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Three Decade Run - a blog

Letter to my Father

Philip Bell

I have given myself an hour to write this.
Less than 0.00017% of the time you, my father, have been alive.
Who was 50% of of the equation that started 100% of my existence.

Today, on your birthday, as I near the age when you and mom were preparing for me, I have to reflect on what I've accomplished with the life you gave me, the moral and operating code you both taught me, and the foundation from which I launched into adulthood.

It's impossible to remember every lesson, every argument, every conversation, every gift, every action taken to support me, and even harder to fully grasp the motivations behind each decision.  It's just as difficult to choose a gift for a parent, who has a head-start on acquiring what they want, whose more complex, whose been around longer, whose tastes come from a different age that I weren't alive for.  But I think, at this halfway point, at the dusk of my youth, the end of the era when I can be called a "young man," I think I have an idea.

I will try my best to describe all that I believe you tried to teach me, and also what I believe to be my accomplishments.  Mom gets plenty of credit, but my accomplishments are both of yours, and my character has some traits that I got from you alone.  So, with a tall cup of green tea in arms reach of the keyboard, here goes...

In no particular order, what I learned or mimicked from my father

  1. Leave emotion out of business

  2. Always do the right thing

  3. Whenever and wherever you can help, do

  4. Volunteering is important

  5. With true friends, you can build anything

  6. Pay what you owe on time, every time

  7. Only spend money on things that last

  8. Apple computers are more than the sum of their parts (age 6 I believe was when this came to me)

  9. Item 8 is applicable to everything

  10. Take care of the people who work with and for you first

  11. Question everything

  12. Knowledge is available, don't just expect people around you to have all the answers

  13. Business requires trust first

  14. Family can let you down, but don't give up on them

  15. Never forget where you come from

  16. Our nation was paid for in blood

  17. Government is a wonderful human invention, in the right hands

  18. Voting, taxes, and citizenship are a small price to pay for the freedom and privilege of living in the United States of America

  19. History is as important as math

  20. Take time to travel

  21. Mom is the most important person in the world, even though we're bad at showing it

  22. Never sign something you haven't read

  23. If it isn't in writing, it isn't an agreement

  24. Stand up for those who can't

  25. Protect those who have less power than you

  26. Speak out against corruption

  27. Point out bullshit

  28. Never ignore or allow prejudice

In no particular order, things I've done in life so far

  1. Learn to read, write, and do math

  2. Finished elementary school

  3. Directed the lighting for a middle school play

  4. Finished middle school

  5. Helped film high school drama class "Whose Line Is It?" night

  6. Got accepted into college at 16

  7. Finished my AA and high school diploma at 18

  8. Got into a University

  9. Taught as a volunteer at an elementary school

  10. Helped lead a Habitat for Humanity project in Georgia for Spring Break

  11. Got a paid internship

  12. Got accepted to assist and work with graduate research students as an undergraduate

  13. Convinced company I was interning at to give me the same responsibilities as employees

  14. Finished my bachelors degree in Computer Engineering while minoring in Cognitive Science, with honors

  15. Got into graduate school

  16. Finished my Masters in Computer Engineering

  17. Got a job offer from San Diego to work in the civil service

  18. Revamped an existing internal application to save shipping and receiving department ~$400 a day

  19. Demanded that others in the hiring program I was brought on through be handled better and given more agency in our careers

  20. Founded monthly meetings for everyone in that program, as well as setting up a Wiki so that everyone after me can keep a history and share information freely

  21. Joined local debate and discussion group and was asked to join the leadership team to keep the group going

  22. Setup a big data architecture in a local cloud and on AWS that is still being used today

  23. Began IT consulting for law firms in dire need of cleaning up and getting their systems to work for more than a week at a time

  24. Began helping organize dance events around San Diego and some in Los Angeles

  25. Traveled through 7 countries in 6 months to cleanup a Windows based mess across government owned systems, ensuring that everywhere I went, I left it better than I found it and the local tech support was capable to finish the job without our help

  26. Started a non-profit, twice a year weekend festival that encourages cross training in body movement and getting more people dancing and/or practicing martial arts

  27. Hosted two 30 attendee debate nights around the California propositions in 2014 and 2015

  28. Received an award at work for playing a crucial part in the international Windows cleanup effort

  29. Lost 40 pounds of body fat over 3 months after realizing I had let stress and work affect my health

I seem to only recall 28 things for each list, and maybe that's how early life is.  I'm not ready to invest, or at least not seeing interest on non-monetary investments.  Every solid lesson in my youth generates at least one accomplishment.  And now, as my 30th birthday looms just beyond yours, it seems the cards in my hand are ready to be played to unlock my potential, so that I can start tipping the ratio of accomplishments to life lessons above 1 to 1.

Thank you Father
And happy birthday

Your son