On Monday, August 7, 2006, I started a new role as an instructor for a sabbatical program that is, what I consider, the gold standard for how enterprises should educate and teach its employees how and why to use social, web 2.0 software. I know the date, because 4 days prior, I called off my engagement and showed up to one of my best friend’s wedding, without my fiance. My friend reminds me of this and the date on a regular basis. I share this only because it is a turning point in the history of my life, a crossroads of sorts, when I decided to deviate from everything I knew and thought I wanted.
Steve and I were the first set of instructors to support what has become the Sean and Don show – the creators and pioneers of the program. If there is one thing that stands out in my mind about Steve and my initial impression of him, it was his total state of ease. I guess when you’ve spent time as a high school teacher and a software manager at Blizzard, teaching the intel community how to collaborate and share knowledge virtually isn’t a difficult transition.
Steve and I spent a year together in the lab, teaching and running the sabbatical. If I am considered by anyone today a good instructor, it’s because of him. During that time, we talked, a lot. Sometimes we would spend hours just talking, and debating. Most of the time his logic didn’t make sense to me. But that’s what I liked. The lab was the place where you could vent, learn, regenerate, geek-out, trade and argue ideas and thoughts, lay in the middle of the floor in the dead-man’s upward-facing floating position in total exasperation with the world.
1×57 is an inside joke. What it stands for is a foundation, a base…the place where it’s okay to be the renegade, the radical, the rebel, the dissident. That’s why Steve and I started it – our virtual home to be us.
Since I’ve known him, Steve has always been a “trash man.” My earliest memories include him not throwing away a single scrap of paper. And making sure we were first to have a recycling bin as part of a facilities pilot. And him ALWAYS using a ceramic mug and bowl for his morning tea and “mush.” And him reusing his plastic salad container, washing it out EVERY single day. And him rarely buying new clothes – instead opting for trips to Buffalo Exchange, the “hip” thrift clothing exchange store. If there is one thing most people will agree on about Steve, it’s that he’s not wasteful. He has mastered the art of efficiency and resourcefulness. This is who Steve is.
So when Steve told me he was leaving DC to start a non-profit to reduce waste in our country, I thought, “What a great idea,” – but that quickly changed to, “What the f$ck!?! You’re supposed to be my partner in 1×57.” I realized, however, that Steve is doing exactly what 1×57 is all about. He’s following his own truth. People have asked me why I’m helping him with A Clean Life. It’s difficult for me to understand why the question is being asked in the first place. Since when does helping a friend require an explanation? Actually, since when did not trashing your home go out of practice – shouldn’t we all be participating? I could say that my concentration in college was “Environment” and that the thesis I wrote is being used today for JMU’s Sustainability program. Or that starting at age 10, I was asking my parents what happened to all the trash we produced and shouldn’t we care about it? Or that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”(~Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Ultimately, though, I believe in Steve. From the day I met him, I’ve felt this need – this pull, this push – to help him. I can’t explain it. Our relationship doesn’t make sense to a lot of people and it has changed over the years. But what hasn’t changed is how I know whenever we’re together, whether we’re talking, or fighting, or whatever, it’s worth more than anything material I can ever possess.