One of the most important lessons from my apprenticeship did not come from my mentor, but from my fellow apprentice, who talked me into coming out of my shell and meeting the community of Seattle Xcoders. I met a lot of important people, not the least of whom was software legend Brent Simmons.
This would soon become vital, when things started to get tense between my mentor and me. Brent told me stories of his own apprenticeship, and the tension that grew between him and his mentor. He explained it as an inevitable phase, indicative of growth, a sign it was time to move on.
We often call him the godfather of indie software development, but in truth he more closely embodies the Japanese word, “sensei,” which is translated as both “teacher” and “doctor,” but literally means “born before.”
Just as your doctor is able to give peace of mind by assuring you what you’re experiencing is normal, just as a teacher is able to draw from their superior knowledge and experience, so too has Brent set the tone and led the way for a generation of App Makers.
I can honestly say I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for Brent Simmons, and I think several other people would say the same thing. On the occasion of his birthday—it’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years since B4—I thought I would share some things I’ve learned reflecting on Brent Simmons.
The first time in my life I ever missed a flight was to Las Vegas, for Brent’s big 40th birthday bash. I mixed up a.m. and p.m., which is very much unlike me, the former airline employee. I was flying back and forth between Seattle and San Jose because I’d just come on as co-founder of Tapulous.
I have always prided myself on an attention to detail and a willingness to push myself. Here, without even trying, Brent gave me a permanent reminder that pushing yourself too hard will lead you to make mistakes.
Brent is a hardcore dude, but he knows when enough is enough. Since his 40th, he’s lost a lot of weight and gotten into really good shape. It’s no secret nerds in our community have been getting in shape lately, and while some of that is attributable to Steve’s early demise, I think it precedes that.
I know for me, seeing Brent get into shape was a real kick in the pants. If he’s not immortal, nor immune to the laws of nature, who the hell are we?
I’ve noticed something else about Brent. He’ll disappear. He’ll decide he’s had enough, and would like to get some sleep, and will just disappear. If you happen to be standing next to him, he might say goodbye, but otherwise, he’ll just be gone.
I, on the other hand, always make the rounds and say goodbye to people. I stress about other people’s feelings. A lot. Brent doesn’t, and yet we all love him. I think there’s a lesson in that. Something about being genuine and useful and spending your energy on things that matter.
You can draw boundaries, and take care of yourself, and people will still respect you. That is what I learned from Brent Simmons.