The Story Behind the Stories (Part Seven)
Resilience is born from defeat. You have two choices in life when you’ve been knocked flat on your butt -- and lying there was never an option for me. I was cantankerous as an employee – one of those know-it-all guys (who actually did know it all, he said humbly).
My resumé as a software architect is replete with pivotal work on more platforms and business models than most people even know exist. While some might find the idea of having been hired (and fired) from so many different companies to be a liability, it was a distinct advantage for me because I saw a ton of this-can’t-possibly-work scenarios; places where my skill set put me in a distinctly unique position to slay the dragon.
Only results count:
1. Lexi International – fixed exception handling errors that were costing the company around $25,000 per week in lost profits.
2. Symmetry Inc. – created a powerful algorithm that permitted the company to examine and identify the source of financial loss through devious behavior by clients
3. Riverside County Regional Medical Center -- Developed a methodology to eliminate static code that had to be modified every year to accommodate a specific kick off date. The staff was so ingrained to believe that no solution to this problem existed, that it took them hours using my test application to acknowledge that someone had finally solved their problem.
4. College Loan Corporation – working with a data analyst, I developed auditing code that intercepted an intermittent design flaw that saved the company $325,000 per year in excess sales commissions.
The list goes on, but I think I’ve made my point – I solved problems. They were just a warmup however for a bigger challenge. Having spent the majority of my life in very high-risk activities (motorcycles, martial arts, and skydiving), I’ve had by share of bumps and bruises along the way.
You can shake off the occasional bad job, but when your body rejects your efforts to remain upright, mobile, and elastic, that my friends, is a problem. Sooner or later Mother Nature places a bill at your feet that you can’t defer any longer. Payment is due right now. You can’t put the check in the mail.
“If it wasn’t for bad luck, you know I wouldn’t have any luck at all.” (Albert King wrote it; but made famous by Eric Clapton and Cream back in the 60’s).
Pain is a great motivator. Three times in the past six years I found myself in the unpleasant position of having to endure back-to-back-to-back surgeries, to repair body parts that had given up the ghost. This meant extended periods of recuperation and rehabilitation, where moving from the bed to the recliner was my major exercise for the day.
God gave me the strength to endure. I do not choose these words lightly. I was absolutely helpless without my faith and the strength He poured on to me constantly. He re-introduced me to an old friend of mine – my camera, which had been lying dormant for over 15 years. I spent nearly two full years in my backyard with my first digital camera, looking at objects I had seen but not seen for the past 30.
Forcing oneself to re-examine what has been hovering right before your eyes (yet unseen) for 30 years yielded a great awakening – and one that put the pain on the back burner. It was my first foray into digital photography – a venue I had vehemently avoided for so long.
I watched in awe as our automatic pool cleaner moved silently through the water each day. There was a ballet playing out in front of me, and I became so transfixed, so mesmerized, that I could not bear to turn away. The variables of nature induced a cornucopia of beauty for me. Time of day, position in the pool, strength of the wind, and my position relative to the hose itself factored into a seemingly endless array of photo ideas. I photographed it for at least a year, assembling a portfolio of 158 unique images. The editor of Palm Springs Life Magazine, clearly overwhelmed by the originality of the subject manner, gave me a feature in the magazine (https://www.palmspringslife.com/gary-gruber-palm-springs/).
This kept me afloat (pun intended) as my body healed from the wear and tear of many years and miles.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I found myself in the same predicament two years later. Other body parts were screaming at me, and three more major surgeries over the course of 90 days put me right back at square one. When I was ambulatory, I went back outside and did a slow 360. What caught my eye were two palm trees two doors down, both east and south of me. Atmospheric conditions here in the desert are absolutely stunning in the spring and fall. Combining time of day with the winds nature whipped up frequently, I found myself almost in the same spot outside at least twice a day for the next nine months.
My raison d’être had reasserted itself, and I squeezed that shutter release about 90 times in between physical therapy sessions. A pattern had developed, and the resilience I hinted about earlier became the driving force in my life. Anyone can do this. There is nothing extraordinary or unusual that puts me at the head of the class.
While the original version of this quote is from a famous boxer, I prefer Michael Douglas’ line from the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness”:
We have an expression in prize fighting “Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.” Well, my friend, you’ve just been hit. The getting up is up to you.