Mystic Microsoft: A Journey of Transformation in the Halls of High Technology


Make a DonationOrder Printed CopiesChapter Sixteen

Fade to Light

 

As corporations go, and despite whatever faults or shortcomings it might have, Microsoft has been and remains one of the best companies in the world to work for. Microsoft offers leadership, for one thing: almost every project has some kind of influence, whether real or potential, on the overall direction of the global computer industry. This alone is enough to draw many of the most talented engineers and managers into the Microsoft family, making for a very dynamic workplace. And even if an overly ambitious project turns out to be completely impractical, there is yet great delight in doing your best to contribute to the world's technological progress. Sometimes the journey itself is more important than the destination; certainly much is learned along the way.

The money one earns on salary alone is decent; other compensations can make it exceptional. On top of that, Microsoft has one of the most comprehensive, generous, and open benefits policies around, providing medical, dental, and vision plus coverage for disabilities, mental health, and life insurance. It even subsidizes membership in local health clubs.

The cafeterias at Microsoft's corporate campus are great in size, number, and sheer culinary variety. For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Microsoft boasts the largest dining facilities in the entire Seattle metropolitan area as well as some of the lowest prices—thanks again to subsidies. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and fruit juices are always free, ubiquitously available in the kitchenettes found on every floor of every building. For those putting in extra hours during "crunch mode" there are often free dinners and late-night snacks as well. And occasionally, for no good reason whatsoever, someone might come down the halls handing out Dove Ice Cream Bars.

Microsoft strives, by and large, to make its employees comfortable. The buildings at its headquarters are designed to offer a wall of windows in nearly half of the offices. And they are real offices—with doors and individual lighting. Sure, you might at times have to share an office with another person, but it's a far cry from the typical cubicle jungle and a blazing canopy of fluorescent lights.

Other perks include free and frequent shuttle service between each building and between different Microsoft sites in the greater Seattle area. There are several full-sized athletic fields at corporate campus for softball and soccer, as well as full-sized volleyball sands and basketball courts. Employees are also given $1,000 of purchasing power per year at the Company Store where one can buy any Microsoft product for only a few dollars above cost. Most versions of Windows, for example, run $20 to $30; Microsoft Office, $50-$75; any game or CD-ROM title, $10. Needless to say, a thousand dollars will easily get you two to three shopping-carts of stuff and an easy way to impress your friends and relatives at Christmastime.

In general, the working hours at Microsoft are very flexible—workdays start anywhere between 4am and 2pm and end anywhere between, well, 2pm and 4am! As described earlier in Chapter Two, the ubiquitous use of email and other team-management tools render it fairly unnecessary for everyone to be in their offices at the same time. What matters is getting your work done: how it happens and when it happens are, for the most part, irrelevant.

Microsoft does its part to address traffic concerns, especially as the company continues to expand. Besides flexΒ­time hours, it's a simple matter to telecommute. Microsoft also subsidizes bus passes and vanpools to ease the strain, and if the demands of your work cause you to miss your normal ride, Microsoft covers the cost of a taxi.

The dress code is relaxed—hard to find a suit anywhere, even in the legal department! As once reported in Micronews, for example, there was only one man on the entire Windows 95 development team—Raymond Chen is his name—who went so far as to wear a button-up shirt and a tie every day. After much good-natured bantering, the seventy or so other developers on the team finally convinced him to "go casual" for once. In exchange, everyone else agreed to follow suit, as it were. Thus was born "Dress Like Raymond Day"—and yes, some actually had to go out and buy a shirt and tie for the occasion![*]

Microsoft's relaxed attire is due, in part, to the absolute abundance of free Microsoft logo-wear, especially project shirts and custom conference apparel. And these handouts aren't junk! On several occasions I became the proud owner of a fine denim shirt with tastefully embroidered insignia. In Developer Relations I even got a high-quality wool coat, customized with my email name.[†]

Then there are all the other free goodies—besides those Dove Bars"...yum!—that were given out from time to time. Sometimes they were relatively cheap trinkets like sunglasses, Slinky toys, yo-yos, and Frisbees. But more often than not we got really good stuff: walkmans, beach chairs, briefcases, clocks, binoculars, golf umbrellas, lunch coolers, watches, you name it. Sure, it was an underhanded way to make every one of us a walking Microsoft advertisement, but we were more than happy to do everything in our power to boost our collective pride"...if not the value of our stock options.

