Volumes of a Man

I had lunch with my father yesterday.  I twittered that I was lunching with the most important man in the world – but he in reality has always made me feel like the most important person in his world, and I bet that everyone in my family, and beyond, feels like that whenever they are talking with him.

He brought me some important records from his long and successful working career in different in ascending levels of government in California. He shared wisdom gleaned from all these years of his important career.

Many things he said struck me and will help me, but one thing made me bolt awake early this morning. Whenever he went into meetings, he said, he took a notebook and he always took a lot of notes. Before he met with me he took the time to go through his huge porter, as he called it, to find the essence of what was important to bring to me. He said there are notebooks and notebooks and notebooks in this huge porter.

This struck me in the light of the early morning for two reasons. One is that every day – or maybe just as time goes on – I find ways I am more alike with my family. A bolt of recognition breeds a common understanding, and that’s a special feeling I’m getting used to with my daughter as well. Just like my dad, it turns out, I take tons of notes (coming as no surprise to anyone who works with me).

The second reason has to do with that elusive process of synthesis. To some, the amazing point might be that he kept all those notebooks at all, but to me, the big gift is that my dad pulled out just the right notebooks that would be valuable to me at this point in my working career. What’s funny about blogging this is that I believe this to be the point of “Web 2.0:” the synthesis. The medium might have changed from notebooks (just as from newspapers, editorials, letters, even emails) to blogging – now continuing on to twittering – but the point is still the same: to synthesize.

When it comes down to it, is the huge porter and the process of going through notebook after notebook really a different process of innovation than popping up a browser tab to Google? The tools might have advanced with us, but what’s important is culling through those years of volumes to get to the right point at the right moment – for the right person.  How lucky I am that Dad has always made me feel like the right person.

The third of two things that struck me (yes, I should have kept sleeping) is that innovation is such a continuing process, just like another common thread through our family. Big companies talk about reacting to this or that latest disruption as if it’s the only one. It’s only today’s — this moment is small. What’s important in the next moment will be different.

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