Friday, January 15, 2016

The reminder that death gives

It's been a brutal start to the year with the news of several of my favorite musicians and actors passing away weighing heavily on my heart. It's tough to lose someone who has inspired you, entertained you, motivated you, validated you. It's tough to lose several of them within the span of a couple weeks.

It's funny what you think about when you're dealing with loss.

One of my overarching emotional responses has been what I like to think of as my death panic. As someone who likes to dig in and discover the root cause, solve problems and uncover unexpected issues that affect outcomes, death is really my nemesis. It is not a problem to be solved; it just is. And we don't know, no one does, what it really is. Is all of what I am here, right here, right now? All of these feelings and dreams and fears, are they just temporary, wiped out when I die? Or is there something beyond, and if there is, will I get to recognize and experience it?

A lot of questions with no answers + no way to really know = death panic.

But there ARE things you can control here and now. The death of my idols has been the catalyst to
reexamine my priorities. What is the life I really want to lead? Who am I, and who do I want to be for the people I care about? If today was my last day, what would be my regrets?

The big question: am I spending my most valuable resource, time, doing the things that are important to me?

As a product manager, one of the biggest factors in the day to day work that we do is time. Time is a known, limited resource. My whole job is to prioritize and make decisions around scope and urgency. I need to collect data and try to predict the future: what will have the biggest impact? what is the minimum amount of effort that will bring value? what should we do first?

When death affects me, I start applying those product management principles to my life. What is my minimum viable product? What bugs do I need to address? What enhancements do I need to tackle? What other resources do I need?

The world lost an immense amount of talent in a short amount of time; I lost some of my biggest sources of inspiration. As I'm mourning those losses, I'm also trying to appreciate the reminder that death gives. Thank you for one parting lesson, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Natalie Cole, Lemmy Kilmister and Dan Haggerty.

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