If all this wasn't enough, the very quality of the company's employees is an added benefit—Microsoft's influence attracts people with ambition and energy; its sacred initiation ceremony—The Microsoft Interview—finds the very best among them. Personal commitments to Microsoft and its vision run deep. Typically your office is within only a few doors of someone who has been both critical to Microsoft's success and has made significant contributions to the computer industry as a whole. A Microsoft recruiting brochure once put it this way: "If you want to know something about MS-DOS or Microsoft Word, just walk down the hall: the people who wrote it are probably there!"

Even so, it was your present focus and effort that mattered: I can't remember a single instance when someone held up his or her past accomplishments in some gesture of superiority. In fact, I found that the greatest geniuses in the company were the same ones who always took the time to help you understand the most complicated technologies. Your very interest in their work was the greatest gift you could give.

Suffice it to say that Microsoft is a fabulous place to work.

It is also a difficult one to leave behind.

Nevertheless, through 1995 and on into 1996, many long-time Microsoft employees were calling it a career. My old friend Bob Taniguchi, for example, had left just after Windows 95 shipped in August of that year. Every week or so it seemed that some other veteran employee announced his or her retirement.

As I alluded to in Chapter Fourteen, Microsoft was going through a tremendous internal change—not so much in terms of organizational structure and such, but energetically. In years past, Microsoft had always been the underdog. When it got into the PC operating systems market with MS-DOS, Microsoft was a speck of dust compared with the likes of IBM. When it got into the applications business, it couldn't shake a stick at Lotus and WordPerfect. And when it got into graphical user interfaces with Windows, the Apple Macintosh ruled the realm.

Under these conditions, the general attitude in the company was looking upwards. We had peaks to climb. We had markets to win. We had technological innovations to prove. With these aspirations came an expansive spirit that welcomed every new challenge with creativity, joy, and outright gusto. That spirit, in turn, produced a wonderful unity within Microsoft. Those who were naturally competitive and inspired by the struggle to "gain territory," so to speak, worked harmoniously with less competitive sorts, and I count myself in this latter group, who were inspired by the potentials themselves that we were trying to realize.

Then Microsoft won. By the end of 1995 Windows and MS-DOS were running on 90% of the world's personal computers; Microsoft Office on 98%. In just about every arena, Microsoft was the undisputed leader. Microsoft was King of the Hill. This dramatically changed the conditions: those who were motivated by the struggle to gain territory found themselves with the new task of defending what we'd won. In contrast, those who were motivated primarily by the upward climb itself suddenly found themselves with nowhere to go, with nowhere to look but down. And when we looked down we saw everyone else coming uphill to knock us off. Indeed, some were charging uphill with a vengeance! Intensely jealous of our success, or vowed to get even for some past offense, everyone seemed out to get us.

Under such novel pressure the underlying consciousness at Microsoft shifted. Microsoft wasn't about to surrender: it had every right to defend what had been won. This defensive posture thus became the predominant spirit, full of fear, anxiety, and disharmony. More and more of our energies now went toward merely preventing others from pulling us down; less and less remained for climbing any higher than we had already come. Infighting increased, and that joyful, upwardly aspiring growth we'd enjoyed for so long all but disappeared. And without that growth many of us lost the deepest motivation behind the intense effort we had once been able to sustain.[‡]

