The arrow that springs from the bow

In 1996, some friends and I started our own software company, Zanshin. But by 1999, suffering from a lack of focus and a tendency toward overengineering, we had still not managed to produce a salable version of our world-changing software. Luckily for us we got a consulting gig for (unrelated to my involvement with the Internet Movie Database). That contract went so well that after a few months of it, in early 2000, Amazon offered to hire us all. We would have to close Zanshin and move up to Seattle. Andrea and I, newly married, got as far as scoping out Seattle neighborhoods. We were leaning toward accepting Amazon’s offer. Zanshin clearly was going nowhere, and Amazon had interesting work for us.

We had a Zanshin company meeting to talk it over. Some of us wanted to accept, some wanted to keep trying with Zanshin. We had the frank discussion about our plans and lack of progress that we should have been having all along. In the process, we brainstormed some exciting new ideas. In the days that followed we fleshed those out. The uninspired daily grind that working at Zanshin had become took on a new feeling of hopefulness. My co-worker Steve, who had also been in favor of the Amazon offer, gave a stirring speech about continuing on our own.

When it came time to give Amazon our final decision, we voted unanimously to turn them down. Knowing I’d previously been the strongest vote in favor of the Amazon offer, my co-worker Greg asked if I was sure. I replied, “I’m like the arrow that springs from the bow. No hesitation.”

It was a line spoken by Michael O’Hare as Jeffrey Sinclair in Babylon 5. I have used that sentiment a few times since then as a way to gauge my readiness for something — starting a family, for instance. If I can’t say that line with conviction I know I’m kidding myself.

Today came news that Michael O’Hare died. Nerds all over the web are paying him tribute for his role in a beloved space adventure, but his legacy is a little more personally meaningful to me. His memorable reading of that one line has attended every important decision of my life since he spoke it.

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