Fearless Dream

reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Category: Entrepreneurial Songs


The three weeks since Launch Day have been incredibly fun and exhilarating. I’ve been so deeply immersed, making satisfying, design-validating progress on my first project, that you’ve scarcely heard a peep from me here. OK, my solo time hasn’t quite been the blogging Renaissance I had planned for, but it’s exactly what I need to be doing, and I don’t want to risk breaking the fantastic momentum I’ve got going. It’s been delightful, amazingly productive, and an absolute rush.

At this stage, I can only reveal that I’m designing and implementing what I believe will be some truly neat and groundbreaking software for Mac OS X. Believe me, I can’t wait to be able to announce more than that — I’ll announce it with great enthusiasm, when the time is right. Meanwhile, I thought I might mention a bit about why I’m having such fun working on this.

A big part of what makes the development process so rewarding, and makes what I’m attempting even possible for a lone developer to achieve, is the superb set of system capabilities and developer technologies that are available to leverage on the Mac platform, which fall under the broad marketing-label umbrella of the “Cocoa Frameworks”. As I mentioned in a comment on Ricochet, these technologies have quietly revolutionized the economics of software development, breaking down barriers and former notions of what a single engineer or small team could aspire to accomplish. I’ve been working with these technologies for about fifteen years now, enjoyed the privilege of working on them for the past nine and a half, and now am applying and synthesizing everything I’ve learned into some great new stuff that I believe will empower users in very exciting ways. With due acknowledgment of what a thrill it was hacking Apple ][s and PCs at the assembly-language level back in the 80s, working with this stuff is probably the most fun I have ever had programming.

The best thing of all about working with the Objective-C language and Cocoa Frameworks at their full potential, is that it isn’t just cheap rapid prototyping that leaves you with a long way to go to a robust, production-quality end result. You can achieve all the benefits of quick development without having to write a lot of temporary code that you’ll just end up discarding later — analogous, perhaps, to the temporary support scaffolding that a carpenter or stone mason might have to build to get a job done. If you stick to the right path (which isn’t too hard to do), you can begin to realize a design with quick-turnaround results, while faithfully modeling the things you’re working with in uncompromising full generality, or a subset thereof driven by immediate needs, that can be readily extended to full generality without having to discard progress and backtrack. All the while you’re making progress that counts. That in itself is an exhilarating feeling.

I don’t know whether the foregoing communicates much to those who haven’t written software before. Some may be relieved to hear that it’s as technical as I’m likely to get on this blog. I just wanted to try to convey some sense of how fun and exciting this endeavor is to me — in part because this is the “distraction” that’s going to keep me off the radar for spans of time, though I will do my best to set aside some time for blogging when I reasonably can.

I leave you with an entrepreneurial song of the day: “Prime Mover” from Rush’s 1987 Hold Your Fire. I discovered this one around the time my son was born a couple years ago, and also think of it as a hard-to-beat optimistic anthem for a new life. A definite favorite of mine. Enjoy!

Prime Mover

Basic elemental instinct to survive
Stirs the higher passions
Thrill to be alive

Alternating currents in a tidewater surge
Rational resistance to an unwise urge

Anything can happen…

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey is not to arrive

Anything can happen…

Basic temperamental filters on our eyes
Alter our perceptions
Lenses polarize

Alternating currents force a show of hands
Rational responses force a change of plans

Anything can happen…

From a point on the compass
To magnetic north
The point of the needle moving back and forth

From the point of entry
Until the candle is burned
The point of departure is not to return

Anything can happen…

I set the wheels in motion
Turn up all the machines
Activate the programs
And run behind the scene

I set the clouds in motion
Turn up light and sound
Activate the window
And watch the world go ‘round

From the point of conception
To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender
To the burden of proof

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of a journey
Is not to arrive

Anything can happen…

Launch Day

I have eagerly awaited this day for a very long time now. Today, for the first time in years, I own my own time again, and I’m officially embarking on the adventure of starting my own software development company.

