Monday, July 21, 2014

Impending Birth: Thinking Back to When I Didn't Know What I Didn't Know

Amy is going to be induced on Thursday because they are concerned about her blood pressure. The baby appears healthy, and we have been given no reason to worry. However, it does mean that the Koalid is coming imminently. Prior to induction, they give a treatment once a day for three days, and, in many women, this treatment itlself jumpstarts labor. The first treatment is tonight, so sometime between tomorrow and Friday it is highly likely I will be a father.

There is a great scene in the 1996 movie Independence Day when David Levinson, played by Jeff Goldblum, is on his way to the alien spacecraft to implant the virus and save the world. The plan is set, everything is committed, and it's the moment of waiting to see if it will all come together. Goldblum starts saying, in his uniquely Goldblum way, "Oh, boy. Oh, boy. What was I thinking?"

This scene has resonated for me a number of times in my life, and especially now. Over the past 9 months, I have researched, read, experienced, and prepared for the arrival of the Koalid. I have thought about how I will raise her, teach her, prepare and protect her. Now she is almost here. I try to recall what I have read, and sometimes my mind comes back to me with "we read something?" I know it's just the jitters that come right before the big moment, but there it is.

When I was 22, I graduated college and opened a game store. I got a little advice here and there, but I really didn't know my ass from my elbow. I didn't know what I didn't know. Most importantly, I didn't know what I couldn't do. In fact, I believed that my lack of knowledge of what wasn't possible was one of my greatest assets, and perhaps I was right. I set out to create a center of community, a resource for geeks. I thought I was setting out to build a successful business, but that's really just what I told myself to justify what I was really trying to do. Ultimately, through the successor organization to that original store, that goal has been realized, going strong, 12 years after its original inception.

However, I have also faced painful, harsh lessons in what I cannot do. I could not make a living running Phoenix Games. In 2010, I arrogantly stepped into the role of breadwinner for two without any background to support the believe I could do this, and I failed. In 2007, I discovered the limits of my powers of visualization as in one year, I closed Phoenix Games, was removed from leadership of the RHPS cast I founded, was ousted from staff of Pi-Con which I created, and ended a 5 year relationship.

I have heard it said that life runs in 7 year cycles, each stage of life approximately 7 years long. Although those stages are different for everyone, the breakdown for me into such increments has been quite robust. 20-26 was a time of unbridled optimism, telling people not to make me look down because as long as I didn't know the cliff wasn't there, I would never fall.

27-33 was the period of rebuilding and learning after I looked down. I did not know where I was going or what I would do for a long time. I tried a few things and learned many things. Much of it was epistemological in itself: learning that many things I thought I knew were mere conceits on my part, as well as learning that during my travels I had managed to, almost without realizing it, amass experience and connections and relationships that could build my life going forward.

This past January, I had the good fortune to work briefly for a man name Howard Greenspan. He built a small online Pokemon store in 1998 into a business doing more than $50 million in revenues last year. At one point, I called him a genius, and he rejected it. He refuses to think of himself as a genius or in any way gifted. He believes that to think of oneself in such terms is to cease to strive and struggle. If you think you are good, you don't work as hard. If you think you are passable, you work harder, and, in so doing, will surpass the one who thinks he is "great" every time.

In 2002, I thought of myself as a genius, and I believed that I would win. As such, I did not fight as hard as I could. I was not focused on what I needed to focus on. In 2007, I thought I was a genius, and I was baffled as to why things fell apart. In 2008, I began to learn that being a genius is good for getting Mensa membership and solving Sudoku puzzles. In 2014, I finally put it together that genius is a tool, like charisma or physical strength or artistic ability, which can be employed by a motivated and properly directed individual to achieve success. However, like a power tool lying on a bench, if genius is not put to use with effort and strategy, it is good for little.

Today, I hope I understand how little I know. I understand that this Koalid will count on me, and that I do not have the luxury of indulging in conceit. Very soon, I will be called upon to us everything I have learned and done to raise her to give her the best life I possibly can. This means using everything at my disposal to build my business so as to support and educate her as well as using everything I have to care for her, teach her, love her, and raise her right.

She's coming, and I'm ready.

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