Welcome and farewell – to go somewhere is to leave another place. And if you were there for any length of time, it is a part of your story. As you leave, appreciate all that it gave you.
Honor the beauty of the place
Remember its delights and grace
For even when you travel far
It will ever mirror who you are
All places have little things that annoy and frustrate. Let them fade away. Instead remember the good and beautiful.
As I leave Sargent & Lundy there are many elements that I remember fondly. Such pieces of its culture apply to more than just power plant design though. They are worth building into life.
Design things that are inexpensive and not cheap. Many people look for the lowest up front price. While this looks good at the time of purchase, the owners won’t be too thrilled later on. The other approach is to still consider cost, but also think about long term durability and operability. Operate on longer timescales.
Design through the lens of all parties involved. Who does it affect? How does it affect them? In power plants, considering the view of the operators in addition to the owners – who deal with the financial matters – and contractors – who build the plant – adds value. A valve may do its job just fine, but if it’s not in a convenient location, the operators can’t maintain it. What parties deserve attention in your life?
Give people what they need to thrive. In S&L’s case, they provide more than a good salary and benefits. They give the opportunity for more training – I’ve attended many seminars and conferences – and make sure we have the tools we need to do the work. Doing so fosters trust and respect.
Create and seek out communities of great people. Of all the things that I remember about my time at Sargent & Lundy, the people that I’ve gotten to be with stand out the most. It is a privilege to have learned, worked, and observed with all of them.
Honor all the lessons
Familiar lands have brought
So that when you travel
You don’t wish you had not forgot
Each place you go through will teach you something. Hold on to those lessons. From the last three years, three lessons stand above the others.
Communication is not optional. Be it with team members, friends, mentors, competition, or customers, getting your message across is a foundation of living. Failure to do so hurts relationships, compromises safety, increases cost, and wastes time. But good communication – an exercise in speaking through the beliefs and understanding of others – benefits everyone.
Never stop learning. There are countless opportunities to do so, but a lot of people don’t take them. Graduating from school is just the beginning.
It all comes down to choice. If you don’t decide, you’ll get stuck with the default – and that may not be what you want. No one else cares about your path like you do. Make the decision. And from that commitment, do the work to make it happen.
Those who walked before
Those who walked behind
Those who did not walk
Those who walked beside
For you shall take their stories with you
People are everything. It is their countless stories that make a place. It is their wisdom that teaches you. Each person touches you in some way.
I think of Ed. Ed defines what it means to be an artist. He knows his craft better than anyone and gives his skills generously. He goes beyond the job description. I also appreciate the respect he has for other people. He never puts anyone through unnecessary meetings, asks people to work long hours, or requests someone to do something he isn’t willing to do himself. His example is one that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.
I think of Lou. Full of laughter and a warm smile, Lou is the one who hired me. But that is not what I appreciate most. In the heart of the recession, when things are slow and projects are few, Lou moves me to a different group. Instead of laying me and several of my peers off, he ensures we stay employed. Such actions testify to deep concern for people.
I think of Brad. Occasionally, I meet with coworkers outside of the office. Brad is one of those people. If the day is nice, we have lunch together. For the Champions League final, we enjoy the match near his home. We discuss the excitements of work, the events of the world, and the matters of life. We walk together.
Leave with your head held high
And a smile on your face
As you depart, finish that which is still undone that should not remain undone. Honor commitments. Do the work.
But do not just do the work. Do the work with the your best effort and skill. It is easy to fade away. It is easy to only look to the time of departure. Until you leave, be present. Continue to be who you are.
In the final two weeks at my place of work, I ensure all my responsibilities are dealt with. I have one major project and a few small things. So I do the small things and as much as I can on the project. What is unfinished, I pass on to someone else in our group – giving him the materials, telling him about the nuances, and informing all involved.
Beyond the formal responsibilities and tasks, give the gift of your observation. Tell people the things you have learned. Thank people for what they did well. In that way, you will leave them with something to make them better.
Do not leave under cloak of night
In all its sadness
In all its joy
Tell them when you travel
Give them the honor of responding
Some will bless
Others may curse
And still others may feel the call of adventure
As the time comes to depart, bid farewell to those who touched your story. Saying goodbye is a simple act, but it is powerful. It is a token of respect – a final gift given in honor of their contribution to your life. And it provides a chance for them to respond, to leave one last message.
Some people will react in hostility. Respond kindly, but ignore their message. Usually it has little to do with you and all to do with them.
Some will not understand. To them, speak the words of the heart. Be gentle. They do not have the luxury of all the ponderings and searching and experiences that moved you to begin your adventure.
Some will respond with excitement and joy. Cherish their encouragement. It brings strength in the midst of the storm. Such people are precious. Their hearts are blessings.
Some will answer with a touch of sadness. Your courage speaks to the call of adventure on their lives. They see and understand the choices they have made that tie them to where they are. For them, offer a prayer. They are more aware and honest than many. Maybe someday they will join you in your travels.
And once you have honored the memory, finished your affairs, and said your goodbyes, don’t forget to actually leave.
And from the bow of the good ship Amani, I salute lands well traveled.
Sunlight speaks to the kindness and blessing they have brought me.
I don my cap and man the rigging.
White sails fly open in the sweet spring breeze.
Hand on the wheel, eyes to new horizons, and a smile on my lips, we move into the open water.
And from its perch on the towering mast, the dragon unfurls its wings once again.
Looking back and saying goodbye. I made this photo in Nakuru, Kenya.