Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Life I Could Have Had

Strange coincidence today: First I read an article about Ron Wayne, the third partner in Apple Computer who sold his 10% share for $800; today it would be worth billions. Then I got an e-mail from an old friend/business associate asking whether I had contact info for another old friend/business associate. I did not, but I love hunting that sort of thing down on the Internet. In the process, I found out that five years ago our old friend, described in the press as a "serial entrepreneur," sold one of his companies for over$2 million.

The connection? Way back when I was a neophyte computer consultant, I was paired with a seasoned veteran (he often joked that he had "25 years of information technology experience" although he had just turned 30 -- in truth, he had started teaching computer classes at age 18 and had founded three computer businesses by the time we met). Peter was a Chicago native who had moved to Hawaii. He returned here for a short time with his Hawaiian wife to show her his roots and took this consulting gig to keep himself busy (unsurprisingly, once the novelty of snow had worn off, his wife was not fond of Chicago winters and flew back to Honolulu ahead of schedule).

Although we only worked together for about six months, we developed a close relationship. In some ways, Peter was the big brother I never had. When he was leaving, Peter told me I should come out to Hawaii, and he offered me an unspecified job in his next start-up venture. Obviously, I didn't do it. I could give all sorts of reasons, but the bottom line is that I didn't have the guts to make such a move. After what I read today, I can't help wondering how different my life could be.

To be fair, things haven't turned out so badly here in Chicago. Careerwise, I hitched my wagon to a different rising star and fared pretty well in the late 1990s. I met my wife, bought a house, acquired (too) many pets, rode my bike across the country, wrote a book, and so forth.

But what if I had moved to Hawaii? Would I still be working in the computer field? I probably wouldn't have met my wife, but would I have met someone else? (I don't believe that bullshit about there being only one person for each of us, especially when people use that nauseating term soul mate.) I probably wouldn't have as close of a relationship with my family, but maybe after being separated I would appreciate them more. Of course, I wouldn't have written a book about bicycling in Illinois, although I cannot imagine taking up surfing instead. Or maybe Peter would have talked me into it (he's a great talker), and I would have drowned in the Pacific ten years ago.

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