[Day-7] How did I get a crazy idea to apply to 42?


“If you’re lucky enough to have two good options, always go with the one that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.” Mark & Angel

The D-Day is approaching and I keep on mentally preparing myself for this adventure (I decided to omit an adjective before the  last word as I’m not yet sure wich one would it be: “challenging”, “exciting”, “amazing”, “unique”, “excruciating”, “exhausting”,  “unforgettable”, or all of the above).  And as I always do when in doubt I keep on moving along the chosen path which is in this case, writing this blog.

And with this ambiguous introduction,  the question of today’s article did come quite naturally. And so today it is all around “WHY 42? Or how did this idea came around?”

THE CONTEXT:  for those non-French readers among you, this section is a must before you continue on. It does include some cultural insights  essential for the understanding the upcoming story. 

To start with, it’s important to know that in France the annual vacations allowance is 5 weeks! (yes, it’s not a typo). The fact number two,  for some reason people don’t tend to be very creative when it comes to choosing the dates. As a result, the period  from end July all through the August  is traditionally a “ghost month” in the cities, and in particular in Paris. It’s the time when offices are almost empty, your corner grocery store, barber shop, pharmacy and other local businesses are closed and  even farmers markets are half deserted.
All this to say, that summer vacation IS THE REAL DEAL for French people, and the famous “Que fais-tu pour les vacances cette été? – What are your plans for this summer vacations” is THE most popular question starting early March.

So back to the story, when I did answer to friends/neighbours/the guy from the cheese shop/reporters… (well, not the last one haha) that I plan to go to the coding school with 7/7 intensive learning program of the C language, I’ve got… how do I put it?…  “surprised looks” and an encouraging “I always knew you are crazy (or nuts. Yep, there was some variety)” verbalisation.   It goes without saying that my managers and colleagues were slightly astonished by the fact that I use all the vacations I have to get myself a proper brain “load” (the choice of the term was dictated by an intention to keep it in the censor accepted lexicon, but I assume you got the meaning behind). And hence the word “crazy” in the title of this post, and the answer I repeated  at least a dozen times.

And the closer it is the heavier this question lands on me, and the more it impacts the adjective choice before the word “adventure”, that I have mentioned in the beginning of this post. As sure and excited as I was about the upcoming experience, say 2 months ago, as the date approaches his Majesty The Doubt is progressively taking over my thoughts. I can’t help but wonder if this is the right decision to spend all the vacations on such a tough and challenging experience as oppose to calming and peaceful discovery somewhere in the lost land far away… But then again, it would be surprising if it was any different, it’s normal to have doubts. So I dismiss the thoughts and carry on 🙂 And to make the effect stronger I decided to remind myself how and why did all this come around. Hence this article (that seems to be quite long once again – sorry for that).

THE FIRST ACQUAINTANCE: I really don’t remember Where and When (should have been around beginning 2014 I believe), but I do remember the What of the first time I have heard about the 42. It was the pitch-like introduction of a French billionaire (who as I have learned afterwards  was  Xavier Niel, the founder or Free Mobile and bunch of other super successful projects) who had come to realise that the future of the innovation will lay in the hands of those who can identify and attract the best developers. And, as a real entrepreneur, rather than searching for those in the open sea, he decided to build a new swimming pool to “grow” them instead.  And this summarises about right the pitch as I remember it “the school was created to select the best of the best and train them to become the top 2000 IT people in this country in 5-year time”.
At that time I thought: “hmm, sound kinda cool, I should have a look at it”.  And so I did. But at that time google search did not come up with much results  on the subject.  So I did put it to the back of my head for a while and kept on with the usual things.

One day after that (again I don’t remember When and Why, but in around a year or so) the thought had resurfaced from the back in my head and I did google it again. And this time, I found the website  – www.42.fr – where I did discover what it really was and how it functioned. But it didn’t move any further from there at that time.

And it wasn’t before a couple of months later (November 2015) when I actually decided to apply. As always, won’t be able to tell WHY (or what was the triggering event) but I just created the candidate account and proceeded with “it can’t do any harm” attitude.  And so here I am today, 7 days before the month of “code diving” writing a blog and stocking the healthy snacks to for 28 days brain support 🙂

And to wrap this already long article, I will wrap it up with the answer to the big  WHY – why 42 ?
The short answer would be –  the experience. The multi-facet experience that is: the challenge, the test of my limits, the unique universe that has its own rules and ways of living, ultimate “parallel world/bubble” that is a rare thing to come around (and I hope the potential good story to tell my grandchildren haha).

And the long answer is:

  • One, the learning approach. It’s not a conventional way of studying that we all are used to and I’m curious to see if it’s the one I can manage.
  • Two, the social aspect. People. When the rules of the “game” are changed the only way to win is to adapt. And I am curious to see how will I succeed at this, as well as to learn from how others do. In addition to that, the diversity of bright personalities and the brainiacs is definitely higher than average, and so it just can’t be boring.  Worst case I will end up learning new jokes in French from the younger generation 🙂
  • And three, the personal development challenge or the resistance training. And as for any given resistance training, the main goal is to define and  surpass your own limits (learning capacity limits, stress limits, social limits, uncertainty tolerance limits… you name it). I guess we will just have to see how well will I do on this one.




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