Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Steve Ballmer’

Lies We Tell Ourselves

In Philosophy on February 12, 2013 at 6:00 am
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

Under the heading: “Lies we tell ourselves” –this quote:

“Google’s not a real company. It’s a house of cards.”

That’s Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. He’s a super smart guy, so we chuckle in that superior and satisfied way  (as I type on my Apple Air Notebook). I came across this quote recently, did a bit of research and believe he really said it. (“The problem with internet quotes is you don’t know if they’re true.” ~ Abraham Lincoln) I can’t find an attribution date, but will give Big Steve the benefit of the doubt and assume he made this observation when Google was still a nascent upstart, not the monolithic giant we now recognize. But still, Big Steve should, I think, know better what is lurking in the shrubs, waiting to steal his Power Rangers lunch pail.

So, what lies are we telling ourselves? In business we might, à la Steve Ballmer, proclaim some notion of invincibility–and believe it to be so. That didn’t work out so well for Steve. The same might apply to any and all aspects of life. I don’t want to belabor this notion, but the quote brought me up short.

What, I wonder, have I told myself and “believe” that will, at some future date, prove to be ridiculously wrongheaded? Do you ever ask yourself this question? You should–I’m just say’n. I’ve tried to divest myself of cherished notions and beliefs, attempt to take everything at face value as much as possible, try not to infuse experience with notions preconceived. But in a twisted way, even these exemplary motives seem qualified as “lies I tell myself.”

I cannot escape the recursiveness of such thinking. “I am lying.” That is one of the word-games philosophers sometime play. If I say I am lying, then am I lying in saying I am lying, which would mean I am telling the truth? But I said I was lying. Get it?

Word games. So painfully frustrating. But words are all we have. Really? “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,” said Wittgenstein.

Okay, time to move on. I’ve always wished to be an old philosopher and sometimes I can’t help myself. At least I’ve accomplished one out of two.

The nature of the thing itself.

In Creativity, Curiosity, Happiness, Photography, The Examined Life, The infinity of ideas, Truth, Wisdom on June 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I went to Maryland over the weekend for the marriage of a dear friend of the family. It was a wonderful opportunity to renew old friendships, catch up with people I care about and have a general good time. Late in the evening Duer sat down next to me. The last time I saw him was at my son’s wedding, over four years ago. Duer is a serious amateur photographer. Although the weekend’s bride and groom had hired a wedding photographer, Duer, the step-dad of the groom, was photographing as well, working with vigor and enthusiasm. By the time he sat down with me, the evening was well on and the Johnny Walker wisdom was running high, as Leonard Cohen says.

I had my trusty little Leica wrapped around my wrist, my camera bling of choice. I’d been, throughout the evening, hunting for intimate shots, hoping I might make a photograph that the hired-gun missed with his shoulder-breaking hardware. The last time Duer saw me, four years ago, I was holding the same camera, working in the same fashion. “Man,” he said, “you and your Lieca. It’s film, right?” I nodded. “Black and white, I suppose,” he said above the din. I nodded again, smiling. “Man, you have a passion. I admire that, a real passion.”

There’s passion, then there’s passion. There was an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Sports Section, called The Mets’ Bat Whisperer. Accompanying the piece is a picture of Carlos Beltran holding a bat to his ear. The caption reads: “When Mets’ Carlos Beltran receives a new box of bats, he likes to listen to them as he gently taps them. He divides them into game bats and batting-practice bats based on the pitch.” It is an understatement to say that Carlos Beltran has passion.

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft recently told the graduating class of the University of Southern California that passion is “the thing that you find in your life that you can care about, that you can cling to, that you can invest yourself in, heart, body and soul.” Ballmer was echoing Joseph Campbell and his famous admonition to “follow your passion.” But I fear Campbell’s sage advice has sadly lost some of its punch. Sometimes simple truths wear out in the usage. Ironically, they can get lost in the shuffle of things. But not always, and not for everybody. I interviewed a canoe maker a couple of years ago, Rollin Thurlow. He makes canoes by hand up in northern Maine. Rollin has passion, like Beltran has passion. Nothing is lost in the shuffle for these types of people. I aspire to that.

That to me feels like the core of it all; that passion is the pursuit of, as well as the practice of a discipline. That is what Duer was suggesting, I think. My camera is a tool, as the bat is to Beltran. I know it well and as a good tool will do, it responds to my need without complaint or effort on my part. Part of a passion, I sense, is the seamless nature it affords one–a pursuit without hinderance. Words for the writer, oils for the painter, ideas for the scientist and so on. Satisfyingly, I recognize in the pursuit of such efficient elegance as passion affords, the nature of the thing itself.