Born to Work – Workaholics and the Greatest Hackathon the World Has Ever Seen

It began with 5 words: Why does my wrist hurt? I’ve been coding since high school and while I love getting my hands dirty, typing has always resulted in pain. Check any discussion forum, once Carpal Tunnel Syndrome hits you, the usual remedy is to R.I.C.E., put on wrist brace and forget coding until it heals. As I continued to dig further, I realized I was onto something deeper and darker. We were born to work and work is what we did for millions of years. We hid in caves, afraid of the sun and we worked. We worked when we were sad, happy, to stay with family and friends and sometimes we worked even harder to get away from it all.

Born To Work

Photo courtesy smallbox

Even the evolutionary workaholic Laniel Dieberman from Harvard University agrees. In his seminal thesis “Ape vs. Humans – working the difference“, he claims that persistent dwelling is how we, as a race, outlived the Neanderthals. While they were out hunting the big beasts, we stayed indoor, safely and just worked all day and night relentlessly. Can you imagine running outside with the wild beasts, with no modern shoes? We would’ve gotten chewed up right then and there. Persistent dwelling, he says, allowed us to day dream which resulted in our bigger brains. This is how we got into abstract thinking, mathematics and modern science. By sitting on our behinds and letting our minds wander.

Not too long ago, I visited a startup in the Silicon Valley during a hackathon that lasted, not one, not four, but 24 hours of non-stop ultra typing! I was amazed. Somehow the people in the Valley have mastered the art of typing and working relentlessly while the rest of the world was enjoying the sun, taking vacations and getting injured in the process. Skin cancer? The Valley people were immune to that. How can these people outlast everyone in working with nothing but Linope (a caffeinated imitation of Pinole made with high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, additives, artificial flavors and artificial colors). One of the key aspects to such furious typing turns out to be the cadence. At 180 words-per-minute, the finger turnover was short and fast. They caressed the keyboard with delicate touches while I catch myself pounding on the keyboard. Their resting heart rate was so much higher than my running one. The CEO of this startup even had symbolic names for these hackers. There was Venado the deer who was so fast to get up and get his Pizza and Drink that you barely saw him move. There was also Oso the bear who had a great bean bag that was spilling under his enormous behind. Finally there was the veteran, Valley born winner of the last five hackathons. His fingers and forearms rippled with muscles with years and years of furious typing. This was the master.

As I watched the Hackathon unfolded, it finally dawned on me. Más locos, the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels. These were the ones that were creating a dent in their chairs. I was wrong in taking up running. You know why people at work decorate their cubicles? Cubicles are the modern day caves. It’s where we work, thrive, avoid the sun and get better as humans. This is always how it was. I had simply forgotten that I was born to work. I’m hanging up my shoes now. Wait, I am a barefoot runner, but never mind that. I’m going back to marathon hacking sessions of 70-80 hours/week because that’s what it’s all about.

Okay, if you got this far, you should know that I love Born to Run, the book that got me out and running. Seriously though, check the date on the blog, get up and get out and don’t forget that self propulsion is a beautiful thing. Find the balance and keep on running. Happy Trails.

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