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Life Lessons (aka a kick in the Arse)

by Ian.Whiting on ‎02-10-2011 11:07 AM (616 Views)

This week a few seemingly unconnected events conspired together that made me take stock of my life and realize how precious and fleeting it really is. 

In my younger days, 10 years seemed like an eternity, but as many of you have already learned, once you start a career or a family, it seems like 10 years can pass in the blink of an eye. I have been married to my lovely bride for 18 years and have spent that time raising a family in 7 different countries (No, I am not wanted by the authorities). I just completed 10 years employment with Brocade.  In my parents’ time, working for the same company for several years was the norm, but those of you in the technology industry know that 10 years with the same company is an unusual milestone. But, what you don’t know is that Brocade is a very dynamic, innovative and transformational company – and so the company has evolved so much over the last 10 years, that it does feel like I have worked for a few different ones along the way. Ten years later I continue to be inspired and motivated by a performance-driven culture and a class-act group of the brightest minds in the networking industry. I have never been a me-too kind of guy and this is definitely not a me-too kind of company. Brocade is setting the bar in terms of innovation and our new Ethernet Fabric technology is causing a huge upheaval in the industry right now. 

But there is a greater upheaval that has impacted me even more. This week, I found out that my eldest daughter now has her first official boyfriend – a day I knew would come, but, (and I am sure other dads out there know what I am talking about), that I was never fully prepared for.  Of course, I am going to hear about it later at home for blogging about such a personal topic, but I am just putting the boyfriend on notice that anything said or done could and probably will end up on a public forum and that my followers will likely support me on this. With two other daughters thankfully (and hopefully) several years away from “lover boy #1,” I will at least be more prepared the next time round or at least they will discover what will happen if I am not.

But all of this convergence of work/life stuff is leading me to the other event that happened this week. I just finished a booked called “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch.  If like me you are somewhat obsessed with work, career, and yes material things you need to read this.  It appears I was the last person on the planet to hear about the book and its author.  It wasn’t until one of my colleagues generously gave me a copy for Christmas (thanks Dan!) that I got around to reading it.  If you ever need a wake-up call and reminder of what is important in life – this is it.  If you happen to be the second person in the world not to have read it, Pausch was terminally ill with pancreatic cancer and had just a few months to live when he wrote the book and delivered his now memorable lecture to over 400 students – which he quite literally entitled “The Last Lecture.” As a husband and father of three young children there are so many life lessons in this book.  Like most guys my age I consider myself fairly worldly-wise, a bit of a tough guy and some would say a little “cocky” (especially my wife) - but this book gave me a much needed kick in the arse (as we Brits call it) and a reminder of what’s important in life.  I am man enough to admit I choked up on more than one occasion.  It was all the more relevant given Pausch was my exact age when he died and left behind three young children.  Once I got over the emotion and sadness of the book I quickly moved on to the lessons – something Pausch emphasized throughout his little masterpiece.  I haven’t figured out yet what I will do with this new found enlightenment but I don’t want to wait 10 years to figure it out.  When your life is dominated by chasing success and recognition you rarely have the chance to step back and ask the kind of questions Pausch asks: “what’s my legacy,” “how will people remember me” and more importantly “how will my family remember me.” While Pausch knew he was terminally ill and used his last moments here on earth to leave us this important legacy, none of us know how long we have to make this kind of impact. I am making some changes starting today and will let you know about them (if you’re interested in following them) right here on the blog. But for now – metaphorically at least – it hurts to sit down!