I have a million and one things on my mind to do with this precious first day, let me tell you, so allow me to defer to my original announcement of this endeavor, which I think already captured the event’s significance to me pretty darn well:

I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug for a while now, and a new job for my wife that requires us to move cross-country has had the welcome effect of forcing/facilitating Decision Time. We’ve put our house on the market, and later this month will be moving to lovely Packanack Lake, New Jersey. I’ll have a couple months of working remotely for my previous employer ahead, to tie up loose ends and leave my areas of responsibility in the best shape I can, but come October 1st [OK, I ended up sticking around for a bit more loose-end tying than I originally planned on!] I’ll be striking off in pursuit of my own American Dream — which, to me, means taking a chance on myself and my ideas and aspirations, embracing risk and challenge, and developing my talents to their fullest, with the hope of producing things that other people find useful, and in the process making the work I love my living. I’m grateful to have enjoyed something close to that in my current job, but this is an opportunity to own the entire creative process from end to end, to challenge and take chances on my own design sense, and to pursue areas of application that serve other markets.

I’m tremendously excited, and am positively chomping at the bit to get started. There are plenty of logistics to take care of between here and Day One, but I feel lighter with the knowledge that I’ve committed to this new course, and that I’m giving myself permission to do the very things I yearn to. I also hope this change will enable me to do more writing here, and I mean to include among that writing the story of my startup venture as it unfolds.

As I set my sights on this Big Dream (and, when I think those words, Bill Whittle’s “Trinity” (part 2 here) is on my mind as having so brilliantly put into words what I feel about it), in the forefront of my thoughts is a deep and abiding appreciation for a culture that, in its very bones, cherishes, celebrates, and strives to exhort exactly this kind of big dreaming. What I’m setting out to achieve is exactly what a culture founded on the individual right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness designed itself for. My gratitude for this opportunity is immense, and I mean to make use of it to achieve great things, while always remembering my debt to those who took tremendous risks before me to make it all possible.

As I later wrote, “Day One sitting at my desk in my newly appointed home office, ready to create wonderful things, seems a long way off now, but I’m so charged with excitement about it that it’s getting me through the day-to-day tasks necessary to reach my goal — and that kind of focus is exactly what I need.” Well, it worked, and I made it through, and I’m here and ready and eager to go, and part of me can only just barely believe it. This first day will necessarily consist of some basic logistical stuff — such as getting my workspace cleared and transformed into a de-cluttered environment where I can think — but damn if even that isn’t an exciting and fun task taken in context. This baby is mine. I’m creating the environment I want, the technology I want, the culture and vision of the future I want. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Music has always been a huge motivator and connection to Important Stuff for me, and over the years I’ve accumulated a playlist of favorite entrepreneurial or otherwise inspiring songs that get me in the desired frame of mind to achieve. I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll make a habit of posting about one of them every once in a while.

There’s a lot of good stuff on the list, such that choosing a single Launch Day song to rule them all is no easy task, but when I think about it there’s a natural choice for me: I’m going with the Live in Paris version of Joe Satriani’s “Time Machine”, which I must apologize to my neighbors for cranking earlier today. Not particularly entrepreneurial — purely instrumental, in fact — but this one holds a deep connection for me, one that reaches back nearly two decades to some of my first serious thinking about my life, tugging at threads that have run through my life since, and striking those Mystic Chords of Memory that Bill Whittle has written so eloquently about. Turn it up and I’m back circa 1994, cruising up California’s Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Malibu to clear my head and think, with the album version (a worthy listen) driving my speakers for all they’ve got. I made Big Plans then, let me tell you, and now, today, I’m keeping promises made to myself long ago, and embarking full-throttle on fulfilling them. The feeling of elation is beyond my meager ability to describe. This is exactly where I need to be.

More to come soon!

© 2017 Troy N. Stephens

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