Most weekends our family picks a day for a Google Hangout. It's great. We have breakfast together, coast-to-coast, and the conversation flows as if we were all hanging out in our kitchen.
During one hangout months ago, a discussion turned to work-related passions. What does your perfect work environment look like? I filled my coffee cup and then indulged myself on my turn. I returned to times when I was neck deep in the creative process to conceive, design, build and deliver software products. That same passion arose when I invented and patented a new golf product. Creation and purpose are the themes. It's the thread that runs through my most passionate endeavors, from the reinvention of the business I entered twenty years ago, to the creation of this blog, to the development and building of my coaching business now.
My contribution to the conversation sparked a thought in my son. I could see he was preoccupied, looking for something on his computer. He returned with with a company name. Someone from Altair had viewed his LinkedIn profile. He had researched Altair and what he found resonated as I described my perfect day. He was right on. Altair's description of their practice areas in product research, design and development gave me goosebumps. But it also conjured a memory.
Altair. That sounded so familiar. Wasn't that a very early personal computer? It was my turn to divert my attention from the hangout. But not for long. Yes! The Altair 8800. Not only was it an early personal computer, it was the personal computer that gave rise to Microsoft. Invented by computer engineer and entrepreneur Henry Edward "Ed" Roberts in 1975, the Altair lured Bill Gates and Paul Allen to Albuquerque, New Mexico to create its first BASIC programming language implementation.
Going deeper uncovered an amazing "Be Yourself" story. A story that immediately took up residence in my heart. To put this in historical context, Ed Roberts was born in 1941. He invented the Altair in 1975 at age 34, the exact midpoint of his life. He died a physician in 2010 at age 68. Take a look at his career timeline:
1941 Born September 13
1959, age 18 Starts college
1962, age 21 Leaves college, enlists in U.S. Air Force
1968, age 27 Gets electrical engineering degree
1969, age 28 Starts MITS electronics company
1975, age 34 Invents Altair 8800
1976, age 35 Sells MITS
1977, age 36 Moves to rural Georgia and takes up farming
1982, age 41 Enters medical school
1986, age 45 Gets M.D.
1988, age 47 Opens general medicine practice
2010, age 68 Dies April 1
What a fascinating personal history. Ed spent the first half of his life in electronics and the second half in medicine. Between the two, he worked as a gentleman farmer and ran a software company for five years. The obvious question is, "Why would he leap from electronics to medicine in his forties?" Because, as is turns out, it was no leap at all. It was on his path all along.
Ed Roberts entered college as a teenager in 1959 intending to become a medical doctor. A resident neurosurgeon friend, who shared Robert's interest in electronics, convinced him to get an engineering degree first. Before he could complete his degree he married and quickly became a father. To support his young family, he took another path through the Air Force and his MITS business came out the other end. But his core belief about himself, his core belief that he was destined to be a doctor, never left him. I am speaking for him with confidence because his life speaks volumes to this truth.
Connecting the dots, Ed Roberts' formative years set him up for his electronics career and his tie to farmland. When his father, Henry, left home to serve in World War II, his mother relocated their family to her family's farm in rural Georgia. When his father returned from the war, they moved to Miami, Florida where Henry ran an appliance repair shop. Ed gained his early experience and interest with electronics in his father's shop. This history and experience ultimately played out in Ed'd business life, but he never forgot who he was. Who he was ultimately born to be. Ed had a passion for medicine from the very beginning, and he never gave up on that dream.
Getting into medicine later in life is no easy task. Competition is stiff and the investment by both the student and the school is significant. Age discrimination applied to older applicants, while better today, was a significant barrier in Ed's day. But Ed Roberts kept his dream alive. In 1982, at age 41, he enrolled in the first graduating class of Mercer University's medical school. He graduated with his M.D. in 1986, completed his residency in internal medicine in 1988, and at age 47, Dr. Roberts opened his practice in Cochran, a small rural town in Georgia.
As I thought about Dr. Roberts' later years, I did a little more research and uncovered the condolences expressed in this Guest Book upon his passing. There is no better tribute to a doctor than the appreciation expressed by his patients. And there is no better way to begin to truly believe in your own path than to see clear evidence of an unseen plan designed into another's convoluted journey. These Guest Book sentiments speak volumes to the passion and joy that result when you follow your path in the spirit of actively pursuing and living your life purpose.
Set aside some quiet time today to be still. Read a few pages from this Guest Book tribute. Then try to imagine your own. What would you like to hear? Ed Roberts clearly lived his purpose. You hear it in the voices of the people he touched. But, like all of us, he pursued it along a path that twisted and turned. As clear as it is in retrospect, it no doubt had its share of blind corners, roadblocks, challenges and heartache as he walked it. Just like our paths, yours and mine, do now. The only difference is, his life story is complete, and the perfection of how it all fits together is evident. Ours are still works in progress. Be assured, we are all heading toward that same perfection. The choice is yours. Live in fear and doubt. Or accept you are here for a purpose, to be yourself, to live your life fearlessly, and to embrace your journey with curiosity and gratitude. Either way, it's a path to perfection. I choose to enjoy it. I encourage you to do the same.
February 10, 2017
As I prepared to publish this in May 2016, I froze for a moment when I realized that I had authored the initial draft of this post on Sunday, January 10, 2016. Two days later, on Tuesday, January 12th, the trajectory of my life was permanently redirected. Looking back, I now view it as being in support of my life purpose, although it certainly didn't feel like it then. On that date, my partners (brothers-in-law), informed me that, after twenty years, they were no longer in need of my service as the CEO of our family-owned business. Their act cleared my path. Now, I see my life purpose unfolding in ways I never could have predicted as I follow my path and intuition. I am applying the creative spirit I convey above in support of my coaching vision. Stories of life journeys, like Ed Roberts' here, inspire me to trust my way forward and enjoy the trip. I hope they do the same for you.