Why Write?

14 January 2005

This is a personal site written by Steve Pilgrim. Living in Memphis, TN I'm a business executive interested in improving business operations by reducing variation. However, I'm also very concerned about the human condition, our debt, our conspicuous consumption and our endless attempts to get ahead of one another.

Rodent Regatta is about finding significance in life and work. For too many life has become a rat race. When you win you're simply the number one rat. There's got to be something more!

Life and work need to be better for people. We shouldn't drive to work, open the back door of the car, hang our dreams inside and go to offices or cubicles to work at things we hate or don't really care about; only to return to our cars, grab our dreams and think about them all the way home. Arriving home too tired to do anything about our dreams, we collapse into a chair and dread the new day tomorrow.

We'll write about the things that might make your particular rat race a bit more tolerable. Topics span a huge spectrum:

  • I'm a patriotic American who believes our government needs to be smaller. You'll read perspectives on politics, government and what our Founders intended.
  • I'm a person of Christian faith. You'll see me "coping" with my own challenges here, and hopefully you'll get a sense of how faith plays a part.
  • I believe most mainstream media are biased sources for information. We deserve better. Weblogs are (at a minimum) a new form of personal journalism. We'll talk about the critical thinking necessary to get useful information.
  • Technology has been important to me for many years. It's the career I've chosen. We'll cover a wide variety of topics - from Wi-Fi to bandwidth to software to how to manage information technology and more.
  • I love music, the arts, audio systems and literature. You'll see song lyrics as well as poetry from time to time.
  • There will be book reviews. I read a lot.
  • As a value investor, I'll occasionally write about Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway and other individuals and companies that pursue that school of thought.

For 2005, we'll cover all of the above, plus:

  • Litigation (tort) reform.
  • Shrinking the Federal government.
  • Achieving energy independence.
  • Quality, customer service and continual improvement of processes leading to excellence.
  • Great design
  • Health care reform.
  • The mounting evidence that having defeated communism, our nation's next "ism" is going to be "Islamism."
  • Photography will get more attention in 2005. It's possible you'll see a gallery or two.

Quality, Customer Service and Improvement

I'll never forget the first time I heard Tom Peters speak. I was watching a video of one of his "performances" in the training room of a business I co-owned at the time. It changed my outlook on my role and the possibilities for that business and all the others I've come in contact with since that time. In the late 1980's I became deeply involved in the methods that companies could employ to find excellence in their operations and their service to customers. In 1991 I attended Philip Crosby's Quality College. I began to learn about W. Edwards Deming, statistical process control, Donald Wheeler, Six Sigma, operations research and process reengineering. That has been the focus of my working life for the decade and a half. Those topics are bound to find their way into much of what you see here.

The Tools of Weblogging

Dan Bricklin's influence on my web interests has been paramount. From the earliest search for a tool to use to do a simple web site, I found Dave Winer, scripting.com and Radio. From these people and sites I've learned of many more. I'm interested in some of them because they taught me about weblogs and Radio in particular. I'm interested in others because they write so well about something I'm interested in.

Late in 2002, I switched to Movable Type to write and edit this weblog. Sekimori Design deserves all the credit for helping me get started with Movable Type and making this weblog look the way it does.

Now, in 2005, we're up to Revision 3.0 with Textpattern. Several tools and great talent are responsible for this update.

The Motivators

Here are the key reasons this work exists:

  • Beginning in January of 2002, I wanted to write to focus my thoughts about 9-11-2001.
  • to learn the hands-on stuff associated with web sites, HTML, web services, XML and the future of computing
  • to have a place to post my thoughts and document my thinking
  • to have a way to influence change - this will come with readership, but Dan Bricklin's essay about pampleteers sums it up
  • to see if there is money to be made in writing, weblogging or providing assistance to others who need tools for collaboration
  • to journalize my interests

Most of all I want to write a weblog in order to learn! I'm learning something more about software, web services, web design and what it takes to build truly collaborative tools, systems and thinking.

The Meaning of Life

On May 8, 2002, I responded to a question I read at Scripting News. Without much time or attention, I wrote this entry and titled it. Before I knew it, it had put my weblog "on the map." It wasn't a big dot on the map, but what I had to say was getting read. Here's how that went:

Dave asks: Is business the purpose of our civilization, or does civilization have some other purpose that business supports? Do our lives have any meaning beyond that which we produce for sale, and that which we purchase for consumption? Who is really qualified to answer such questions for other than themselves?

G.K. Chesterton said, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience." Victor Frankl wrote Man's Search for Meaning to explain meaning when you become a number. His dehumanizing experience at Auschwitz gave him the answers.

Does the woman living in a cave in Afghanistan and sleeping in the dirt have the same life purpose as the woman who woke up in a 10,000 square foot home in the American suburbs, drove her SUV to drop her kids at private school, grabbed a $3.85 cup of coffee at the drive-thru window and rushed to her desk to work at 'getting more' today? Is daily survival a different life purpose from daily achievement or daily accumulation? Should the person waking to a shopping list for a week's worth of groceries have the same life meaning as the person who awoke hungry, but driven to find sustenance before dark?

Different people must answer Dave's questions in different ways. Influences often drive how we answer the question. Sometimes the answer feels different on different days. The fact is a life of simply earning more, buying more or selling more can get pretty futile.

Surely, at the end of our days, there should be more than the toys, the comfort and the luxury that we've accumulated for ourselves and those we care about. I cannot compartmentalize my life in such a way that 'the getting' is what I do on the job and life's meaning is something that happens at a different place, with other people or at a different time.

Regardless of religious background or persuasion, people need a plan, a place and a purpose. More often than not those are found in some area of service. I find that the periods in my life where I have not been serving others are the most miserable periods I've faced.

If civilization is to be defined as 'life as we know it,' then business, in all its forms, is a part of that. To say that our civilization has business as its purpose seems to fall short of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' It also falls short of any greater meaning that those who see themselves as spiritual beings might seek.

I'm reminded of the wealthy Texas oil baron who died somewhat unexpectedly in his 60's. Some weeks following the funeral, one sincere old friend asked his youthful widow, "how much did he leave?" Her reply was quick, "all of it." You just don't see any Wells Fargo trucks in funeral processions!

There's got to be something more!

Were It Not For Grace

If a single song can explain my own journey, my struggles in life, the attempt to find meaning and hold onto significance, this is it:

Were It Not For Grace
by Hamilton McHugh

Time measured out my days; Life carried me along In my soul I yearned to follow God, but knew I'd never be so strong. I looked hard at this world to learn how heaven could be gained. Just to end where I began; where human effort is all in vain.

Were it not for Grace, I can tell you where I'd be.
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me.
I know how that would go, the battles I would face.
Forever running, but losing the race;
Were it not for Grace.

So here is all my praise; expressed with all my heart.
Offered to a Friend, who took my place,
And ran a course I could not start.
And when He saw in full, just how much this love would cost,
He still went the final mile between me and heaven so I would not be lost.

Were it not for Grace, I can tell you where I'd be.
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me.
And, I know how that would go, the battle I would face.
Forever running, but losing the race;
Were it not for Grace.
Forever running, but losing the race;
Were it not for Grace.