There’s always this tradeoff in life between staying in a field where you’ve already developed a lot of expertise and you may have a career going versus switching to something new. And the problem with switching to something new is you’re a newbie there. You don’t have the expertise, the position, etc. So it’s a tough decision to make, to walk away from something like a big job at Microsoft. But ultimately, I decided it was my life, I had to do the things I really enjoyed.
There’s one institution in life where you get time off for good behavior and that’s prison. Most things in life, when you do well at them, the world gives you more responsibility for that, not less. You become more famous, more successful. You get a promotion, you get more responsibility. So, if you ever want to push back, it’s up to you to do that. The world won’t do that for you. There’s lots of wonderful stories of people who got fired and that causes them to reboot and go off and do something.
Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor in New York, has a great story like that. He was fired at Solomon Brothers and that caused him to go start Bloomberg and become an enormous success. I didn’t have the luxury of somebody else deciding for me. I had to start over. I decided to start over on my own.
Now, of course, once I had been at Microsoft for a while, I had the resources where I could start over and it wasn’t like I was afraid of starving, but it is always an issue when you are good at something: Do I keep getting better at that thing or do I switch to something else? For me, it’s been pretty easy to switch to other things because I get interested in them. And once I get interested in them, there’s no turning back.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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