Exacerbating the situation even further was the company-wide shift to embrace the Internet. With so many veterans jumping ship, Microsoft had to quickly recruit a fresh corps of soldiers who were thrown into battle from day one, ready to sacrifice all in this new campaign. And like the thousands of youths who were once shipped off to Vietnam, it was all they could do to fight for their lives. As a result, the undercurrent of fear and anxiety became even stronger. Infighting increased further, and mistakes that would never have happened in the past now arose with alarming regularity. Those of us who had been around during the Apple lawsuit a few years earlier, for example (see Chapter Twelve), had learned to never say anything suggestive of an "anti-competitive" nature in any internal communication, especially emails, because it could be resurrected during a legal discovery process and used against us. Most new hires, on the other hand, didn't know any better. In the emotionally-charged atmosphere of the time it was perfectly natural to talk about "crushing" our competitors and so forth when all it really meant was "create a product that would win in the marketplace." Taken at face value, these were the sorts of messages that Microsoft's enemies along with the U.S. Department of Justice and other governments later used to support their claim of Microsoft's monopolistic intentions.

So like I said, Microsoft was changing and people were leaving. In my own case, as you already know having come with me thus far, I was wholly ready to drop out myself. At the same time, I also understood that this really wasn't for me to decide on my own: in seeking to re-orient my life in a spiritual direction, I wanted only what God wanted for me. This meant attuning myself to a greater will that knew how to harmoniously guide my life much better than I!

I also knew that I didn't want to leave in anger and frustration—Microsoft had been such an important part of my life for so long that it deserved another chance. What's more, many people both inside and outside the company were still dependent on my OLE expertise. I didn't want to just leave them out in the cold! I also had to admit that while the Internet had pretty much shot down my high-flying dreams of World Peace Through OLE, the technology itself wasn't dead. It still had a great deal of potential and there was still much I could do for it. Did God have another purpose in mind here besides the one I'd thought up? It was certainly possible. And, of course, there were all those great Microsoft perks that I'd have to give up if I left, especially a pretty good pile of yet-unvested stock options. Did God perhaps have some use for these? I just couldn't tell.

What I needed more than anything was clarity—in my own heart and mind above all. While still in California over the '95-'96 New Year's holiday, I took the opportunity to chat with one of the spiritual counselors on staff at the retreat, a deeply calm and joyful fellow named Wayne Palmer. We talked for a good hour and a half"...well, that's not quite true: I talked to Wayne, Wayne talked to God. That is, while I blathered on endlessly about my "problems," Wayne simply listened, inwardly praying the whole time that I might discover the answers within my own self. Not the kind of "counseling" one normally expects, but I couldn't argue with the results! Though Wayne hardly said more than a few dozen words and never once told me what I should do or how I should approach my circumstances, I intuitively knew, at the end of that hour and a half, exactly what needed to happen next.

For starters, I knew it wasn't right to just run away from a painful situation, nor was it right for me to just be a doormat. If I was going to stay at Microsoft and not leave my teammates in the lurch, then I at least wanted a chance to work on those things I found meaningful and interesting. Otherwise, I had no real financial compulsion to remain: as mentioned in Chapter Fifteen, I already had enough assets to support my lifestyle for a good decade.

When I returned to Microsoft in early January, I sat down with my manager and let him know how I felt. To my relief, he completely understood what I was going through and agreed to support whatever special projects I wanted to work on as long as I fulfilled the basic responsibilities of my position. For the next couple of months, then, I was able to relax into a more comfortable routine and concentrate on my work. My frustrations over the whole Internet business subsided and I no longer felt inclined to run away. In fact, I began to enjoy exploring the everyday applicability of a few of the spiritual principles I had so recently learned, setting my heart at ease that those teachings and one's career could come together in a beautiful harmony. The story told in Chapter Thirteen, for instance, took place during this time.

Meanwhile, an interesting thing happened to my public image as the "OLE guru." While my personal life had undergone drastic changes, people both inside and outside of Microsoft still saw me as the same ol' guy and still depended on my expertise. The dozens of emails I got every week asking for advice were certain proof of this! Could I possibly shed this responsibility without causing a great deal of pain and inconvenience to others? So long as people needed me I almost had a sacred duty to stay at Microsoft and play the role.

