Over the years I have been fortunate to work in a wide range of jobs. Early on I had a few of my own companies, all 1-3 person teams. Then I spent a lot of money to become educated and got a job as a commercial banker. I moved on from there to learn about high tech, spent some more money to become better educated and finally started my company, User Insight. I wrote the business plan for User Insight in June and July of 2001. I decided to go in business in August 2001. And then 9/11 happened.
For many reasons 9/11 was a shock to me. From a business standpoint I was running a business and everyone stopped buying. I was trying to start a new business and I knew no one would start buying. From a personal standpoint, I, like everyone in America, was numb. I will say I have never been more touched and more inspired by the events of 9/11. They made me angry and motivated at the same time. I am not ashamed to say I sat on an old brown leather ottoman and watched the scenes over and over and cried. And I did it for 3 or 4 days straight. Then I got motivated. I decided to set out and create something to keep things going. To keep me going.
User Insight was officially opened in January 2002. I had a vision to craft a company based out of the things my Grandfather (Paw Paw) taught me. He was a die hard patriot and a very poor man. But he had a simple philosophy on life. He talked to me about these things all the time and today I realize he was teaching me. It included the following:
Be kind… to everyone
Enjoy every day. Especially if it is a 15 hour work day
Tell someone you love them. And if you don’t have anyone, well hell, tell the barber
Do what you love, the rest will fall in place
Over the years of building User Insight and remembering 9/11, I think back to a time when I sat on my Paw Paw’s porch, ate hotdogs and drank sweet tea. The sweetest tea you ever had. It almost hurt your tooth. My Paw Paw talked to me about two jobs in his life, the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and MARTA. He worked long and hard hours for the TVA. And it paid nothing. But he always talked about his love for having a job, for his brothers in the TVA and his wage that he earned every day with great admiration. I don’t know how he moved from that to MARTA, but he always talked about MARTA. He drove a bus for 30+ years. And he loved it. He talked about his love for having a job, for his co-workers and his wage. He was always positive about life and I can see he encouraged that in me.
And he always talked about America. As we sat under his huge American flag on the porch drinking that sweet tea that begged a cavity, I listened to him remember patriotism. He talked of heroes in his time and he helped me dream of the same.
Today, on 9/11, I am taken back to the brown leather ottoman I sat on for 3-4 days straight. I am fixed on a time in my life when I thought all was for naught, and then I am reminded that User Insight started in that terrible time. And this company has grown to embody my Paw Paw’s philosophy.
For myself, I can say I have never been more happy, proud and had more fun with the people I work with at User Insight. I see them grow in their approach to problem solving. I am thankful to see their kids grow up too. I think back to the most horrific moment in my life at 9/11 and I am thankful I became angry and moved forward. I am thankful we have made it 13 years past that moment in time. And I am thankful for my Paw Paw’s words of wisdom to which I adhere to today… Do what you love, the rest will fall in place.
9/11 – Never Forget