Whether you experienced it through a pair of taped-up bifocals, through your helmet's facemask, or simply from the sidelines, we’ve all run into the age-old conflict between jocks and nerds. As the only valedictorian football player at my high school, I probably know it better than most. Take it from someone who has tried to teach calculus to a linebacker and defensive formations to a ‘mathlete' - these two don’t often mix well. And yet, as I’ve made my way through computer science classes and into the tech world, I’ve come to realize that jocks and nerds are really two sides of the same coin. Here’s why.
1. They do crazy sh*t. All that running and jumping and stuff is cool and all, but when I venture over to the engineering side of our office, I feel like my head is going to explode. Talk about superhuman feats. These guys have 20 different windows open at the same time and can switch between them before I can read a word – honestly, they’ve put together keyboard shortcut combos that could rival Beethoven’s 5th. And I swear I’ve never seen one of them blink. Not once.
(I don't see a difference, do you?)
2. They have quirky rituals. Fun fact: Argentine goalie Sergio Goycochea has a ritual of…well…relieving himself on the pitch before he defends penalty kicks. To be fair, I haven’t heard of any engineers doing something like this in the office, but for the most part those guys can have whatever they need to keep pumping out those 1s and 0s – they can work barefoot, drink 3 gallons of tea every day, use a mega-array of 6 monitors - whatever it takes.
3. They operate on their own schedules. Kobe is famous for working hard and all the time. Once when his team was on the road, he called his trainer at 3:00 am to shoot 1,000 jumpers because he was having trouble sleeping. Now that I think about it, maybe the story was about Sergey Brin and 1,000 lines of code…oh well. You know, I used to be jealous of engineers’ schedules – who else can roll into the office just in time for lunch and not get a second look? Don’t get me wrong, ThoughtSpot is all about the casual startup lifestyle, but over on the Marketing side of the office we still have some respect. Anyway, I used to be jealous until one morning I decided to come in early – I expected the office to be empty, but lo and behold, what did I find but 3 red-eyed engineers typing away amidst a sea of empty coffee cups.
4. They speak their own language. When I first joined my high school’s football team, the coach thought it would be a good idea to have the freshmen practice with the varsity players for a day. I found myself first in line for a drill – he opened his mouth and let out a series of unfamiliar sounds (presumably in an attempt to explain what to do). I only managed to catch one word: “hit”. Before I had a chance to clarify, I was on the ground with 300 lbs of muscle on top of me. We try to keep the bodyslamming to a bare minimum at our office, but to this day I swear I have flashbacks when I accidentally ask our IT guy to explain what he’s doing.
How is this possible? What can Michael Jordan and Bill Gates possibly have in common? What I’ve settled on is this: the fundamental thing that serious athletes and dedicated technical people have in common is that they get up every morning and push themselves to do extremely difficult things that the vast majority of the world can’t begin to imagine.
Whether you’re dunking from the free throw line or implementing Map-Reduce; whether you’re wearing Nikes or sandals with socks - you're inspiring. Keep doing what you’re doing.