Planning a life can seem like a silly venture. My passion is people and ideas. My degrees are in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. Many know me because I’ve written six books and produced five more. My photography receives more compliments than I ever expected. I find it very gratifying to help people plan and implement their projects, or life choices. When I was 15 there was no way to know that I’d be doing all of this 40 years later. If I live another 40 years, I should expect to laugh at any plan I make today. And yet, I continue to work on what comes next.
A cubicle job has a series of seductions. There’s a regularity of the space, the paychecks, the benefits, the work, the people, the commute, the topics, and even the lunch choices. The rest of a life can hang on such a structure. Work hours define which hours are left for sleeping and living. To some, such a routine is dull and drudgery. To others, such routine frees up the mind by marking off the pieces where thought is required from where emotions can be expressed. Regardless, any suggestion of regularity in this era is an illusion based on a world that never existed.
Life after The Great Recession returned to normal for many people. If it hadn’t, the protests in the streets would be louder or the exodus from the mainstream would be greater. In quiet conversations, off to the side, and rarely amongst more than two or three, people are asking me about what I think comes next. I shrug my shoulders a lot, listen a lot, pass along my optimisms and pessimisms – and then ponder at the incongruity I hear when they close the conversation describing actions based in the 70’s: IRAs, pension plans, retirement relocations, hobbies that will be resumed, etc. Even amongst people that see today’s norm as a fragile and temporary shell, there’s talk of how long they have until they’ve paid off the mortgage. If you think the economy is going to implode and the country is going to become insolvent within the next ten years, why assume that the mortgage will even exist in eleven years?
The reason to assume nothing will change is because, even after great changes, many things stay the same. Prior to the American Revolution and after the American Revolution crops had to be tended, bills had to be paid, and taxes had to be collected.
The reason to realize that things will change is because they always do.
I got a degree in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at just the right time for the United States to accelerate into space and radically change the course of human civilization. The Space Shuttle had just been launched. We knew it wasn’t the best design, but it was a marvelous improvement over the Apollo Program, and that made it to the Moon. Surely America wouldn’t give up its lead. Commercialized space, and the vast wealth of resources available off-planet should have been enticements enough to take the next steps. If we did it right, the planet’s resources would have a far better chance of staying in the ground. Self-sustaining orbital habitats would be an impetus to develop processes that would allow life on Earth to happen in the ultimate recycling loops.
That didn’t happen. I suspect you’ve noticed. We abandoned space and dreams, for a while.
I enjoyed that job, and was saddened to realize that my effort came at the wrong time. We, as a civilization, thought we needed to pull back and devote more effort to the Cold War and disco. (But I did get to work on a fascinating project that challenged many of my assumptions and taught me a lot about the power of ideas.)
Today, I updated my Events page. I have a series of talks and classes coming up (and room for more, call me). The topics are Modern Self-Publishing, Social Media, and Personal Finance after the Great Recession. None of those seem to have much to do with a Masters’ degree in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. If I expected them to, I’d be having a difficult time every day of my life. Fortunately, I know how all of it ties into my passion, and that knowledge is valuable.
My passion is for people and ideas. As far as we can prove, people don’t exist without ideas, and the only ideas I can effectively pursue exist within people. I’m a fan of the human race, which is why I want us to explore and colonize space; which has the happy consequence of leaving the Earth in better shape. Why tear down a life-covered mountain for a bunch of rocks when there are bunches of life-less rocks flying by our planet? That idea inspired me to get my two degrees.
Other people’s ideas inspire them. Knowing that I can help them inspires me. Self-publishing, social media, project planning, consulting, writing, and even photography are all ways for me to connect people with ideas to people with other ideas. If I had only seen my professional career as my only possibility, I would’ve been lost when I retired early (a temporary condition, evidently.) If I’d thought that the change would require a total redefinition of my self, I would’ve balked at the task. With a bit of introspection, and a great deal of retrospection, I was able to find the underlying passion that was also unrelenting.
Understand the fundamentals of why you do what you do. Then, when change inevitably happens, you’ll be readier to say good bye to the shell and illusions and find the strength in the structure beneath.
What’s coming next? I don’t know, but in the meantime I have these classes and talks, some intriguing projects, and some fascinating people with marvelous ideas to keep me busy.