Just by happenstance I share a birthday, separated by century and a half – with the great American Naval hero David Farragut. On visit to Washington a while back, I snapped this picture of the statue of America’s first Admiral in the park bearing his name.
Really unfortunate about the pigeons, isn’t it?
Admiral Farragut took New Orleans from the Confederacy, led his fleet through the mines and torpedoes of Mobile bay, helped Grant take Vicksburg, and transformed the Union Navy in his spare time. No wonder there is a statue and a park honoring him. A century and a half later, few people can remember why we honor him.
Recently, I have been working with the first program manager of the Space Shuttle, Bob Thompson. Mr. Thompson lead the development of the space transportation system from the end of the Phase A studies in 1972 through the first flight in 1981. An incredibly important time in the history of space travel and he was at the center of the whirlwind ensuring that the thing actually worked. Mr. Thompson is concerned that certain aspects of the early history of the space shuttle have not been correctly recorded by the professional historians who have written the books about those times. This is not surprising; professional historians rely on sources, professional historians were not present at the events. There are some significant elements about which there is disagreement. I tend to lean with Mr. Thompson’s account; after all, he was there.
Unfortunately, talking with historians and other folks who were also present, there is a tendency to discount Mr. Thompson’s recollections. “After all” they like to say “he was just the program manager at a field center and he did not have a good understanding of what was happening [in Washington, in the Administrator’s office, at the White House]. The program manager just isn’t that important.”
Ouch. And I thought being Program Manager was pretty important . . . and once upon a time, I held that job. That loud hissing noise was my ego deflating. ‘Just not that important’.
My last birthday wasn’t one of the big ones ending in a zero, but the calendar is pointing that way. Probably a function of my age, I frequently get funeral notices for people that I know. To quote Yogi Berra: “If you don’t go to their funeral, they won’t go to yours.” Think about it.
Hearing eulogies which categorize the importance of someone’s life makes you think about what is important in your own life. What great victories were accomplished, what projects were completed, what you did that improved the lives of those around you. These thoughts tend to a realization of humility and an impetus to do more with the time ahead.
Recently I have been leading a frenetic schedule both professionally and personally. It has simply got to slow down. All of this scurrying around certainly doesn’t seem to have been very productive in terms of making a difference where it matters. Perhaps I’ve been planting seeds which will grow to fruition at a later date, but right now the results of all my busy-ness seem pretty slim.
So I’m making a new start this fall – promising to slow down and spend my time where it is most important; eliminating the busy work as much as I can. I promise to put new emphasis on blogging to share my perspectives and some of my personal history lessons. And I also promise to spend much more family time – in the final analysis, that is where the most important work lies.
That’s much better than a statue with a pigeon on your head.