Well, God seemed willing to bail me out of this one: within a matter of weeks I was relieved of both the responsibility and the title. Part of Microsoft's whole Internet strategy, you see, was to come up with new names for old technologies in order to re-energize them. For example, the software components that OLE made possible were, before this time, called any number of uninspiring names like "OLE Compound Documents." Bor-ing! This just wasn't going to cut it in the New Economy. So everything got renamed with some derivative of the word "Active" or, better yet, "ActiveX." "OLE Compound Documents" became "Active Documents"; what were known as <yawn> "OLE Controls" became <dude!> "ActiveX Controls"; and so on.

The result of all this was that I, personally, became entirely disassociated from Microsoft's so-called "new" Internet technologies, even though they were the same as before. While I had been universally known for years as the "OLE guy," I didn't automatically become the "ActiveX guy" even though I'd personally assembled some of the ActiveX specifications.

This became abundantly clear at the next big Microsoft convention, the Internet Developer's Conference held in March 1996 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Once it was virtually a matter of course that I would be called upon to give at least three or four lectures at such an event. Here, however, I wasn't asked to do anything! I wasn't asked to give a talk, I wasn't asked to sign books, I wasn't even asked to staff the hands-on lab we set up. I only went to the show because everyone else in my workgroup was going.

Aaah! What freedom I enjoyed! Without having to shoulder the tremendous responsibility of being the "expert," I was actually able to walk around the show entirely unmolested for a change. I smiled gleefully as I remembered how people used to crowd around me so much that I couldn't go to the bathroom. Now they were crowding around the new gurus, the ones who were getting their first taste of name and fame. Indeed, I was so well ignored that nobody but a handful of sincere technophiles who caught up with me at lunch one day even seemed to know who I was.

Many people, I think, would be devastated by such a free-fall plunge in popular opinion. But I found it blissfully liberating—I'd finally become what I'd always sought to be: obsolete! No one outside Microsoft seemed to need me any longer.

Nor did anyone else inside the company need me, for that matter. By the end of March the daily flood of email asking me to solve some OLE-related problem was down to a trickle. This allowed me to spend the next month or two in blessed obscurity, working on my own projects with no hassles and virtually no interruptions. Indeed, my real responsibilities in OLE Program Management were shrinking week by week—there was very little need for me to interact with my teammates on much of anything.

While sitting in this state of professional relaxation, if you will (to which was added our simultaneous downsizing on the home front, as told in Chapter Fifteen), I realized I'd been given a window of opportunity in which I had complete freedom to choose my future. I could easily write a third edition of Inside OLE and expand my expertise into the new OLE-related technologies that were in the works. These would certainly keep me busy. Or I could simply leave Microsoft without any complications whatsoever.

Each choice, however, entailed a very significant sacrifice. Choosing to stay meant another two or three year commitment to make it all worthwhile, thereby delaying my ability to give myself wholeheartedly to my new direction in life. Choosing to leave, as I've said before, meant sacrificing a bunch of unvested stock options, not to mention all those other benefits. What was the right thing for me to do? Was I actually supposed to stay? Again, its perfectly possible—indeed helpful, as this book has shown—to actively walk the spiritual path in the context of a corporation, as I'd already been doing for years without really knowing it. And maybe I was supposed to stay so I would have the means to support any number of worthwhile causes, as many other past and present Microsoft employees from Bill on down have done. Or was it time to expand my interests beyond technology as I had originally thought to do many years earlier? I just didn't know.

This was all very much like the mental gyrations I'd experienced when Microsoft had offered me that first co-op job, only now the stakes were somewhat higher! Fortunately, I knew by now that the real solution was to step back from it all and just "give it all to God." This is another way of saying that since I didn't have the clarity to decide on my own, I first offered up the problems in prayer and meditation then tried to see what was really trying to happen. If I kept my heart and mind open, the circumstances that Life put before me would show the way.

