Amazingly, it's been 4 months since Steve Jobs died.
Four is hardly a trend but it is interesting that the death and biography of the greatest businessman of our generation -- someone who was responsible for so many world-changing products and ideas, who shaped our world through sheer force of will & imagination, etc. etc. -- is inspiring some people to turn away from the lifestyle & choices that made Jobs so successful & inspiring in the public sphere and to attempt the path that Jobs did not.
Completely removing yourself from a company you co-founded, especially one that has been as successful and widely-adopted as StackOverflow/StackExchange, is an enormous decision and a very uncommon one; Atwood is a very interesting guy, and I'll look forward to learning what he does next.
I'm lucky, myself: I found my work-life balance early, when I was young; perhaps it would be more accurate to note that she found me! I've never felt the urge to change the world, like Steve Jobs felt every second of his life, though I can't deny the thrill of knowing that software I've written is in the hands of millions.
I was thinking about all of this as I read Leslie Chang's fascinating article in The New Yorker about reading habits in China: Working Titles. Chang quotes the famous author Lao Kang:
His wife's sister and her husband have lived and worked in the United States for years. "They don't focus on money," he said. "All they care about is living a pleasant life. Every weekend, they drive somewhere on an outing."
I suggested that he could also spend weekends this way.
"Yes," he said. "But every time I think about doing it I immediately think I should be doing something more meaningful. Like working."
I'm reminded of a (apocryphal?) story that was told to us freshmen at the University of Chicago about Robert Maynard Hutchins, the chancellor under whose leadership the university decided to resign from the Big 10 athletic conference, tear down the football stadium, and build the Joseph Regenstein Library in its place. When asked why he felt a library was a better use of the space than a football stadium, Hutchins is said to have responded:
Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I sit down and read a book until it passes.I'm off now; time to go finish the weekend house-cleaning :)