Saturday, June 2, 2007

NPR - Purpose and Value

I was recently talking with a friend who stills works for the agency I retired from in December 2005. He was working on a presentation for a conference on watershed and river management for recreationists - the providers, users, agencies, etal. The USGS is the leading agency for the collection, production and dissemenation of streamflow data, most gages have satellite telemetry for near-realtime data to the public, so our presence is good public relations.

When I left the agency I left my boss a number of proposals, some with funding sources, to provide the realtime data to wireless communications devices, develop subscriber services for data, and new Web page designs. Needless to say, none have been done while small businesses have done the work on several of these already. The technology was there, the interest and market was there, the in-house resources (people, time, money, etc.) was there, but not the management willpower.

That was one reason I left, lack of insight and creativity in management, except for their personal careers, bureaucrats to their finest. Anyway, my friend went off to the conference, but he got me to thinking about a working life and a personal life. The differences, if there are any. Well, for most American, there is a difference. Their work and their personal life. Two distinct lives. And for some, the two are the same, more or less integrated into the whole life.

I was one who put my life into work, or at least the last half of my career when I became a supervisor and section chief. I managed an off-hours team for the satellite data collection system. While I wasn't on duty (on call team member first contact), I was the secondary and supervisory contact, especially during critical times, like floods. After some years I was asked to step down in a reorganization. It was one of those reorganizations bosses use to cover political choices.

Anyway, I worked into doing more on the new Internet and Website starting in 1995 when our data first appeared on the Web. I took our Website from a few thousand hits a month to over a million, when I was asked to focus fulltime on our annual data report work, which I started a few years earlier when we lost our contractor for the production of this report, and on daabase management work. It was also a reason I left as I saw all my personal interests at and for work being redirected and my work be directed into areas I didn't like.

And so thinking about what my friend described, life is about purpose and value. Since I retired I've spent nearly half the time trying to get my personal photography business off the ground and my photography going in the direction I find my purpose and value in my life. There are times it's a "Why?" moment, but then I have to remind myself it's a lifetime and a life's work so relax and enjoy it. And I'm doing ok on the time side of things. At least I keep telling myself that.

The difference I realized recently from other people who do this, develop a personal photography business from scratch, assuming some reasonable amount of basic photography experience, is that in my case being an amateur photographer since 1969, I'm not out to make it profitable, let alone a commercial success. I'm simply out to do good work and enjoy the rest of my life.

I am working on some photography, writing and Web projects, and I hope they'll be of interest to others as I find them interesting to work on. But, as I thought about my friend, it lacks purpose and value. I haven't found the why yet to my photography and business, outside of just being personal. And that's the real question, as the saying goes, "It's not us who asks God the meaning of life, but it is us who is asked the meaning of our life."

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