And believe me, they did! In June I was physically moved out of the OLE Program Management team, matching the fact, it seems, that I had already withdrawn energetically. Thanks to the eternal Microsoft Shuffle my headcount in that team was opened up for a replacement. I was moved under a different management chain altogether and relocated to another office. Ostensibly I was still working somewhere under the umbrella of Windows NT, but you couldn't tell by looking. My office, in fact, was nowhere near the center of any meaningful activity (save the cafeteria, two doors down ) and those working around me seemed no less adrift than myself. Nor did I really know what I was supposed to be working on. Though I continued to do a little bit here and there on my own projects, I was mostly just killing time"...to be open to possibilities but also to finish the current vesting cycle of my stock options!

Of course, things couldn't possibly remain like this for very long—sooner or later someone would ask why I was still getting paid for doing virtually nothing. I think that God could also see that this sort of useless stagnation wasn't good for me either: lethargy and indecision are not conducive to spiritual growth. Not surprisingly, then, circumstances compelled me to make most important choice of my career: whether, that is, to end it.

On a Friday afternoon in early August, the person who was apparently now my manager, a newly hired chap whom I will call Ned, asked to see me. As we sat in the cafeteria he told me that he and his higher-ups—the ones who were paying my salary out of their departmental budget—no longer supported "whatever the hell you're doing." Instead, he wanted me to write what he described as "persuasive competitive literature" to combat the Internet efforts of companies like Sun Microsystems and Netscape Communications. This basically meant bad-mouthing them while primping up Microsoft's initiatives as some kind of Great Dispensation.

Blecch. I couldn't imagine anything more personally demeaning. I had always wanted to share joy and to help others find joy within themselves—it was simply against my nature to condemn others in the way Ned was asking. Moreover, I had always aspired to serve some higher purpose in my work, not just the interests of Microsoft's bottom line, its public image, or even my own bank accounts. This was especially true now that my higher purpose was set on experiencing God more and more directly.

I wasn't in any way upset by this, however. Quite the contrary! Inwardly I was laughing my head off. I had been on the brink of leaving Microsoft for a while, simply waiting for some kind of definite guidance. Ned didn't realize that he had just become, through his proposal, an unknowing messenger for the Divine Will!

Repressing a bemused smile, I rejected his offer. "Sorry," I said, "I don't do that kind of stuff."

Ned was put off, I could tell. He was one of the Not Yet Vested and was hoping that I would use my skills to help gild his newly donned Golden Handcuffs. As giving me the boot for insubordination wasn't a helpful option in this regard, he thus proceeded to try other forms of motivation.

"But you'll be so influential!" he promised.

"Nope, sorry," I quietly replied.

"You'll get the attention of all the important people in the company—and the industry!"

That was the last thing I cared about. I had experienced all the notoriety I could ever want.

"You'll get bigger bonuses! More stock options!"

I had enough already, why would I kill my soul for something I didn't need?

"You'll be powerful, famous, glorified! You'll be"..."

Stopping him before he wandered beyond the realms of sanity, I was barely able to contain the swells of my inner mirth. By having Ned make such a hilariously absurd offer, replete with almost every possible temptation of power and glory, God was making my choice an obvious one. It was time for me to leave. But to not slap Ned in the face, I told him I'd think about it and let him know in a few weeks. (Killing time, dude, killing time!)

Other circumstances of Cosmic Coincidence reinforced this choice further. Even little things that people said in passing seemed to answer certain questions and offered new ideas for how I could focus my outward energies to support my inner life. Still, it was also apparent that no one else was going to take responsibility for this decision: it was something for which I had to find my own inner conviction. It would take great energy and determination to so resolutely walk away from a long, successful career—and all those unvested stock options. It would also take great energy, steadfastness, and devotion to walk the spiritual path while also recommitting myself to Microsoft if I chose to stay.

To strengthen myself for this choice, I took another week of retreat in California where I could relax from the details and renew my energies for the road ahead. After many hours of meditation and prayer—mostly prayer!—I finally realized that everything simply boiled down to a single consideration: what did I want my life to look like? Did I want to continue with technology? Did I want more worldly success? Or did I want to now expand my experience and venture into unknown waters beyond my present self-identity? There would be many rewards and fulfillments either way"...but which to emphasize?

