Lifetime Impact December 14, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
Tags: Communication, Relationships
Early in my career, I had the great good fortune to work with a pure research team. The team had two distinct research areas: advanced digital communications and large-scale parallel processing. The former was populated by absolute geniuses who, among other things, developed stuff like 16 kilobit modems back in 1980, along with a nifty technology we now know as HDTV. I was in the latter group; we were a bunch of young Unix hackers who tinkered with odd things like parallel processing, the internet, the web, and email. It was a wonderful place to be, and I still have many fond memories of the people and the projects.
Last week I learned that one of the senior members of the communications group, Dan McRae, passed away. Dan was a brilliant engineer, but he was also a kind, supportive mentor to many, many people. As his coworkers learned of his passing, they began to share memories of Dan and the profound impact he had had on their lives. Although I had only known Dan peripherally, those who had known and worked with him for decades echoed a common sentiment: he had made a profound difference in their lives.
Several people shared the same comment: that were it not for Dan, their lives would be dramatically different today. His guidance and intervention at an early point in their career had led them to decisions that made a big difference for them and their families.
Dan did not set out to make a big difference. Dan was being Dan, quietly inspiring people to do great things personally and professionally. Yet the impact he had on so many people is immeasurable.
Thinking of Dan made me realize that to be remembered in this way may be the greatest achievement to which any of us could aspire. Paradoxically, you cannot try to achieve this kind impact; rather, it occurs as a side effect of doing the right thing, all the time, for a long time. I suspect that even if you had asked him, Dan could not have explained how he had this impact on people.
If you died today, would people say the same thing about you? Do you live your life in a way that makes a profound difference to someone? I hope that in the end, we will all be able to claim a similar legacy as Dan McRae.
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