Tuesday, February 01, 2011

On Venturing Outside the Safety Zone.

"A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things"

-- Admiral Grace Hopper

RADM Grace Murray Hopper has always been an inspiring character for me, and a source of practical wisdom.  One of my FB friend posted the quote above on her status the other day and I was reminded of the lessons Admiral Hopper's life taught me in my earlier years.

Born during an age where women were not expected to learn math and science, let alone use them, Grace Murray Hopper not only learned them, but bent them to her own will to help design the computer language that would later become COBOL, to attain the rank of Commodore (later renamed Rear Admiral) in the US Navy, and at the age of 79, to retire from the Navy to become a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation.  She was a tireless educator, an engaging speaker and an inspiring leader among women.  She. Was. Awesome.

She is widely credited with discovering the first computer bug, a literal moth that had lodged itself in a Navy processor relay in 1947.  She's also credited with being the first to utter my second-favorite phrase:

"It is easier to ask forgiveness than to obtain permission." 

She pushed the envelope.  She challenged those around her to be more than they thought they could be.  She refused to be ordinary.  She lived her life with genuine passion.

She also, as nearly as I can tell, refused to compromise her non-negotiables. 

This last year, as you all know, has been a period of change and painful self-assessment for me.  The "rules", as I knew them, all have been squarely up-ended.  I am left with the reality that my life is NOT going to be what I expected.  That means, of course, that it's time to take a more active role in determining where it goes from here.  I got reminded of what it feels like to get burned last week.  But the thing about getting burned is that it means you have a fire under you.  And that may not be a bad thing.

I'm getting a chance to operate in a more strategic role -- my "Happy Place" -- at work. And my boss, having watched me all last week, is finally backing off and just letting me do it.  I forgot how good it feels to be doing what I'm naturally good at, instead of having to make myself good at whatever needs to be done at a given time. It's riskier -- screwing up at this could cost me my job, and I'll take others with me if I fail.  But it's a damn sight more satisfying than plodding along in the safer task-related world I've been living in for the last several years.

Time to cast off.


bhd said...

Good winds!

denest: Could NOT be more appropriate! Fly!

Alison said...

I was just going to say "Brava!" but I like Cathy's "Good winds!" so I will repeat that.

You. Are. Awesome. I have the utmost faith in you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories of Grace Hopper, who is also one of my heroes. I take inspiration from her and from you!


Anonymous said...

Good luck, B, in your new responsibilities at work. I'm sure you'll excel!