A recent company memo that came across my desk referred to a quote by Alan Kay, when in 1971 he told the corporate leaders at Xerox, then worried about their company’s future, “…the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” In all my years as a developer I’d never once heard this insightful phrase.
Do you recall when the term “personal empowerment” was installed in our society? I do. Sounded a bit like jumping through hoops to me, a circus act of sorts. I first heard it in the early 80’s, it was a new concept and I didn’t embrace it quickly I can tell you that. It wasn’t actually bantered about much, just an odd mention at the motivational circus, oops, I mean ‘seminar’, is about all I remember. My journey to enlightenment on this subject (…sounds a bit like ‘Lord of the Rings’ stuff, doesn’t it?) started in 1987 while working at GTE’s R&D facility in Phoenix (GTE is now Verizon).
In 1987 I applied for a transfer from a support group back to doing research and development, it was then I met Ed Horiuchi. Ed was the hiring supervisor for the position I’d applied for, I must have been the second or third person to interview with him that week. I learned that he had six people to review for the opening, promising to make a decision in a couple of weeks. Two weeks later I was offered the job! This isn’t a story of beating out the competition for the choice opening.
I was a bit embarrassed to discover the job
was offered to five others before it “fell” to me,
perhaps “plummet” is a better way to describe it. That’s like being the last kid chosen for the school yard basketball game. I accepted the position enthusiastically however, determined to succeed despite being the late round draft choice.
The real story here owes it’s genesis to Ed Horiuchi and the sage words he offered during my interview. After detailing the job, even suggesting it may be rather boring at times (not the glamour stuff you would associate with the term R&D) Ed concluded with words that turned out to be very profound. He said,
“…after all the routine work is finished you are free
to make the job what you want it to be.”
Make a job what I wanted it to be?! Only one rule to follow, the rest I could invent? (BAM! Imagine lights and sirens and ooo’s and ahhh’s from the crowds.) This must be what an epiphany is.
I won’t detail all of the personal growth I enjoyed while at GTE and working for Ed, but I will summarize a few things in order to make a point about inventing the future. First, I did the routine things as expected, after all, that is why I was hired. Second, I took on duties that others avoided, or gladly turned over to me. Lastly, I was quick to lend a hand to others even when no credit for it would come my way.
I am in the throws of inventing my future again. I met the most delightful, pleasant woman I’ve ever encountered, fell in love, and married her. Our real estate listing business, www.FSBO1.net, is positioned for flight after some retooling and reinventing the marketing strategy. I have a solid commitment for another year for programming from a multinational wood products company. And lastly, I am starting to record music again, perhaps you’ll hear it some day soon on a radio near you!
From Ed I learned “…the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” The best time to invent the future is to start now.
Thanks for reading this far. What are you doing a year from now?