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Not what I had in mind
brief tales of chance, passion and people
When I was 10, my Granfer died in a car accident. His PC ended up in my family home. It was a hulking great thing running Windows 3.0. I was obsessed with it and spent hours opening every file and program, trying to figure out what each one did. I eventually taught myself to write HTML and Perl. This is how I learned to code. (Thanks Granf.)
When I was 19, a passing visitor—who I did not like—left me a book on Daoism. It was the first time I'd encountered a perspective that included everything from philosophy to breathing exercises; ideas of Enlightenment alongside instructions on how to poo correctly. The idea of purifying consciousness took root and I started practising. This is how I became a meditator. (Thanks asshole.)
I used my new coding skills to build blogs and write about politics and Daoism. New friends reached out and one of them recommended a book about "hardcore" meditation practice. I followed the instructions diligently. Three weeks in, whilst concentrating intensely on an imaginary green triangle in my head, I had a mystical experience. It up-ended my sense of what was possible in life. This is how I became a mystic. (Thanks Steve & Alan.)
For many years I worked easy temp jobs, saved money and then took months off to study more interesting things like permaculture, Ninjutsu and massage therapy. But the work was utter drudgery. I realised I could probably get a job writing code, yet for some reason it took me a very long time to believe in this enough to make a change. I found a job advert on Gumtree. I met none of the requirements but applied and got a meeting with the manager. He told me he'd read my blog and we talked about meditation for an hour. After that, he offered me the job. This is how I got started as a web developer. (Thanks Matt.)
A year later a friend reached out and told me he was working with an investor in Bath and that I should come meet him. It was near enough to Bristol so I jumped on a train. After eating wagamamas together, he pitched me on the role and I decided to go work with them. This is how I began working with startups. (Thanks Tom & Neil.)
Commuting every day was a pain, so I moved to a cheap flat in Bath. I started dating with little interest in anything serious. After a few weeks, I met my future wife. This is how I got married. (Thanks Gina.)
We bought a house together in a village outside of Bath. With no gym nearby, I decided to try running outside. Until then, my running experience had been limited to small, oppressive stints on the treadmill. But running through the countryside and along trails was something else altogether. I was hooked. Two years later I'd be lining up to run 100km in a day. This is how I became an ultrarunner. (Thank you trees, trails and the great British countryside.)
Back in Bath, I had started building a side project in my free time: an online community where people could share their meditation journals. After the initial excitement, work got too busy and it went dormant for years. Then someone emailed me out of the blue with some feature ideas. He came back again a year later with some venture capital funding and an acquisition offer. I said yes and went to work with the new team as their CTO, getting to engage my two favourite things at once: meditation and technology. This is how I sold a company. (Thanks Jared.)
As that venture hit difficult times, we brought in an outside advisor. His energy and execution were unlike anything I'd experienced until then. After the project sputtered to a halt, he asked me if I wanted to work with him on his own idea. This is how I ended up cofounding Almanac. (Thanks Adam.)
Some of these things worked out, some of them didn't.
None of them arrived in the way I expected. Most of them felt too much, too soon.
They weren’t what I had in mind. But they took me far beyond the boundaries of my self-drawn maps.
Your plans and suppositions about life will inevitably fall short. But leave enough space and the light of other people will spill through; a sunrise of Otherness burning through a fog of self-expectation.
I'm excited to see who I'll be thanking next.