I celebrated my birthday yesterday. Well, more accurately, I acknowledged it. My father passed away less than two weeks before reaching this particular milestone, and so I now have lasted longer than he did. Not something to celebrate, so much as to note with sadness. Like his father-in-law, he was felled by a massive heart attack early in the morning while getting dressed to go to work. My father took over the small “corner grocery store” my grandfather had built, after he passed on, and ran it until he died. They were independent men, who didn’t like being on someone else’s payroll and didn’t want to manage employees. Both worked over seventy hours a week, but managed to find the time to go fishing a few times a year. Both were volunteer firemen; both were smokers, and pinochle players. In their own ways, each was what we used to call “a man’s man.”
In some ways, I’m like them; in other ways, I’m not. I quit smoking over thirty years ago, when my wife was pregnant, and I’ve been vegetarian for seventeen years, so there’s probably not a heart attack in my near future. I’ve started a couple of small businesses, but I’ve also worked for small consulting firms, a Fortune 500 firm, and several sizes in between. I’m OK with managing people, managing projects, and being managed. But my brothers and I grew up working in that little country store, and when you spend a large part of your childhood handling other people’s food, it gives you a certain perspective. You learn to be careful, meticulous, and focused on what you deliver. You learn to accept responsibility. You learn to keep working.
At 53, I started a Master’s program. After I completed the degree, I started this blog. I was determined to post my “reader’s digest” list of articles every week, and 67 posts later, I’ve managed to keep that schedule. I changed jobs a few months ago, and learned a new product and methodology. Now I’m working on an outline for a book on managing projects that implement Software as a Service. With apologies to Rene Descartes, my new motto is “Agito, ergo sum.” I start things, therefore I am.
Maybe I’ll die at my desk, working on an article, like William F. Buckley did. Maybe I’ll go early in the morning, like my father and grandfather. Maybe I’ll go in my sleep, with the alarm set for 5:30. But wherever and whenever I go, I want to leave behind some work in progress. It’s good to finish things, but it’s better to start them.