Things that ruin your life – #1 – Games

When I was in college at U of M D, my friend Dave Good, gave me some valuable advice. Another student suggested that I check out “mudds”. I was told that I seemed like the type of person who would really like them. (mudds: imagine a text-only version of WoW, from the 90s). Anyway, I asked Dave about his opinion of mudds. His usually jovial demeanor was washed from his face. With a dead-serious look, he said “stay away from mudds and chat. They will ruin your grades, your career and your life!” I actually felt a chill as Dave delivered this ominous warning. I’m telling you, if you knew Dave like I did, there would be no doubt in your mind. This was no joke. In the back of my mind, I had to wonder why.

In one class that Dave and I had, we were assigned a team project. We were supposed to be in teams of 4, but since Dave, Joe and I wanted to work together, the professor figured we were equivalent to 4 people. I knew Dave was excellent and I could count on him, but I didn’t know Joe. Dave vouched for him. I knew Joe was really smart and hard-working, so I knew he could do the work.

My only concern with Joe is this: Joe was the guy who had suggested that I check out mudds. Based on Dave’s dire and ominous warning to me about mudds, I figured Joe was probably somebody that we wanted to avoid.

Still, Dave vouched for him. So maybe Joe had recently quit the mudds or he was so talented that he was able to find a balance between mudds and the rest of his life, or something. Dave knows his stuff, so if Dave vouched for Joe, it must be okay. I trust Dave.

Project Kick-off
All three of us met and split-up our tasks three-ways. The plan was: we all would write our assigned parts of code. Then we would get together in 5 days to combine them. We would be done, 2-days early. Easy A.

After the meeting, I pulled Dave aside and re-stated my concerns about Joe, “what if?” Maybe Dave and I should consider a backup-plan. Dave said I was being very pessimistic and I should wait and see. There was no need to panic so soon. We had two extra days as a safety net.

Fast-forward, two days. Of course Dave and I got our code done early and bragged to each other, in class. Joe was pretty quiet. When I asked Joe about his progress, he said all was going good and he would be ready to merge code on Monday, as promised. When I asked how far he got, he only repeated that things were going good.

I pulled Dave aside once more. “Look, I’m done and you are done. Of course we totally trust Joe and stuff, but how about if we wrote some ‘just-in-case’ code, over the weekend. I have the time to do it. Plus, it might be fun.” Dave just stared at me. I continued, “If Joe comes-through on Monday, we will tell him that we never doubted him for a second and we never speak of it again. However, if he lets us down, we will be covered. Come on. What do you say?”

Dave said it was totally unnecessary, because we would still be done two days early. So, if Joe let us down, we could write the code then. There was plenty of time. We had nothing to worry about.

Then, Dave grinned and admitted that he had some spare time over the weekend too. It might be a little fun. So he agreed to do half of Joe’s stuff and I would do the other half, “just-in-case”. Of course it was a total waste of time, so this was just for leisure, and nothing more.

Code-merge Day
Monday rolled-around and Joe was a no-show for class. We called him and got no reply. Same for email (and I know Joe always checked his email. He would have to be hospitalized or dead to miss his email).

Dave and I had our team meeting on Monday, as planned, and merged our code. It took a few hours, but we were totally done. Then we gently un-plugged the “just-in-case” code for Joe and set it aside. We didn’t want Joe to be aware of it. So, when he came-through with his code, as promised, there would be no bruised egos.

The next day, Joe left a phone message for Dave, saying that he was all-set with the code and maybe we could merge it before class on Wed. Of course, Joe didn’t actually talk to Dave or send any files for us. He just left a message.

Wed morning, Joe was a no-show. Luckily, we had everything we needed. We merged our “just-in-case” code and turned-in our project, on-time. As we turned-in our projects, the professor announced that we were going to grade our teammates, based on their performance. It was a surprise to everybody. I had to do a little soul-searching before I submitted my rating for Joe. I wound up giving him a 0 out of 5 with a note that I would have given him a -1 if I could, because he not-only betrayed us. He mislead us. If we had believed him, our project would have been incomplete and all three of us would have paid for trusting Joe. I suppose that was a little harsh of me, but I was really angry about it. Just think what would’ve happened if I wasn’t so pessimistic and we didn’t have that “just in case” code.

Naturally, the professor read my comment and followed-up with Dave and I. He said that our project was excellent, but more than that, we probably gained something extraordinary from the experience, way more valuable than a grade. We learned to have a solid back-up plan. In our careers, this experience might serve us well and possibly save us from other disasters someday.

Lessons Learned
I also learned one other valuable lesson: games (and other leisure) are fun, but games will destroy your career and maybe your life, if you let them become your sole-focus and priority. If you lack self-control, discipline or just have trouble keeping priorities balanced in your life sometimes, then you should just avoid games (especially addictive ones).

Do your homework, to get an A at work(or school) and live your life well.

About Tim Golisch

I'm a geek. I do geeky things.
This entry was posted in Career, IT Horror Stories, Lessons Learned. Bookmark the permalink.

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