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.