Egos, two takes

This post is not about Lance Armstrong. But it is about ego.

Remember Mike Laziridis?  The creator of the smartphone?  He is, unfortunately, probably better known these days as one half of the team that messed up Research in Motion and tanked the future of Blackberry through hubris (my opinion) and poor management (pretty much everyone’s opinion).  Anyway, he’s been quietly going about building something new out there in the Mennonite farm country of Waterloo, Ontario.  And it’s not something that will likely have a significant impact until after he’s well past the normal retirement age. It’s quantum computing and simply put, because the article in that link gets a little technical, it will allow for an exponential increase in speed at which a computer can do its thing. We’re not talking about a doubling or a tripling of speed. We’re talking about a quantum leap (sorry), of orders of magnitude faster than today’s fastest super computers. Star Trek fast, in the way that Data could deliver an answer to any question as quickly as he took a breath. That’s really, really fast. And because it has the potential to so profoundly change our lives, the fact that Mike is investing massive amounts of personal wealth and will only see the early stages of the project’s benefits speaks, to me anyway, to ego in a different way than say for Lance the Eternal Blood Doper. My impression is that Lance’s ego is about basking in glory now, as a craving for power over others, and a delusional love of oneself that (tragically) comes from the unqualified applause of those others.

I do not know Mike Laziridis, although I used to know many of his blackberries very well, but I do suspect that in the matter of his investment in something that is still decades away from bearing substantial fruit, his ego is about a lasting legacy and applause that he may not get to hear.

Abe’s way of talking

Buried towards the bottom of an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal is one of my favorite quotes from the tremendous canon of Abraham Lincoln.  “With malice toward none”  It’s a tall challenge and when you think about it, we should try to apply it everyday in all our interactions with family, pets, co-workers, and people who cut you off in the Starbucks line.

The point of the article was that he intentionally structured his speeches so they would convey a rhetorically negative tone. Utilizing such a tactic well, and who can argue that Lincoln didn’t do it well, appeals directly, the author asserts, to a human’s sense of morality. For example, for that quote instead of saying something like, “Be kind to everyone”, Lincoln used a word, malice, that starkly describes a behavior he wanted people to avoid.  That is, to inflict harm.  By voicing the negative instead of the positive, his message became much more powerful, like the effect a father might have when he intones his son to not smack his sister.

If we were to try this tactic in our everyday communications, we might find over a short period of time few people would want to speak with us. It sounds too solemn and borders on arrogance. Most of us aren’t met with the occasions to speak in such a way.  Lincoln, however, was cursed by being a leader during very grave times, of slavery and civil war.  Maybe the tone was the only tone that could possibly have worked to convince people they needed to behave differently with each other.

Family values

He’s squinting which makes him look mean or unhappy, his posture is a little off-kilter, and he’s wearing a tatty old cardigan.  On the other hand, he has a name that sounds great in any time period (Elias… cut-off but shown on the window of his store), he’s wearing a nicely knotted necktie over a crisp white shirt and his hair is combed.  I’m not sure what to make of his pants that look like jodhpurs but maybe horses were one his interests.  He’s my grandfather on my dad’s side and I never met him.

grandfather

He was gone for probably 20 years before I was even born but he’s always been a force somehow in my life.  Perhaps I romanticize his influence.  After all, our lives never intersected, but the notion of a solid upbringing and the passing of enduring values cannot be easily dismissed.  I think his son, my father, channeled his father much as I often feel I channel my father.  

There’s only one other picture that I’ve seen of my grandfather, an elaborately formal family portrait in which he stood regally behind my grandmother.  Strong, erect, and almost dashing in a sort of Omar Sharif kind of way, the portrait was taken about 30 years before the one I’ve included here.  Fascinating, for me anyway, to see this rich history of him, of me one could say.