So it’s the Spring of 2002 and I’m sitting in my office as a VP/GM in the Raytheon Services Company, and I have a couple of minutes to kill before getting to do a performance appraisal with my very favorite person on the team. Not wanting to get wrapped up in anything, I reach under my desk and pull out a random file from a box that is still there from my last “corporate office move”. I look in the file and am reminded of that big-deal 1999 project – the charts and detailed data – vivid images of the long nights with a team in a Maryland conference room, the red-eye flights, the huge presentations and gigantic decisions. But then I realize, not only is this stuff no longer applicable after three years, it is as if it never existed – there is simply no meaning any more. At that moment, I realized that I had to find a way for my work to make more sense and be more meaningful – I just didn’t want to waste my life. It wasn’t long before I quit my job and stepped off the cliff into what seemed like an uncertain world – however, nothing I have done since has ever felt meaningless again.
Now I am never asked to do anything that is not directly related to either the success of my clients or to building the community of relationships that continues to enable my business to grow. I believe that all of us seek the same path to a place where reason and sensibility drive our every choice.
With two amazing daughters deeply involved in the University social sciences world, the study of ideas is always present around our family. Over the recent year end holidays, I had the chance to be reminded of the pursuit of reason from three very disparate sources, all as a result of the influence of my daughters. I read three very different books, from three completely different political perspectives, but each that seemed to be asking the same questions about the pursuit of the reasonable and the sensible.
Since I had been fascinated with the “Distopia” classics 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, my History-teacher daughter Katie encouraged me to read an early book that touched on the opposite idea – Utopia by Sir Thomas More. Written in 1516 about a mythical island world, the book seemed to pose questions about what the nobleman-author believed to be senseless and illogical about England under Henry VIII.
Next, as a Christmas present (only in my family I suppose) from my Political Science-student daughter Lisa, I read Ayn Rand’s 1957 book Atlas Shrugged that posed questions about the control of society on the reasoned judgments of the individual. It offered a “we’ll just take our marbles and go home” approach to curing what the author viewed as illogical and senseless about our society. It offered a very different vantage point, but was still an argument about reason.
And then again as a Christmas present it was Al Gore’s 2007 book The Assault on Reason as it takes aim on what he perceives as the disappearance of thinking and dialogue in our society. He bemoans the power of the 30-second TV spot, and poses questions hoping for more decision-making sense to be made. This was a third very different point of view, but still at its core about the same subject – reason.
From these three disparate examples it seemed glaringly apparent to me that the pursuit of reason is a fundamental objective of a thinking being. When I remember the empty feeling of looking through that file and realizing the wasted time and energy that it represented, it reminded me to make sure reason stays out in front of how I choose to use the ever-squeezed time I have available.
I’ll bet if you look around your life you might also find some pointlessness that you can shed, some stupid things that steal moments of your life. Sadly, when we waste precious time, we don’t get it back. Maybe our world doesn’t always insist that things make sense, but not to worry, we can expect more of ourselves.
Thanks for sharing time with me and I welcome your thoughts and feedback.