Dents in the Universe

Jay sat down with his coffee. He wasn’t old, but his gray hair belied his years. The coffee shop was filled with the buzz of conversation from young hopeful twentysomethings trying to “make a dent in the universe.”

The shop was popular with them. The conversation next to him was between two young men. One seemed slightly older and a bit more worn, the second listening intently. They used to be classmates in high school, catching up after many years. Jay had his book open, but he couldn't help but overhear their conversation.

“Yea it was pretty amazing. I'd wake up and bike over at 10. We worked till midnight when the three of us biked back. Only one of us had a working headlight, and only one had a working tail light. So we had to bike back single file, like one unit.” He smirked remembering the absurdity of the situation.

“That's crazy! Why didn't you guys just get your headlights repaired?” said the younger one.

“We were too busy.” He said simply. “We were just working so damn hard. We did this for about 6 months straight, 7 days a week.”

“Dude, that sounds terrible.”

“It wasn't. We were on a roll. Every day was full of excitement. We were on the verge something big. Something of significance…” His voice trailed off. He considered what he just said.

He continued, truthfully.

“But things didn’t go so well. After the launch and initial stellar growth, things started petering out. To stay within the rules of the App Store we ended up building something we didn’t initially want to; something we knew very little about. The product suffered.

“We tried a lot to turn things around. We blamed the App Store for what we couldn’t do. Though, in all honesty, we were burnt out.”

He looked away for a second, expressionless. But his eyes seemed deeper than the ocean. His friend let him have the moment, then asked, “What was that like?”

“It sucked. We kept trying to improve things of course, but it never went anywhere. We weren’t happy, there was no excitement. We couldn’t think creatively anymore. We tried to build something entirely new, trying to take our lessons from the first product into the second. But that went nowhere. Our heart wasn’t in it anymore and we didn’t feel like doing any of it anymore.”

“So what’d you do?”

“We shut it down.”

“That must have been tough.”

“It was. But it was for the better. By this time it was my final quarter… spring quarter. I just wanted to enjoy it. I took just one class, and started going to the beach every Wednesday with my cofounders and any friends that would come…”

Jay smiled at this. He knew burnout all too well, he was happy to see that this young man seemed to have learned his lesson early. Jay closed his book; he’d finished the story. When he got up to leave his eye saw something. The young man’s hair was already graying.

Jay caught the last of the conversation as he made his way to the door.

“Would you do it again?”

“Yeah. Though this time I’ll take weekends off.”

Relieved, Jay walked out.