

1. Improved writing skills.

2. Learned about the state of the part in digital publishing tools.

3. Turned that into being editor of our high school paper for two years.

4. Leveraged that as a weapon to get into Vanderbilt and turned that education into my first career at Microsoft.

I also learned that because the work had meaning I was also able to rope other kids into helping us write, copy, staple, and distribute for free.  I may have simplified a few things along the way, but the seed was planted.  I loved doing meaningful work and was rewarded for it over the long run.

If I’m lucky someone reading this will have a copy for a second edition printing.  🙂

6 responses to “How I learned the Value of Meaningful Work”

  1. Rick Reszler says:

    Nice Josh, thanks for sharing that!

  2. Lee Hunt says:

    That’s a nice story, but what made you pick an Atari over an Amiga? (I was an Amiga kid… :-))

    • Anonymous says:

      Atari’s were cheaper from what I remember. I was also a little young to be in on the rest of the purchase decisions. My first computer was a C64 though.

  3. I had kinda the reverse experience: I wrote and distributed shareware games on BBS’s in my early teens, since I was also into gaming and programming and what not. I also lacked a real revenue model 🙂 I learned that writing and testing games can be harsh, unrewarding work, and not as much fun as just *playing* them. So while a lot of my fellow students in college were focused on gaming and other ‘glamorous’ careers, I focused on doing stuff that would add value to businesses. I wrote a point-of-sale system for my family’s pizza shop and helped redesign the kitchen layout. I improved efficiency and accuracy in immediate and tangible ways, and I then knew that’s what I wanted to do with my career.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was into using STOS basic to write some simple games. Like you I realized it was more fun playing them than writing the animation and graphic routines.

      Funny that I also had POS experience. Radiant Systems, one of the places I interned at, wrote them for Tri-Con restaurants & some movie theater chains. I wrote software that kept track of updates to the system being distributed over the internet.

      Side note… there has to be a place in the world for a social connected POS system.

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