96) Crevasse

“A crevasse is a deep crack in an ice sheet or glacier.” Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crevasse

In 1994,  about 9 years into my career in integrated circuit layout ( which, for simplicity, I have called chip design throughout this essay) I decided it very important to me to earn $100K per year.

I had beaten a rotten childhood in North Minneapolis, moved to California, dumped a speed addicted girlfriend, escaped the  U.S. Air Force and married a wonderful woman. But earning six-figures would demonstrate attainment of a goal that someone who grew up in my circumstances wasn’t supposed to think was possible – career mastery.

$100K came rather easily in 1997, then a few more times during the next few years while working as a mask design contractor.

Authors note – As you are no doubt aware, $100K does not go as far as it used to. As for me, in 1997, this compensation was a significant achievement.

But far from becoming masterful in the craft of my career, I had instead become very good at promoting my services, saying yes to technical challenges (sometimes without regard for how I would resolve them), to work until exhaustion and excelling as a road warrior in the  states of Colorado, Arizona, California, Idaho and Minnesota for months at a time.

I had become masterful in adapting to various contracting situations; masterful at the art of diplomacy, masterful at accepting every challenge, masterful at learning design software, at setting up temporary housing, at finding the local gym, bookstore, coffee shop and week-end get away.

Most of all, I used quiet time in my cool, sunlit living spaces to obsess about how I could find meaning in my work again. Or the joy of releasing the unrelenting pressure to perform a contract.

Still very grateful for the opportunities entrusted to me by the firms that hired me to draw computer chips, I wanted more control over my work, how I spent my time, how I helped and encouraged people. And I wanted to be around people who thought like me, who felt empowered, purposeful, unafraid and lived their lives without seeing limits.

But I was wedged very deeply in a crevasse whose sides were steep and slippery.

Next – The Beginning of My Quest for True Financial Independence

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