UPDATE #1 In the two years since my original posting of this site in early 2003 while recovering from a broken arm, unfolding events and decisions I've made in response to them, has introduced another interesting phase in my life:On both national and international levels, it is not breaking news that the work place for many of us is changing. In my professional life as I've worked with key individuals in other companies over extended periods, I have had, regrettably, several opportunities to see the effects as the cancer of myopic, overt, greed has displaced legitimate capitalism in an ever increasing number of corporations. So it was easy for me to spot the emerging pattern as the last company I was employed at was taken over by corporate managers (aka thieves) that had no appreciation for either its unique culture nor the tremendous potential of the unique market niche it dominates - or at least it did dominate before they commenced to alienate many of what had been a large pool of repeat customers and drive away some key talent who went on to form a successful. competing company. Their undoing of what is a classic story of an immigrant coming to America and building a multi-million dollar business from a great idea, is a sad tale that would take too long to frame and present in full here; suffice it to say that I decided to leave on my own terms rather than watch a group of people I had come to regard as my friends be psychologically harassed, if not destroyed, by a handful of ego-centeric misanthropes whose ethics and morals are on par with that of terrorists. May they eventually dwell in that special place in hell reserved for those who have no real useful skills and consequently prey on the work of others. So I walked away from a 25 year career in industrial controls that had included increasing respect and compensation and exchanged it for, as I and a former co-worker had discussed on many occasions, a different set of problems: I formed my own company and went to work in a business that parallels the one started by my my oldest son (not as competitors; we cross- support as needed).
UPDATE #2 Now, the summer of 2010, the horizon line to retirement, and grandkids, has moved a bit closer. And six years after I pulled the trigger on my infamous farewell e-mail [that I must admit violated conventional wisdom by leaving the planks in my departure bridge a field of flaming splinters - to the delight of many of my co-workers] I am about half way through what will likely be the third and final phase of my working career and the only regret I have results from missing the camaraderie & wit of the typical set characters that comprise an R&D department. But, on the flip side, I and my company continue to succeed despite the best efforts of the investment bankers of the world - kindred spirits of the arrogant, MBA toting class of jerks described in update #1 who persist in the belief that they are entitled to line their pockets even as they're destroying the very capitalist system that they claim to revere. I take some pride in having written my lament of the demise of legitimate, sustainable capitalism over 2 years before the world economy was pushed off a cliff by unfettered greed. But I take NO enjoyment from seeing millions of people who weren't as fortunate as I was in seeing this coming so that they are paying the price of others' arrogance.So, I do what I can do: treat my employees fairly and respectfully, because they're the ones who help me pay the bills. And help to develop young, technically inclined workers [High school Juniors & Seniors] by giving them a chance to work at something other than fast food or as a carry out.. I'm just one guy with a small business in small town Iowa, but if I can help out or steer two or three people along their path in life, I've got a hunch that, that might carry more weight in the long run than your typical corporate 3 to 5 slide Powerpoint presentation showing that you, "Made the numbers." again this quarter.
UPDATE #3 It's now late Summer of 2014. It's been a full ten years since I pulled the plug on my corporate career. In that time, sadly, the dismemberment of Compressor Controls, the company I left in 2004, has continued as I feared it would with yet another round of lay-offs recently and what appears to be a physical collapse into a shell of its former self as what's left of it now occupies only a fraction of the building that once bore it's name. One of the latest moves on the part of the scheming bastards who've gutted the place is to invite / allow the son of the founder back into the company so that they may, I strongly suspect, place the blame for its eventual sale or demise on the shoulders of someone bearing his last name. I still know of, and hurt for, a handful of good people who've hung on and still work there but all I can do is ache for them and evoke the wisdom of accepting in life what you cannot change...... still, it's so sad...... so sad................. it didn't have to happen this way.
