On Important Things

I tend to be a very private person; I rarely discuss my “real life” with anyone except a few close friends. I thought it appropriate, though, in this season—both the season of the year and this season in my life—to post something a little more personal.

One thing people often remark about my personality is that I seem to be disturbed by very little in life. No matter what curve ball life might throw my way, I take the hit and turn it around, regain my sense of humor, and press forward into the fray more quickly than many expect. This season, combined with a recent curve ball (one of many—few people would suspect the path my life has taken across these 50+ years), and talking to Brian Keys in a recent episode of the Hedge, have given me reason to examine foundational principles once again.

How do I stay “up” when life throws me a curve ball?

Pragmatically, the worst network outage in the world is not likely to equal the stresses I’ve faced in the military, whether on the flight line or in … “other situations.” Life and death were immediately and obviously present in those times. Coming face to face with death—having friend who is there one moment, and not the next—changes your perspective. Knowing you hold the lives of hundreds of people in your hands—that if you make a mistake, real people will die (now!)—changes your perspective. In these times you realize there is more to life than work, or skill, or knowledge.

Spiritually, I am deeply Christian. I am close to God in a real way. I know him, and I trust his character and plans for the future. Job 13:15 and Romans 12:2 are present realities every day, from the moment I wake until the moment I fall asleep.

These two lead to a third observation.

Because of these things, I am grateful.

I am grateful for the people in my life—deeply held friendships, people who have spoken into my life, people who have helped carry me in times of crisis. I am grateful for the things in my life. Gratitude is, in essence, that which turns what you have into what you want (or perhaps enough to fulfill your wants). Gratitude often goes farther, though, teaching you that, all too often, you have more than you deserve.

So this season, whatever your religious beliefs, is a good time to reflect on the importance of all things spiritual, the value of life, the value of friendship, the value of truth, and to decide to have gratitude in the face of every storm. Gratitude causes us to look outside ourselves, and there is power (and healing) in self-forgetfulness. Self-love and self-hate are equal and opposite errors; it is in forgetting yourself, pressing forward, and giving to others, that you find out who you are.

Have a merry Christmas, a miraculous Hanukkah, or … just a joyful time being with family and friends at home. Watch a movie, eat ice cream and cookies, make a new friend, care for someone who has no family to be with.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, most folks are just about as happy as they choose to be—so make the choice to be joyful and grateful.

These are the important things.


  1. Hussain on 21 December 2020 at 3:47 pm

    thanks for everything you do. God bless 🙂

  2. SiliconObsession on 21 December 2020 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Russ,
    I am a 22 year old network engineer (If i’m allowed to call myself that), turning 23 on the 24th of December – makes for a good combo!.
    I was very lucky to have been exposed to your work early on, and so I have subscribed to your work for about 3-4 years now, trying to catch up with as much as I can with your intellectual output. During this time, I believe I have changed a lot, continually shaping my character and environment, presumably “for the good”. To the extent that this is true, I have to say that, you have changed the way I percept my profession, and hence have played a manor role in how I view myself and my role in society, family and life generally.
    Sincerely, thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. The world is truly a better place with you in it.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family, and a happy New Year.
    Thank you.

  3. HappyGoLucky on 25 December 2020 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Russ,
    Have been reading up your blog posts off late. wish i had started earlier , but better late than never . Really Happy to read and here the diverse topics , specially this one , and the how to deal with burnouts.
    “most folks are just about as happy as they choose to be” Just loved this one.

  4. Chris on 25 December 2020 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Dr White….I like your world view related article(non technical),but you don’t write often, I know you are busy but please we need more Dr