Jules and I recently finished Halt and Catch Fire.
I already watched the show, but I wanted to watch it again with Jules because it is one of my very favorite shows ever made.
Halt and Catch Fire is a show on AMC that lasted 4 seasons. It’s a fictional story centered around 5 characters and their journey through the tech race of the 80’s and 90’s. The characters are fictional but the story follows a historically accurate timeline.
My favorite character is Joe MacMillin. Joe is a misunderstood genius. He can’t code. He can’t build computers. He doesn’t have the technical skills like the other characters, but he sees what computers and networking will become. He sees how it will change the world.
Many people like Joe are never satisfied. No matter how big their success, they never feel like they get the “win.” They feel the pressure of the people on their heels, who are innovating and who are next in line on the cutting edge.
I won’t give the story away, but by the end of the show I was happy to see Joe finally come to the realization that his contribution to the new world is just as important as anyone else’s.
All of our wins are temporary. In the same way we get ahead by making improvements on the work of those who came before us, it is inevitable that others will surpass us by improving our own work.
A little bit faster. A little bit smaller. A little bit better.
Sometimes, we see huge jumps in advancement. For instance, when going online meant running through Ethernet and away from dial up. These advancements are anomalies.
Almost all the advancements in our society are the result of persistence in the form of micro improvements. It rarely happens all at once. In fact, it usually happens so slowly that we don’t even see it. But it’s happening. Every single day, all around us, constantly humming and buzzing like busy little bees.
We see this same story in architecture, in construction, in the culinary industry, in art, in science and in every other industry imaginable.
The point is to do the best work you can do and to be excited about the fact that someone loved your work enough to try and make it better. This is how society works. This is why I believe that we will find a way to clean the oceans and source renewable energy and break cultural stigmas and find a way to feed and get clean water to everyone.
Progress can’t be stopped. The nature of progress demands that it’s laws apply in all things.
It may feel at times like we are taking steps backwards. It may feel as through we are taking losses. But just remember that there are people out there like Joe MacMillan. People who obsess over being just a little bit better. People who carve the path for the next one’s in line who need to be just a little bit better than Joe.
Count your wins. Count your losses. Definitely keep score. But fail forward. Most importantly, realize at the end of your days this is a zero sum game. We either all win or we all lose together. I may be in the minority, but I’m betting on a win for us all.