The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Living with choices

Posted By on February 20, 2011

Watched a documentary called [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1016268/ Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room]. Now, even though I was alive during the Enron scandal, I was not really affected by it, as I was still in college and didn’t have much in the way of assets, so the depths to which these guys had gone was really surprising. I mean, I always knew it was like a real life [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094291/ Wall Street], but I didn’t realize they took it to the level of market manipulation. Electricity prices too low? Call up a powerplant and ask them nicely to have an “unscheduled maintenance” outage for a couple of hours.

Now, all that said, that wasn’t what really struck me. What struck me was:
# These guys were doing for real what my D&D group joked about. See, we were a bunch of scientists, engineers and math majors – with a couple of history, politics, and business guys thrown in for good measure. Together, we cooked up this interesting thought experiment where we would:
## Get a job at some big megacorp.
## Run it in to the ground, while stashing a pile of money in offshore accounts, untouchable by US authorities, all before you’re 30.
## Go to prison for 10-20 years
## Retire at 50 with all the money you stashed away.
## (This is, of course, the general object of [http://www.terrorbullgames.co.uk/games/crunch_game.php Crunch].
# However, the real thing which hit me was the suicide of [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Clifford_Baxter Cliff Baxter]. Basically, the guy couldn’t live with what he’d done and all the scrutiny, so he shot himself in his car. The discussion on the documentary was that he had seen his life’s work destroyed and couldn’t live with it. This bit really hits home, for a couple of reasons.
## Firstly, it just strikes me as all his priorities are messed up. I simply don’t hang that much stake on my career. I put it in my craft, certainly, but it’s not the same. Further, my life is my home, my family, etc.
## Secondly, it is a reminder that you need to be able to live with yourself and the choices you make. It really doesn’t matter how “successful” you are if you end up eating your own gun. This is why I keep asking hard questions at places I’ve worked. Someone needs to ask them, and there are just too many yes-men these days.


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