In 1985 I got obsessed. My obsession was the Macintosh computer I’d bought and getting it to do things that I wanted it to do. My idea was to get a computer to help my business, and I tried hard to make that happen, with little success. The problem was that it was a Macintosh computer and it was 1985. The Mac hadn’t been around long and didn’t do very much. It was little more than a toy at that point; a very impressive toy, but its utility was limited.
Going through a bit of computer obsession seemed to be a bit of an epidemic at the time. Many people, mostly men, got fascinated with computers and put large amounts of time into them to the detriment of the rest of their lives. Most of those people got over it after a while and computers became a part of their lives. Their period of obsession probably put them in a better than average place to take advantage of the changes that computers were bringing to our world, but their obsession was short lived.
Mine didn’t last too long either. Perhaps 2 and a half years, maybe a bit more. During that time I discovered the application called Omnis that I mentioned in a previous post. My obsession became narrow. I was convinced that I could make something with the Omnis application that would save my company. My obsession made it hard for me to stay focussed on other parts of my life. My lack of focus contributed to my business failing and my marriage ending. It was a true obsession.
Out the the obsession and circumstances (I was out of a job when the business failed) I found myself getting good at Omnis. Then better. Then very good. I got a job with the company that developed Omnis for a while. In that job I was set free to experiment and play with the program and little by little I found myself become one of the two or three top Omnis developers in the world. I could make Omnis do what no one else could make it do. I understood how it worked and what made it tick. I was a master of Omnis. At least the Omnis that existed in the late 80s and early 90s. After that Omnis became more sophisticated and I had settled into an actual job (in my own company, but a job nonetheless) using Omnis. Others leapfrogged over me and I become merely good at it.
My career, such as it has been, was created by my obsession. The obsession made me very good at something. Being very good at something became my career. Even when I’d go through times of not enjoying my career, being very good at something was seductive. I liked it. I’d been a jack of many trades, but now I was a master of one. I liked the acknowledgement. I liked knowing I was that good. And, while I haven’t been obsessed by Omnis for a very long time, I’m very glad I was. I’m still good at it.
I suspect that becoming very good at anything demands obsession. For at least a time that thing must fill your existence. You must inhabit it and get to know its smell and taste. You must have a time when you abandon balance in your life and become single focussed. Obsessed.
Rock and roll, science, the arts, sport, literature, every domain of human endeavour has its masters, those who lead the way and have mastered their craft. I have no evidence, but I suspect that every one of them was or is obsessed. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master any field. I think that may be a necessary but not sufficient measure. It’s quite possible to put 10,000 hours into a craft and come away with solid but unremarkable ability. The magic of obsession is that it fills those 10,000 hours with a laser-like focus that hones abilities that can’t be honed in any other way.
I’m grateful for obsession. People who were in my life at the time might not be so grateful, and I’m not at all happy about how unavailable I was in those days, but all in all obsession has been my friend.