Tuesday, June 16, 2009


As I workout in the evenings, I've been reading "Dead Lucky" by Lincoln Hall, a retelling of his grueling adventure with Mount Everest: how he summited, then died on the descent, was left for dead, then discovered by ascending climbers the next day, groggy but alive.

The book's not the best read, engrossing at times, but occasionally incoherent. I suppose that reflects the mental conditions he was in. It's a rather good motivator however, as I ride on my stationary bike, 20 or 30 minutes most nights. I've been trying to regain my cardiovascular fitness, and reduce my cholesterol and triglycerides.

I've lost about 12-15 pounds in the past six months. I'm getting there. But I muse at the passing in and out of lucidness and coherence of a climber testing his own mettle, even against all logic. Why do people climb mountains?

I fade in and out of reality a bit myself. Logic tells me that I'm on top of the world, that I've earned myself some respite from the constant battle to survive as a researcher and a scholar. Sometimes I exaggerate in my own eyes both the gains and the pitfalls. Will I really make it through this passage? Will I descend safely to the next plateau, after reaching the glorious summit, with the sun still shining, and breathe a deep, welcome toke of oxygen?

Or will it all fade away like mist, leaving me to realize the ascent is still before me, and I've only just begun?

This possibility of an academic research post fills me with a strange ambivalence. And not a little bit of trepidation: What does he really mean about not having my publications before him? Will he judge me as lacking because I've spent the past couple years working on research that I plan to patent rather than publish? Maybe I'm really not a scholar after all? Maybe I don't rank up.

What is my motivation? What is it that I really seek? Who do I wish to be?

I've just gotten through a very tense few weeks, as I prepared and submitted one big proposal for a $150k effort [Industry Standards], followed by a draft of my stage 2 contract [Speedometer] for 5 times that amount, and just today submitted another proposal for a $70k project [Compression]. Funny, that last seems so small today, but would have driven me to heights of insecurity a year ago.

Perhaps it still should. Can I say for certain that getting my first contract last summer, and the chance for a much bigger second part now is anything more than luck and chance? Sure, I did the work... and they were pleased with it enough to pass me on to the next level.

But then... I just can't believe that so many others out there are not just as worthy, just as capable, just as clever. Why don't they all have the opportunities as well?

I have a chance now, a wonderful, marvelous chance, to grow as a person, to develop as a researcher, to lead as a business executive. I feel a great burden and responsibility to do my part to help those others up the mountain as well. I hope I have the strength and courage to remember that!

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