Disclaimer: I am not an investment advisor. When I describe my own trading activities, it is not intended as advice or solicitation of any kind.

31 August 2011

We Won

There's a little spike in internet traffic caused by an article by a Gizmodo intern about how she found herself on a date with John Finkel, the 2000 world champion of Magic: The Gathering. Finkel was once called by Magic head designer Mark Rosewater: "the most naturally gifted player the game has ever seen." In general, the online community is furious at how shallow and geek-unfriendly this intern appears, and I have to admit I found myself agreeing to a great extent. Some of the bile-spitting critiques of this article are fantastic, but do yourself a favor and read the original first. Then Google Alyssa Bereznak, the troll who originally posted it, and you'll find an array of enraged people suggesting that maybe being a world champion at something is more notable than what that activity is.

How many of us can say "I am the best in the world" at ... anything? It seems to me that it is a big mistake to fail to appreciate someone who has the dedication, drive, and talent to become a world champion of something. That combination of qualities is rare, and champions can often reach unusually high skill levels in other activities as well.

What if he pursued the activity of making you happy with the same drive and determination?

And to those of us who have been the John Finkels of this story, I say: Stop apologizing. If you're good at something, take pride in it. Anyone who belittles your accomplishments because they aren't interested in doing it themselves probably doesn't deserve to date you. And anyone who judges a world champ based on their own prejudices about others who pursue the same activity? They don't even deserve to know you.

This is a lesson I myself am only learning now, in my 40s. I am a software developer, and in my own humble opinion I'm a pretty damn good one. I won't try to convince you of that, because that's not the point - just take as given that I'm a talented developer. The problem is that for the longest time I avoided identifying myself as a programmer in social situations. My excuses were that no one would understand what that meant, or I was escaping the natural "can you fix my computer" follow-up. But truthfully, I was afraid of being judged, categorized, and discarded before the new acquaintance got to know me.

This may have made sense in High School, in the 80s (yes, the 1980s; yes, there were computers to program back then; no, they didn't need to be hand-cranked), but as one of the blogs above put it, "the first geek wave is in our mid-40s now. WE OWN EVERYTHING. ... WE WON."

I have recently made a personal resolution to stop being ashamed of my own strengths. When asked what I do for a living, I will no longer vaguely mumble that "I'm in computers." I will no longer immediately change the subject. I will certainly not categorize myself by saying, "oh, I'm a software guy," like I'm apologizing for something. Instead, I will enthusiastically explain (briefly) that I write trading systems for a futures trading firm. If that doesn't interest my conversational partner, then neither of us have spent much time on the topic, and we can move on. But I might discover that they have a common interest, and we can enjoy discussing things that we both find very fascinating. And if my life puts someone off or makes them think less of me as a nerd or a geek, they can pound sand.

Join me.

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