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John Carmack Quotes

John Carmack Gaming

John Carmack quotes: on his “Ferrari phase,” being a “hustling hermit,” taking an aggressively simple approach to things and more.

“Focused, hard work is the real key to success.  Keep your eyes on the goal, and just keep taking the next step towards completing it.  If you aren’t sure which way to do something, do it both ways and see which works better.”

“Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.”

“Making one brilliant decision and a whole bunch of mediocre ones isn’t as good as making a whole bunch of generally smart decisions throughout the whole process.”

“If you’re willing to restrict the flexibility of your approach, you can almost always do something better.”

“Always take an aggressively simple approach to things.”

“When things don’t work, that doesn’t crush me.  I don’t carry the weight of the previous failures.  Many people just add more on, burdened by their previous failures and their previous successes.  But you run out of mental energy if you keep paying attention to everything you’ve done in the past.”

“It’s easy to have a grand vision of the ‘big payoff’ at the end while leaving everything between here and there as a fuzzy blur.  But details matter, and if you can’t see clearly what steps two and three are, it doesn’t really matter what your vision for step 20 is.  I embrace the mundane work and find insights while exploring it.”

“I discovered that there are some things that I just will not be able to do, no matter how hard I work.  That was a really important lesson for me.  You may choose to work as hard as humanly possible, and not get it done, but that is not necessarily a failure.  I try to be as efficient and effective as possible.  But I do know, deep down, that I can’t accomplish everything.”

“An interesting question: is it easier to motivate a learned individual that never does anything, or educate an ignorant individual that actually produces things?”

“A strong team can take any crazy vision and turn it into reality.”

“The smartest human being who ever lived is alive right now.  The world is full of brilliant people… and is getting better day by day.”

“If you want to set off and go develop some grand new thing, you don’t need millions of dollars of capitalization.  You need enough pizza and Diet Coke to stick in your refrigerator, a cheap PC to work on, and the dedication to go through with it.  We slept on floors.  We waded across rivers.”

“Sometimes, the elegant implementation is just a function.  Not a method.  Not a class.  Not a framework.  Just a function.”

“You can prematurely optimize maintainability, flexibility, security, and robustness just like you can performance.”

“The core of what I do is solve problems, whether that’s in graphic engine flow or rockets.  I like working on things that are going to have an impact one way or the other.”

“Programming in the abstract sense is what I really enjoy.  I enjoy lots of different areas of it.  I’m taking a great deal of enjoyment writing device drivers.”

“The situation is so much better for programmers today—a cheap used PC, a linux CD and an internet account, and you have all the tools necessary to work your way to any level of programming skill you want to shoot for.”

“Programming is not a zero-sum game.  Teaching something to a fellow programmer doesn’t take it away from you.  I’m happy to share what I can, because I’m in it for the love of programming.”

“Helping people directly can be a noble thing.  Forcing other people to do it with great inefficiency?  Not so much.”

“I am thankful to all those who are kind enough with their time and willing to help me understand how things work, and I love it when I get the opportunity to do the same, passing down knowledge to others, help them understand, just like others have helped me.”

“I’m going to turn on every damn light in protest of Earth Hour.  Lighting the darkness is fundamental to humanity’s climb.”

“I was sort of an amoral little jerk when I was young.  I was arrogant about being smarter than other people, but unhappy that I wasn’t able to spend all my time doing what I wanted.  I spent a year in a juvenile home for a first offense after an evaluation by a psychologist went very badly.”

“I am comfortable being wired somewhat differently than other people.  I tend toward this hermit mode.  Early on, working constantly by myself, I got the sense that I could get anything done if I worked hard enough.”

“It was frustrating because I clearly knew what I wanted to be doing but it wasn’t available to me at the time.  It was always: if you want to do computers you need to go to MIT, then you go work at a corporation as an engineer and follow ‘the path.’  But I dropped out of college and started my own company.  My brother followed a more conventional path.  He got a degree and became a stockbroker and that’s what my mother expected that you’re supposed to do.  And he’s doing okay for himself, but there’s nothing like a few Ferraris to rub your parents face in.”

“If it’s just a matter of going in to get a degree so you can get a job, then I’m not wild about that.  If you’re going there to meet smart people, expand horizons and learn some things, then I’m all for that.  Some people learn so much better like that.  Me, I’ve always been the type that reads a manual or something like that.  I just prefer to learn that way, but not everyone’s like that.  I don’t think college is a bad thing, but I would not hold to some truth that ‘you must go to college, it’s the only way to succeed’ because clearly it’s not.”

“I do think that at least for young and fast-moving industries like the internet and game design, talent and a resume that shows you’ve done some things means more than a degree.  I’ve never asked someone ‘do you have a degree?’  It’s more a matter of ‘what have you done?’  If it’s a choice between sitting in a lecture hall and taking a test or staying at home to write a game mod to prove you have some talent, then I think that can be a reasonable way to go.”

“I’m good?  Seriously?  I recognize that I possess a very special intellect, but at the same time, I recognize that I’m lacking in a lot of areas.  But being well-rounded is greatly overrated.”

“I enjoy going back to making decisions about what’s important.”

“Some cynical people think that every activity must revolve around the mighty dollar, and that anyone saying otherwise is just attempting to delude the public.  I will probably never be able to convince them that that isn’t always the case, but I do have the satisfaction of knowing that I live in a less dingy world than they do.”

“It was great for me to go through all of my crazy Ferraris in my twenties.  I think it was an inoculation against any kind of a midlife crisis.”

“I’m usually so focused on the here and now and the soon to be that thinking about what I’ve done in the past just doesn’t occupy much time.  But when I do look back over everything, I am quietly proud of all that I’ve been able to accomplish and all the enjoyment I’ve been able to let people have with the games that we’ve created.”

“I consider myself a remarkably unsentimental person.  I don’t look back on the good old days.”

“I spend very little time thinking about past events, and I certainly don’t have them ranked in any way.  I look back and think that I have done a lot of good work over the years, but I am much more excited about what the future holds.”

“Have faith in progress, faith that we are building better things and the world is getting better.  I do believe that most of the good that has come to humanity is a result of technological progress.  I don’t concern myself much with arguments about natural rights, etc., but just focus on making things better.”

“I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do.”

Related: Gabe Newell quotes.

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