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I'm also 37, and have been programming a similar amount of time (15 of those years professionally). I've worked in 2 person, 10 person, 20 person, 30 person, 50 person, 300 person, and 5000 person organizations.

What I've discovered is this: In larger organizations, you get respect by being the "answer" guy. If everyone's coming to you for advice, you become more important.

In small organizations, you get respect for being the hero, who waves his magic wand and fixes things after everything goes to shit. This is easy to do since most of the operations are pretty basic and cowboy to begin with.

The biggest key to respect (in mid-to-large organizations) is playing the political game. The more your name is on peoples' lips, the more important you'll appear to be.

But the question is: WHY do you want it? If it's for the money, you can get much more money with less effort freelancing or consulting. If it's for security, you could also get that by digging yourself so deeply into an essential project that nobody can get you out. If it's for the admiration of your peers, just remember that it also sparks envy, and separates you from them emotionally. If you wish to belong, you're far better off choosing a faction to ally yourself with, and remaining loyal. Elevation is a loner's game.

> Wish to belong This is a fairly hard thing for me to do, because every faction i have been part of or tried to be loyal, to have limits on what beliefs can be questioned and what are not open to be experimented with. There comes a point where i disagree and have trouble stopping myself from experimenting. So loneliness is not a problem for me. But i have a very limited/narrow interest in being important. To some extent the admiration of peers feels good, but not much. So at this point, i find myself a little lost as to what do i want to move forward towards. Made worse, by i have trouble just enjoying when am not sure what am working towards. UPDATE: Eeks,sorry if it's turned to a ramble.

It sounds like you're comfortable as a loner then. That gives you immense possibility, but also makes it harder to choose.

My advice: Just pick something interesting and go with it. If it doesn't work out, pick something else. Fear of failure is worst in people who haven't failed yet, and that fear will impede you far more than actual failure ever could (I've had a few spectacular failures in my lifetime, to the point of being reduced to the clothes on my back, and each failure made me more fearless).

You don't need the respect of others when you're making your own path.

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