Again, in my experience God never actually forces us down any particular path. He always leaves us with the option to refuse his invitations. And even if we exercise that option, he often comes back again later with another possibility. In this eternal love he gives us endless opportunities to grow. Whether we move forward, backward, or simply sideways is always left for each one of us to decide for ourselves.

In the end I decided that while giving up much potential wealth and professional advancement would be a loss, it was nothing compared with losing the opportunity I had at this point to give myself completely to the path of inner growth. If God wanted to drop more money and success in my lap by some other means, fine, but given that I had no financial or professional compulsion to stay at Microsoft there was little reason to make any degree of compromise. Just as I had once moved beyond the sphere of Product Support, it was now time to move beyond Microsoft.

Let me again make it clear that I did not consider my expanding spiritual life at odds with a continued career at Microsoft. Throughout my final year in the company I had many opportunities to integrate the two—as again exemplified by the story of Chapter Thirteen and also with the story of that last-minute presentation related in Chapter Six—and I know there would have been plenty more had I stayed on. But the real opportunity here was to greatly broaden that experience. You see, since leaving Microsoft (as you can read in the short biography here), I've been able to explore this integration within many fields besides the computer industry. These include education, construction, forest management, and retail sales, to name a few. With these diverse experiences I'm much more able to help people in all walks of life find new and creative solutions to their everyday challenges. I don't think I'd be able to do this as effectively had my experience remained solely confined to Microsoft.

When I returned to work after my retreat, I sent a piece of email to Ned—as well as everyone I'd ever known and worked with—to announce my retirement. I set my final day in early November, giving me the necessary time to tie up a few loose ends, fulfill a couple of conference commitments, blow off a couple weeks' worth of vacation and sick days, and, of course, vest a few more options.

Once I sent my message I expected at least a dozen different groups within Microsoft to make some kind of offer that might keep me in the company. But I actually received nothing but congratulations and well-wishes. Really! Less than a year earlier I probably could have approached almost any group manager and found an immediate position in his or her team. But now there wasn't a single word in any response that even so much as hinted at my staying on. It was so strange"...but then again, strange things happen when the Universal Harmony is writing the script!

Speaking of which, consider this one: I needed to decide when to exercise all my stock options since they would automatically expire within ninety days of my November retirement. "Should I wait until the new year to gain the tax benefits?" I asked myself. "Or should I just exercise them all now in case there's a big market crash?" (The stock market was already becoming "irrationally exuberant" at the time.) "And what should my target price be?" Again I prayed incessantly to be guided to do the right thing for myself.

Ooops—I should've said "for everyone"—God apparently felt that "the right thing for me" meant a good lesson in You Get What You Pray For! You see, I was planning to being tithing, as a spiritual practice, ten percent of all my income to charitable causes in the new year.[§] To wait until January to cash out meant giving away a pretty substantial chunk of change; more, in fact, than I felt comfortable with. So seeing that there was a little selfishness in my heart, God inspired me, if only by the degree of my own fear, to exercise my options in October when Microsoft stock was already at an all-time high of $136 a share. Seemed prudent! Well, in December, easily within the period when I could have still held my options, the stock split 2-for-1 and immediately shot up to $90 (the equivalent of $180 a share before the split). Had I been "inspired" to wait (had I prayed for the benefit of everyone!) I would've not only been able to make a very meaningful donation but would have also ended up with a whole lot more for myself. Ouch! I think this has got to be the most expensive spiritual lesson I've ever learned.

Another experience of this sort—and one that didn't cost me anything but a little pride, fortunately—came in my very last week with Microsoft. A few months earlier I'd been invited by a summer intern from the University of Pennsylvania to give a talk to his group of computer science students—who called themselves "The Dining Philosophers"—sometime in October. As I was slated to give yet one more talk on OLE in Washington D.C. about the same time, it was a simple matter for me to pass through Philadelphia on the way. My only condition was that I could talk about anything I wanted and that it didn't have to be technical.

