Survival of the fittest

It was an omnipresent part of Silicon Valley in the last half of the nineties: the logo shirt for a company that didn’t exist anymore. Techs could point to their drawers for a history of their employment and trade show attendance.

My last job of that heyday was for a hard-drive company: Quantum. I went to consult for them as they merged and spun off and otherwise writhed in agony with another hard drive company Maxtor.

When I told my nerd friends I was helping Quantum get bought they all said “What? Quantum is getting bought by Maxtor? Maxtor’s hard drives suck!” They were very disappointed that the good hardware company was losing to the bad one. The good die young. Quantum hard drives are gone.

Then 5 years later Maxtor got swallowed up into their bigger competitor Seagate. Another logo shirt of the no-more.

Except–Quantum isn’t gone. They did the hard thing at the right time, selling off what wouldn’t take them into the future and focusing on what would.

How did Quantum know? They dismantled muscle and bone of the company they’d built. I walked through soul viscera of the employees that year to do my job.  They’d had built it too, not just the executive suite. They wanted to keep on doing what they had done so well and were proud of.

Quantum stuck to their plan. They made it through. They still exist, producing different things.

I like to think that the integrity that led them build quality hard drives led them to make the tough decision to stop making them when the time was right. They had a firm grasp of the available choices and made them while they still had them.

Big picture. Look over the horizon and pack light.

It is easy to give in to curmudgeonitis: “Back in the day…” That glorious day! And if the best is yet to come we have to go build it. What got us here is yesterday’s weather.  Every day is a new day.

I don’t work for Quantum anymore. They got rid of me like they did most everybody. Maxtor wanted me to stay and be part of their thing.  Kind of begged me, really.

I walked. I got them through their merger and left. I wanted my time more than the job. I went to finish college. Me and Quantum made our choices.

Only years later did I see Quantum’s choice to shrink as visionary. They stuck to their convictions. That makes me think of these lines from Yeats:

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

are full of passionate intensity.

His post-modern cynicism passed judgment on passion.  One must consider all sides. ‘But what about…? and have you considered..?’

I wasn’t born yesterday. I am born today and every day. It’s not that my experience is worthless, it’s that I have to hold it looser. The order might need to be rearranged.

The more some things change the more they stay the same. My best convictions are the ones that fill me with passionate intensity.