Friday, June 29, 2007

51 weeks

I only have one more week in my year of turning 50. I am trying to figure out if the dividing of our age into decades is an artificial construct, or if we can learn something from these divisions in our lives. I am not deep enough to quote Rilke or something from Gail Sheehy’s books, so I will have to make do with my own pitiful observations.

I have been trying to remember back on earlier, significant birthdays. I sort of remember the first time I had a two digit birthday. That would have been in 1967 (obviously) and I probably celebrated it in Franklin, LA. But in all honesty I cannot recall anything beyond that. Did it make a difference? Certainly not.

The next significant (though not round) birthday would have been my 16th. That is when I took the driver’s test (and passed on the first go). I can remember the test, I can’t remember anything after that.

In Wisconsin when I was a youth, the drinking age was 18. So of course my 18th should have been memorable. I remember going out to dinner with my folks, but that is about it. No, I didn’t get drunk, it was just a nice meal where I had my first legal beer that I shared with my father.

I turned 20 while living in Illinois. I don’t remember that birthday at all. There is probably a good reason for that. There was not too much to do there, so we didn’t do much.

I turned 30 in Houston, right after I first moved to the Houston Heights. I think it was not celebrated, as we would have been poor because the house was a stretch, and we also had another house that had to be rented out. (That first house in the Heights was purchased for $112,000. You can’t buy dirt for that now)

40 I remember quite well. I spent the day alone trying to have an existential crisis. But mainly what I had was a nap.

And that brings us to 50. The search for meaning in the numbers has turned out to be fruitless. How about a search for meaning in the decades?

When I was a child, I acted as a child. No need to go into that.

In my 20s I got out of college and went to work. I held three jobs – Exxon Minerals and Exxon Synthetics as a Mining Engineer, David P Cook and Associates as a Customer Support Rep, and Terra-Mar as a, well, whatever it is I did there. (Sales, Development, Management). I was still optimistic enough about the world to believe that it was rational.

I was wrong about the rational part.

In my 30s I worked. This is where I really “grew up” professionally. I had a short year at Terra-Mar, and then I worked for Landmark Graphics in Houston, Caracas, and Singapore. That was a good run. I turned 40 just after that deal was done. I would venture that I learned more and worked harder in my 30s than in my 40s.

My 40s have been a pretty good decade. I worked for Bell Geospace, initially as the VP of Sales, then the Chief Operating Officer, and finally as CEO and took them though a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. After that I goofed off for a couple of years. Then I took a job with Input/Output as a Business Unit Manager. Now I am the CEO of OpenSpirit Corp as well as a Director for PGS.

So what did I learn?

  1. You are not always right
  2. The world is not rational
  3. The US is as close to a meritocracy as you will find
  4. Houston, TX will give you all the opportunities you need to pursue your dreams
  5. It is better to be lucky than smart
  6. Fortune favors the prepared mind (Louis Pasteur) or
  7. The harder I work, the luckier I get (Satchel Paige)
  8. Most importantly: Grab a hold of the one you love and never, ever let go.

My dream of sitting on my front porch thinking great thoughts get closer and farther everyday.

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