You need to be happy to be successful, not successful to be happy

November 23, 2010

During the interviews I did while writing Making it Big in Software, I had the privilege of speaking with some of the world’s great visionaries, innovators and business leaders.  None of them were as fast as a speeding bullet or leaped tall building in a single bound. It turns out that celeberities (even executives) are people too.  There were some striking commonalities. One that came through was their joint perception on the importance of loving your work.  I didn’t ask any leading questions (like “Is it important to, duh, enjoy your work?”).  I simply asked each of them their advice on being successful in software.  Almost all of these industrial gurus commented on how import it is to love what you do, follow your passion, and work in an environment with people you enjoy and respect. While that’s probably good advice for any profession it just seems a quantum or two more important in software.

Here are just a few samples from the book:

“If you are entering the field, find something that you really love doing and get excited about doing, so that you almost feel as if you should be paying them to come to work. I think you need to be happy to be successful, not successful to be happy.”

David Vaskevitch, Microsoft CTO

“Be sure that you like what you do at work and that you like the people you work with—you’ll have to live with them for a long time.”

Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of C++

“The more you can merge what you want to do with your job, the better.”

Steve Wozniak, inventor of the Apple computer

“I believe that I just work better if I enjoy what I’m doing. I suspect that if anybody wants to be ‘the best’ at whatever they do, they have to realize that it takes decades of hard work. And the main way to actually keep doing decades of hard work is to simply enjoy it so much that you don’t want to stop.”

Linus Torvalds, original author of GNU/Linux

“…follow your passion. Most of all, be sure you have fun in the process.”

Grady Booch, IBM Fellow

“…if you can find a job that you really like, the better you’re gonna be. You’re gonna be more productive. You’re going to be happier. You’re going to be more satisfied in general with what’s going on.”

Ray Tomlinson, inventor of email

“Follow your bliss.”

Jon Bentley, author of Programming Pearls

“For me, work is really enjoyable, making it hard to define where work ends and fun begins.”

Marissa Mayer, Google VP

“That’s what’s great—my career is a lot of fun. I don’t view it as work. Computers have always been my hobby. The fact that I get to go to work and work on my hobby and get paid for it is just fantastic.”

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Technical Fellow

“What is really important is to make sure that they are growing, contributing, and enjoying what they do.”

John Schwarz, CEO Business Objects

“My number one piece of advice is to have fun.”

James Gosling, inventor of Java, Sun VP and Fellow

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