There’s No Time Like the Present

I’m at the RSA 2012 conference. It has been an exhausting day of meetings and walking from hotel to hotel to meeting center and back again.

Tonight, we held a memorial service for Gene Schultz. Gene passed away suddenly last October. I thought it appropriate to have a small wake for him here, at a conference where many of his professional colleagues and former students would be present. With tremendous help and support from Alan Paller and SANS personnel, we had a great reception with many, many people in attendance, include Gene’s widow and eldest daughter.

Some incredibly senior people were present, as well as many more junior, reflecting that Gene made friends and drew admirers at a steady rate over his career. Nearly everyone commented on his sense of humor, and his great love of teaching. The same happened yesterday, at the ISSA reception, where the first recipient of the E. Eugene Schultz, Jr. Scholarship was named.

The comments about Gene’s love of teaching combined with something Mary Ann Davidson of Oracle said to me as we were discussing Gene: “Isn’t it a pity that we wait until someone is gone to say what a difference they made?” It made me think there is something to learn, again, out of such a loss.

We have some awards and recognitions for achievements, but few cover a large scope of years, and there are only a few that are awarded each year. However, we have dozens of people who are making a big difference in our lives — and the lives of those around us — all the time. What about them?

Tell people who are making a difference that you notice, and appreciate it. Send a note to someone you haven’t seen in a while who helped make you what you are, such as a teacher or coach or manager, and thank him or her. No need to be maudlin, but say it while it can be heard. Tell people they matter, add value, are special. (And no, I’m not feeling unappreciated and fishing, so don’t send me anything — I am thinking of others.)

Furthermore, realize that you are likely to underestimate your own impact on the world because few people will tell you what a difference you make. It isn’t quite It’s A Wonderful Life but know that we usually fail to see ourselves as others do –which is why it is important to reassure those who matter to us.

Winn Schwartau commented how Gene’s passing prompted him to decide to ski more. That’s another lesson from Gene’s death — don’t postpone joy. I remember that thought from an essay I read decades ago. It basically means not to put off until there is a “special occasion” or “when I get this work done” those activities that could make you happy — because things could get in the way, and the time may never come. Illness and accident can rob you of the chance, and leave you with the thought of what you lost — if even that.

I have a friend who tells me she will wait — there’s time for fun things to happen sometime in the future, but right now she has yet another paper to write. Besides, if something bad happens to her, she won’t be in a position to regret. Perhaps not — but the people around her, who could share the joy, and whose lives might be enriched by it, would lose out, too. Few of us live lives that are really disconnected; Almost none of us are really alone.

Gene Schultz understood these two lessons and lived them, not perfectly, but well. He regularly encouraged the people around him, and he made time to have fun with those who cared about him. As some of us in the room reflected on the people who made the biggest impacts on our lives, we realized they shared those characteristics. It’s too bad it was the loss of a friend that reminded us of this situation.

Find the joy in making others aware of their positive contributions. Live passionately. Love fiercely. Don’t postpone joy. There is no time like the present, because for some, there may be no time BUT the present. — so, start now.

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4 Responses to “There’s No Time Like the Present”

  1. Robin Roberts Says:

    Amen, brother. That’s why we retired as soon as possible. We are now in the FL Keys getting our boat ready to spend 3 months in the remote Bahamas, we’ll cruise the Chesapeake in the summer, France in September (on a rented boat), and back to the Keys for the winter. In March of next year we will be shipping our boat to the Pacific NW so we can spend a few years cruising the San Juans and Alaska’s Inside Passage. We are actively living our dreams, and savoring every minute of it. We have also had the time we’ve really needed for our aging parents. Do it NOW. Don’t wait!!!

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    • Ron Tencati Says:

      Fantastic advice, Spaf! What a wonderful time to have shared history with so many visionaries and pioneers! And it warms my heart to learn that a scholarship in Gene’s name has been created. What better way to honor his memory and legacy!

      It was good to see you again. I miss being as connected to the computer security community as I used to be.

      Thank you for all you have done. You and Gene both changed the world.

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  2. Wendy Says:

    In the middle of last year I tried to encourage a worldwide information security organisation to start at ‘Hall of Fame’ for those who have played a significant role in our profession. Not only for those who would be so honoured, but also for those arriving who would benefit from knowing about the different peopleon whose shoulders we stand. The response I got was that Gene (I had used him as an example) has been more than properly honoured and there was no gain for the organisation in doing this. I will always regret that I am not a significant enough player to have pushed forward on this. Maybe we should think about it now. There are some great examples and ambassadors out there, and if we want to nurture our profession to be perceived as something more than just a hangout for geeks and control freaks we need to recognise them ourselves and bring them before the wider world.

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  3. Randy Sanovic Says:

    I’ll will dearly miss seeing, and talking with Gene from time to time….I still remember many years ago when he asked me which Oldsmobile he should buy (when Olds still existed) ….I was then the General Director of IT-Security at GM …..and subsequently helped Donn Parker get the Cady he was interested in. I seemed to always run into Gene going to, or coming back from, his many presentations seemingly everwhere…..he always had a few minutes to ‘catch-up’ wiith freinds and colleagues. Randy

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