Rucker's Musings

Lead Bullets Applied

Years ago, I came across an article on HN from a renowned entrepreneur and VC Ben Horowitz titled Lead Bullets. Since that time it has become one of my favorite posts to share throughout my career. The article is deceptively short, but at its core is this:

“Ben, those silver bullets that you and Mike are looking for are fine and good, but our web server is five times slower. There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.”

There are several lessons to be gleaned from this, but at its core is this idea: Radical honesty is the path to personal success. Wisdom is knowing when you, or others, are trapped in self-deception. In Ben's example, his self-deception was thinking he could find an easier, less sloggish path to success. I have found myself revisiting this idea and concluded that I have been trapped in a layer of self-deception.

Up to this point, my career has been a mix of technical engineering work and leadership responsibilities. In a future post, I will detail my experience vis-à-vis a living CV, but let's just say I have felt stuck in my current career phase for some time. I have been confused - I feel capable - why do I feel stuck, aimless? I have built hard things. I have been responsible for millions of dollars of budget. I have and continue to lead highly technical teams of amazing engineers, so what's the deal?

I wish I could point out the specific thought that brought me to this realization. I wish I had some flashy LinkedIn story to tell where I rescued a puppy on my way to a job interview; however, I do not. Likely, it came to me driving to work out or in the shower, but it did hit me.

I stopped creating

I don't know exactly how I got here. I could create a dozen excuses. The fact is that I stopped. I stopped making things that solved hard problems or addressed real issues. Sure, I was productive, but I was making or solving things for others. I'm the sort of person who wants to solve systemic problems, create real change, and better the lives of those I work with and for.

In mechanical engineering, there's a concept of a driving gear and a driven gear. TL;DR - the driving gear is connected to the drive shaft (power source), which drives all the other gears. At some point, I stopped being the driving gear and became comfortable being the driven gear. So - this is my re-commitment (or you could say my realization). I will create things that solve high-impact challenges or address critical issues, whatever they may be. There are no silver bullets, so get to work.