Mark Gilbert's Blog

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Inspired by…

I was tagged by the Coding Geekette for an “inspirational” meme started by Josh Holmes:

Who has inspired you and how?
What have they inspired you to do?
Who else have they inspired?

Like Josh and Sarah (and Michael Eaton in the middle) I had a tough time narrowing it down to a couple of people, let alone one.  I’ve had several mentors over the years – several people that have pushed me to be better, taught me some vital lesson, or generally just helped me keep my balance when I was letting life run me over:

There’s Bob, an independent packaging consultant and sales rep for the baking industry who I worked for during college and a number of years after.  What started out as a job to rewrite his inventory and order management system turned into almost-daily lessons on sales, marketing, and business.  It also turned into a good friendship that has lasted to this day.  He showed a cocky college programmer how little I really knew about being a technology consultant.

There’s Jeff, a senior developer and architect whom I had the pleasure of working with at BlueGranite.  I thought I had a passion for learning before I met him.  Jeff showed me how he approached self-improvement and professional development – thoroughly and relentlessly.  My reading and research list hasn’t been the same since.

There’s Richard Husband, commander of the space shuttle Columbia for its final, tragic flight in 2003.  In the weeks that followed the tragedy, I read an article about Commander Husband and his six-member team (I tried unsuccessfully to find that article again) that described how Commander Husband took his team camping and hiking for a week or so in order to help them bond.  Now, I’ve never been involved with astronaut program, but I’m reasonably sure there isn’t a lesson in “Space Shuttle Commander Class” that says “to help your team bond, consider taking them hiking”.  Commander Husband pushed his team to find ways to work better together, and I’ve used that as my inspiration for doing the same thing with my teams.

And of course, there are my wife and my daughter.  In the grand scheme of things they really don’t ask that much of me, but somehow I find myself continually compelled inspired to become a better husband and father.


And then there’s Rita.  I first met Rita in 1995 when my wife-to-be was living with Rita and her husband in a small apartment in the back of their house.  The four of us shared so many of the same tastes in music, movies, books, and humor that we became fast friends.  In 1996, I moved in with the three of them as a new husband, and there was never a dull moment.  Over the next nine years we would invite each other for dinner, spend time at their cabin, and jump at chances to help each other.

Then in the summer of 2005, tragedy struck.  In the span of two weeks, Rita lost five of her closest family members: a young man whom she loved as a son, her month, her aunt, her cousin, and her husband.  We knew many of these people, but no where near as well as Rita had.  They had been her support pillars when other things in her life were going badly, or were stressing her out.  Now they were gone.

Prior to that summer, the words “Rita” and “laughter” were synonymous.  It was impossible to spend any amount of time with her and not hear her distinctive laugh.  After that summer, it would have saddened me greatly if I never heard her laugh again – but it wouldn’t have surprised me.

Rita moved on with her life, though, one day at a time.  Each day she got a few more things from her husband’s two companies sorted out.  Each day brought a little more balance back to her life and while it wasn’t the same balance as before, it was balance nonetheless.  Each day also saw a little more of her laughter return.

Then, in 2006, she met a wonderful man.  They dated for a time, were married in 2007, and celebrated their first anniversary this past May.  “Rita” and “laughter” are once again synonymous.

There were so many directions that Rita could have let her life take after that summer, and most of them weren’t pleasant.  Rita chose otherwise and fought to keep her life from going down those paths.

I heard someone ask the question “Why do good people suffer?”.  They quickly followed it up with the answer: “To show the rest of us how it’s done.”  Rita’s example inspired me, and I’m sure the dozens of others with whom she’s shared her story.  She’s taught me that regardless of what life throws at you, it will pass.  As a result, relish the good times, and don’t let yourself wallow in the bad.


So, to continue this meme, I have a few people that I’d like to tag:  Ben Stegink, Michael Markel, John Mullinax, and Jane Irwin.

July 19, 2008 Posted by | General | 2 Comments