It’s better to burn out than fade away – Highlander

Growing up, I saw this Sci-Fi movie with Sean Connery and some other guy about immortals who could only be killed if their heads were chopped off. At one point in the movie (there were sequels too, but I vividly remember the first) the villain says, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” We remember Machiavelli not because he followed norms, stayed in his place and held his piece. The reason we remember, “The Master,” is that he was willing to call a spade a spade. At one point, he was even tortured for his beliefs. After the fact, he wrote to his friends that despite the torture, he was elated, having survived and not yielded to the gentry which strove to silence him.

I’m a growth hacker. That’s the latest tech meme I’ve seen that most closely aligns with my experience, skill set and resume. Growing up, I was programming in BASIC before the age of ten. Most people I know can’t identify with, “Goto 10,” as a command, nor do they fully grok the elation you experience when you go from no memory to floppy disk storage. At work, in life, with people, I don’t walk around talking floppy disks. These days, it’s all about the cloud, the distributed system, hyperdex and ever decreasing latencies in your application, because speed might be the only thing that matters.

If you aren’t Sean Connery, how do you apply this principle?

Simple. Take a stand. Machiavelli wouldn’t be remembered five hundred years later if he had simply gone with the flow. Yep, he got tortured for his perspective, but isn’t the vision worth fighting for? More than three hundred years ago, my great+ grandfather fought in the revolutionary war. They struggled, they persevered because they saw, they understood: sometimes, regardless of how things are, you need to fight for what’s right. I’ve always likened myself closer to a predator than prey. Sure, the Ostrich move makes sense sometimes but I can’t imagine anybody looking smart with their head in the sand and their butt sticking out.