"Somehow, we feel people our age should be...resting on our laurels...not engaging in risk-taking projects, embarking on unmapped adventures, and enduring the awkwardness and vulnerabilities of new mastery."
- Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50
I attended my nephew’s soccer game when he was about five and the parents and coaches on the sideline became apoplectic when, with great earnestness, my nephew’s teammate headed the ball with speedy little legs toward their own goal, and my nephew, with equal earnestness, ran with him to assist.
As the founder of an 18-month old company, I am, by definition, a novice. My company is new, I’m new to it, so I am, at times, and with great earnestness, vulnerably awkward with techniques and goals. Plenty of times, I don’t know the rules well enough to realize I’m plain just going the wrong way.
Especially in an age of corporate transparency, a company’s and a company’s founder's actions are subject to scrutiny. Do I enjoy making errors in public? Nope.
But compared to my geothermal passion for my company and my idea, an error is a hot rock in the sun.
As Lawrence-Lightfoot notes, I’ve lived long enough to have laurels to rest on, even to be termed a “master” in a field. The results of longitudinal research, case study of one: No matter the level of excellence and precision I achieved, to some greater or lesser extent, one occurrence was guaranteed. I would err. Humans err.
I’ve been asked, given the risks of the surgery I’ll have on Monday, why I haven’t sought out the top surgeon in the field, nationally, even internationally, to do the job.
I have political views on health care that certainly have influenced my choice not to do that. I’ve written often about my awareness that my attempts to control outcomes are almost always power-driven and fear-based. I do my best to let enlightenment lead my way.
But the essence of my choice is this: I think expertise can counteract humanity only so much.
I could spend my family’s fortune, a huge portion of my fellow-insured’s payroll deductions, and fly to, let’s say, a leading research hospital in Paris, meet the esteemed master surgeon and his or her apprentices.
I would then become a sheep, as are all pre-operation patients: no food or water after midnight, yadda, yadda, and the rather astounding request not to use hair spray in the morning because it’s flammable and we wouldn’t want fire in the operating room, now would we?
And in the morning I would be put under with anesthesia and lie on the operating table, powerless, subject absolutely to the surgeon’s humanity.
Whether in Blacksburg, Virginia or Paris, France, that’s a human working on a human. Humans, even masters, err.
As we are told by our grade school science teachers, each of us is unique. With his impeccable record and reputation - and his own uniqueness - the surgeon who will operate on me on Monday could already be the ideal fit for my anatomy.
There’s no way to know.
Passes aren’t caught, hoops aren’t hit, soccer balls aren't kicked into the right goal. Start-up company founders get their angel investor video pitches trashed. With the highest hopes and the best of intentions, humans err.
On the way to Monday, I’m cranking through the grieving process. I seem to have mostly acceptance going right now. I feel a little sadness, a touch of fear.
Given the nature of my work, I’ve had the glorious experience of having multiple-year relationships with thousands of people, almost as if I’ve had my own private, longitudinal research study going.
All those joys and sorrows, all those seemingly impossible, even unspeakable, things happening.
I’ve seen one truth prevail. It comes from depths. And it wasn’t how much one could control others or outcomes.
The surgeon will have it, the staff will have it, my family, friends and entrepreneurial colleagues will have it, ultimately, no matter what happens.
And I’ll have it, too. No matter what happens.