"Creativity in the Technical Arts" was probably the most unusual talk I ever gave during my Microsoft career. Drawing on that superconscious experience that led to Inside OLE 2 (as related in Chapter Ten), I sought to illustrate the truth that creativity is not limited to the traditional forms of painting, music, poetry, and the like: technical disciplines like programming, engineering, and architecture have as much creative potential as any other field. The key is one's ability to attract and receive higher inspiration along with the willingness and energy to manifest that inspiration in some tangible way.

Poor students! I was so enthusiastic about the spiritual teachings I'd so recently discovered that kept finding ways to work them into my talk—rather blatantly at times. In my own joy I just wanted to share so much. In the process, of course, I went a little overboard.

Fortunately I didn't have a large audience with which to embarrass myself. My talk came on the last Friday before the 1996 presidential election and it just so happened that President Clinton himself was leading a rally—on campus—at the exact same time! Secret Service personnel were all over the place, even on the rooftops across the street from my hotel room. Cars and busses jammed the streets. Music and stomping and shouting could be heard a mile away! So instead of having the usual fifty to seventy students for my talk, I only had twenty. And when the "Dining" contingent of the Philosophers took me out that evening, they were down to two: the student who had invited me, and one other. Certainly not the normal reception for guest speakers!

But that one other student was deeply interested in the spiritual aspects of my talk and was asking all kinds of questions before we even got to the restaurant. So of course I told him everything that was happening in my own life. I told him about the particular things I had found, gave him a list of books he might want to read, and continued talking with him via email in the weeks ahead. Within a few months he resolutely began to draw spiritual principles into his life—even as he went to M.I.T. for graduate school—and has been one of my dearest friends ever since. Just for him I had to make a fool of myself in a talk given opposite the President"...God certainly has a sense of humor!

In any case, on November 8th, 1996, at the ripe old age of twenty-eight, I quietly faded out of the Microsoft scene and into the light of a new life. I departed without a fuss, without a tear, and without a single shred of anger or regret in my heart. Indeed, as I turned in my cardkey and left my comfortable little office in Redmond for the last time, I felt only gratitude and love. I had served Microsoft to the best of my abilities, and Microsoft, for its part, had blessed me in ways that I was only able to fully appreciate by writing this book. For Microsoft was the agent through which an ordinary life lived actively for worldly gain was transformed into an equally active life lived for God alone.

 

Microsoft had certainly given me a great gift.

                    And no other gift is quite so precious.

 


Microsoft in the fall
 


Myself in Australia, December 1996, during a conference trip.
This was shortly after I'd left Microsoft, but the conference was
picking up all the expenses. How could I refuse?

 


[*] Many years ago, when Bill Gates was going to his first meeting with IBM about MS-DOS, he realized that he might not get in the front door without a tie. So he bought one on his way from the airport. When the meetings were over, Bill left it pinned to the bulletin board of the office that IBM had set aside for visiting Microsoft engineers. For several years thereafter, each visiting male engineer would don what became known as "The Microsoft Tie" for his meetings, then leave it pinned up for the next person. [Return to text]

[†] These jackets were given to everyone in Developer Relations in late 1991. On the back was a large red-and-white target with an arrow sticking (see right) in it to emphasize the one-pointed goal of our evangelism efforts: Windows. We loved our coats and wore them with great pride—except one night during Windows World '92 in Chicago. Everyone from DRG had a little get-together at a jazz bar a mile or so from our hotel. Late in the evening about ten of us decided to walk back. About halfway we suddenly realized that we were walking the streets of downtown Chicago, at midnight, with these big targets on our backs! Prudence hailed the next available cabs. [Return to text]

[‡] Fortunately, it seems that Microsoft has come out of this defensive posturing in more recent years with the launch of various new and expansive initiatives. Some who had left years ago (like Bob) have since rejoined the company to work on some of these new projects. [Return to text]

[§] According to various surveys, most people say that they would be happy if they only had 10% more money than they do now. That 10% represents perpetual discontent and thus a form of perpetual slavery. Tithing effectively counters this tendency by consciously affirming the ability to live happily with 10% less. It's a very powerful practice that ironically has helped many people to overcome financial worries. [Return to text]

 

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