We are living in historic times, those of us here in 2008. Up until now our society has, basically, been in the shadow of World War II. Increasing globalization, advances in electronic communications and medicine, highways and aviation, improvements in human rights, literacy and nearly universal college education, modern national borders–these are the forces that have shaped our lives and have, in general, have been constants since the FDR administration. But that hasn’t been true for all of human history, and there’s no reason to think things can’t–as Barack Obama says–change.
An op-ed by Gary Hart in today’s New York Times expresses this better and with more experienced insight than I can.
Today is Fathers’ Day. With two young children now, fatherhood is in full swing. I figure I at least can take the time to write a blog entry.
I finished my Paternity Leave post a few weeks ago with a vague mention of a “great challenge out there for me” and I want to go into a little more detail about what I was thinking.
Specifically, I was thinking about a professional challenge. Over my career, I have found myself solving the same problems again and again. This experience has given me a couple ideas for new software, and more recently an idea for a book. I don’t know that any of these ideas is going to get me rich, but these are problems that more than one company has paid me a decent salary to solve, and people less smart than me have started businesses and published books with less qualifications. And, even if I didn’t get rich developing any of these ideas (getting rich has never been for me a goal in itself) doing so might help me advance in my career, or achieve some recognition, or at least prove an interesting intellectual challenge and fodder for this blog.
So, what’s the problem? It could take a serious commitment of time–prime daytime included–to take any of these ideas very far beyond the napkin-sketch stage. It would sound a lot cooler to say I wrote the next great Web 2.0 application on a free weekend while drinking beer in my pajamas but that’s not going to happen (though there might be something to the idea of advancing in short, creative bursts). I have a job; setting aside the obvious conflicts of time and money, I think that with a full-time job, there is only so much else I can do. More importantly, I have a family, and (though they’ll say I ignore them to play with the computer) I make a conscious effort to spend time on activities that will enrich all of us. Plus, I just fall asleep. Some people may get ahead by working or studying when other people are sleeping, but avoiding sleep will not be my ongoing plan for success.
I’m reading the book Good to Great which says that great organizations and their leader embody the Stockdale Paradox: they confront “brutal” reality without losing hope. Paternity leave was my reality check: I’m not going to learn and create everything I want to in my spare time. It’s going to take a real plan.