Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

My Dream Job

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When I was 14 I had a glimpse of a life as a software developer. I wanted to do this more than anything, and I worked hard to get there. It was an outside chance but things fell into place for me. When I was 17 I was paid to write code. It was a brilliant moment.

Over the next 4 years, the .com bubble grew and popped. I went from struggling to get callbacks to turning my phone off to stop recruiters and then back again. The bubble popped, it ended so abruptly. I still wanted to be a developer, so I continued.

This was great until I felt very solid as a developer. Then it wasn’t my dream job anymore. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Writing code felt very empty, and there was a dark curtain that was closing in on me.

I took a job that combined my personal interests. The darkness was still there, but wasn’t getting worse. I still felt it there, on the fringes. I thought maybe I should work with some awesome people. So I did. I picked a job purely because of the coworkers.

The darkness was always there, urging me to do something different. If I would have known what that different should be, I could have made a decision. I didn’t know. I was lost. But I was successful.

Being lost and being successful seemed so contradictory, but that was exactly where I was. My dream job wasn’t a nightmare; it became mundane.

I told myself it was about the grass being greener. If I only got a better job I would like it more. I knew that wasn’t true and so I started thinking about the answer. When I looked for an answer I realized that I didn’t know the question.

The question I learned to ask is what long term focus I wanted to have. When my days on earth were over, could I say I lived the way I have chosen? Was I responsible for my life? That’s what I wanted.

It took a long time to get to that understanding. I studied a lot of potential professions. Through that I discovered social psychology and behavioral economics. I discovered what I wanted: To merge the research of our minds with what I had spent 15 years mastering.

My dream job isn’t a job at all. It’s my life. It’s how I choose to live. It’s being able to say that I’m responsible. It may be more stressful at times, but it’s more rewarding. In a job, you’re building someone else’s dreams.

I want my dreams to build a life.