Now as I am migrating this website from my business server to a hosting service I am also migrating myself into that next to last phase of life wherein you get to move on to spoiling grand kids (two grand daughters to date) and spend more time on hobbies and those things for which we all strive at this point in life. It is inevitable at this point that one tends to look back, but a mistake to not also look forward. I've said often in recent years that if, on the day you die, you don't have a list of projects and plans in process, you've already died and simply failed to formalize it. Unlike so many who make the mistake of allowing their vocation to define their entire life & worth, I am no more defined by my job than I am by my possessions and relish the opportunity to have more time to use my hands & mind in concert to work on projects around our property as well as my increasing list of hobbies including vintage vacuum tube radio & audio equipment, alternative energy systems, vintage cars & motorcycles, scuba divingand a major road trip or two. Let the long, slow, party BEGIN !
[Dave's rule of life #1: If you blindly follow any large system long enough-be it an organization, government, a religion or a corporation- it will screw you].
Armed with a list of things I didn't want to do with my life and an increasing awareness, born of years of being answerable to egotists & arrogant fools, that there is a world of difference between those who would be great leaders and those who seek positions of power, I pursued a career that would let me keep a wary eye on "the powers that be" without having to play their games.
[Dave's rule of life #2: Never completely trust anyone who consciously aspires to a position of power.
Corollary #1 to rule #2: if you scratch the veneer off a powerful bully, you usually find an insecure person of limited depth.
Corollary#2 to rule #2: never confuse power with real authority; they aren't the same thing and are often mutually exclusive.]
As a people watcher it didn't take too long to discover that possessions and positions can provide interesting diversions, but they can not, and, in the end, do not define us as human beings.
[Dave's rule of life #3: If your possessions own you, something is out of whack.
Corollary to rule #3: If your possessions define you, you're a sorry S.O.B.]
And regardless of your station in life, a real, active sense of humor - periodically aimed inward - is the most effective way to be credible in day to day life & relations with people.
[Dave's rule of life #4: If you take yourself too seriously, people are more than willing - and able - to compensate for that behind your back.]
The overall thing about people, power & possessions that I concluded early on (and it's something that has held up over the years) is:
The only real legacy most of us will leave is the next generation.
Ironically, but not surprisingly in hindsight, this set of observations lead me to a career back in the rural mid-west where a degree in electrical engineering provided enough income for a traditional nuclear family to live comfortably and sanely on a single income, with enough left over to provide for a few toys and a plan for the future. Consequently we wound up on a piece of ground in the country that provided the setting for bonfires, gardens, a tree house, a tire swing and countless "forts" built by our sons and their friends in the trees near our home as they were growing up; and a home, it has been for us all.
So, it's OK to have a few toys and some good times & laughs along the way - but your family is the center of any right thinking person's productive years.
Rest and relaxation, sure….
Some vacations and trips, absolutely…. A few hobbies to keep me mentally engaged ......yes.
But…While I’ve always tried to value people, genuinely GOOD people, in the time left to me, it now becomes more important.
See my rule of life # 3. I have reexamined it periodically for years and find that it still stands.The other thing you come to terms with, unless you’re in completely in denial, is a look back and reflection that you have more time behind you than in front of you. Time…. TIME is the currency of real value now – and it has been for most of your life whether you realized it or not; that and our interactions with other people. Many times I have remarked how sad it is to see someone whose whole existence was based on their work life (chasing the other kind of currency) move into retirement only to wither and die in a year or two .
UPDATE #4 January 2015
After a couple false starts I finally sold my business and moved into retirement on November 1, 2014. A question one always asks to no one in particular at that point is, “Do I have enough money to do this?” If you think deeply enough about that, the real question is, “Do I have enough good TIME left NOT to do this?” because “Enough” money, beyond being reasonably sure you won’t become homeless and hungry or a burden to someone else, isn’t defined in the money crazed culture we’ve (for the most part) let ourselves fall into. In an era where a vast number of our fellow human beings exist in a world that has far fewer worldly goods than all but the poorest Americans, the average American today seems to have lost the historical perspective of just how well off we are as compared to our ancestors in terms of worldly goods. We have so much ‘good stuff’ that it piles up in our lives and so much food that obesity is an exploding problem …… how can more of any of that improve our lives and make us happy???