I was going to change the world.
“Change the world.” When I was 8, I knew what that meant. It was, to me, to be like Einstein or Edison. Those were my two examples...and I was going to be like one of them.
As I grew older, I started to find a lot more examples:George Washington Carver, Buckminster Fuller, Gordon Moore, Richard Feynman, Max Born, James Watson, Francis Crick, and many many others. The list of examples grew to too big to ever list out manually,and included people from fields far different form my original list of Einstein, and Edison. It included people like Gandhi, Socrates, Aristotle, Jean Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Paine, and many others.
This plethora of examples only served to encourage me. It seemed like anyone from any walk of life could become greatly influential in the world. I thought, “well, if so many others have done it, why couldn't I.”
What was even more encouraging was the amazing number of people in my chosen field (computing, chosen at age15) who had been making great contributions...Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Wall, James Gosling, and that young upstart Linus Torvalds. Linus was especially encouraging because all he had done was to write an operating system at age 22, and I knew someone personally who did it at age 15 (my future roommate), and he wasn't THAT much more capable than me.
So what happened?
Life? The real world?...well I suppose I can summarize what actually happened.
I got an internship and finally a job at a Fortune 500 company and saw it as a platform for great things. Even in the orientation to the company, we were told to “do something wonderful.” (I am paraphrasing). I worked incredibly hard the first 4 or 5 years I was there. I wanted to learn everything that I could, and thought that eventually I would be eventually be inventing great products that would go to market and have a shot at changing the world.
The last couple years of hard work were rather forced from my perspective. I had become increasingly disillusioned. This company doesn't want innovation, it left no time for that. It had no avenues for that. No lowly engineer with only a B.Sc. and 5 years experience was ever going to get a shot at a product idea. Even if there was a shot, the lowly engineer would be left to fend for himself in all the areas he was not good at:recruitment, marketing, other technical areas, etc. The innovation was left only to the business types...and they are not known for innovation.
So now, here I am. Lost. I have little idea what it means to me to change the world, and even less of an idea of how I would do it. I am floundering. Not wastefully floundering... I have gotten a M.Sc., and have change roles in my group, started searching for new opportunities, and am going back to school to hopefully get a 3rd B.Sc., to platform into a Ph.D. program. Nevertheless, that passion, that the vision of “changing the world” gave me is almost gone...and nothing else has taken its place.