30) five dollar bill « Tidepool News

Yesterday I took a crisp well-folded five to the casino downtown. I’d carried it in my wallet a month, first to Silicon Valley to chat with strangers at two conferences, hoping against hope for a partner to share my dream. I came home disappointed.

Then I limped round the house for weeks with my hurt foot and Frankenstein boot, saving the five through many days without money. Often my daughter wanted to go out for ice cream or McDonalds, but I resisted spending the bill, keeping it for a higher purpose, some slim chance it might turn my luck around.

For it had become the casino bill, the initial bet of an imagined winning streak that could fund the rest of my project. We all have our superstitions I guess. Still I’m embarrased to say how often I thought of that five. Each time I balanced our checkbook, calculating how little we had to spend on groceries, I’d think of the five. Each morning as I woke with my worries, I’d think of the five. I knew it was irrational. It gave me hope anyway.

I’m not a gambler, as least not in the usual sense. I’ve lived ten minutes from a casino for years and bet only once, winning a cool hundred and leaving immediately. Frankly I get my thirsty fill of unwarranted risk from my day job. Running a business is a pro-level gamble, especially with a passion project crowding out the steady income.

So here I am, in the worst financial shape of my life, with our house crumbling and our daughter slowly forgetting what a real vacation feels like. I’ve the means to fill in the hole with a big billable project. The only price is that I give up my dream.

I wish I could express how this feels, this choice. I’ve tried it all ways. I’ve worked part-time and full-time. I’ve sprinted many stressful stretches, racing against our retreating bank balance, pushing myself incredibly, all alone.

And for my efforts, I have four reams of code, a $70,000 debt, and a chance to change the world. The only sure thing is that if I give up now, my years of work will mean nothing. But I no longer have a choice. Each stressful day has ticked down to zero. Tomorrow, for the first time, we can’t pay our mortgage.

And so, with these worries running through me like a prison sentence, I finally drove over the mountain with my five dollar bill, convincing myself the money I need was waiting at the casino. I parked on the roof of the warm breezy garage and walked inside with a sense of destiny. I silently rode the elevator to the floor and walked past many people robotically feeding their own dream. I picked a slot machine, fed it my five, and pulled the lever over and over. With each pull, I willed a win.

When the five was gone, I drove home dejected. My gamble was a fantasy, and so too seemed all of it, my years of striving. What a foolish man I’ve been and yet very close to achieving something wonderful. No doubt, someone else will make their millions from the same idea, but not me. I’ve had my last spin.

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One response to “30) five dollar bill”

  1. Sherri says:

    I’m so sad to read this.
    I’ve been following your progress for about a year since I came across it. I think that creating better tools for kids and students to learn the related disciplines of programming, story telling, and game development is an excellent thing, and this must be a true project of love.

    However, nothing is more important than taking care of your family, and any project, no matter how interesting or potentially rewarding, and no matter how much time is already sunk into it – is worth the sacrifice of everything.

    As developers we ‘adopt’ our projects and they begin to take on a life of their own. Sometimes it can feel like we are letting the project down, or the as-yet non-existent future users, if we need to step back, slow down, or put our projects on hold. I’ve also had to scale back, pause, and shelve-for-later my dream projects due to having children, and my spare hours being nearly nil.

    It’s not goodbye, it’s just ‘see you later’. 🙂 Maybe you can make this a side project, or something for the future. But ultimately, if your _real_ life is crumbling around you, it’s unsustainable and not worth it.

    I’m reminded of something…

    A Sunk Cost analysis is one that ignores the time/materials/money already sunk into an endeavour, and then re-analyzes whether it is worth doing or continuing. If you had NOT sunk any time or money into this project, and sat down today, to decide if working on the project is worth it, given the present risks to your home, family, etc… would it still be as hard to set it aside? (http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/how-the-sunk-cost-fallacy-makes-you-act-stupid.html)

    Anyway, enough rambling. I commend your tough decision… but ultimately it can only be good for you, your family, and probably even the future of Tidepool.

    Sending good wishes,
    Sherri

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