Worthless Windmills
Time Will Tell Their Worth

I have written dozens of essays about one of my mentors, Don Quixote. Additionally, I have admired him for most of my adult life going back to my days in high school. Mentors are for me those that inform and guide me in the direction that I should go. They put meaning in my life even when life might seem without meaning at the time.

What intrigues me is that mentors don't have carefree lives themselves. Don Quixote often failed and became disillusioned with life. Therein lies a critical learning for me. I can identify with him and the others by the way they address their failures in life. Don Quixote went on quests to realize his many goals. Metaphorically, Miguel Cervantes wrote about Don Quixote's quests of joisting with windmills.


Don Quixote sees the windmills.

If Don Quixote believed in a quest whether professional or personal, he mounted his horse and off he rode. That is a critical lesson for all of us. I am 73-years old. I am telling you the truth, there are loads of windmills out there in my life with which I am joisting. They are both professional and personal windmills.

Dulcinea was one of Don Quixote's personal quests. He fell in love with her. Additionally, her name also represented a long list of other goals, which were professional issues for him. This essay is about what I learned from him about all the quests whether they are professional or personal. Therefore, I will use the name, Dulcinea, as a composite for all of his and my quests.

Don Quixote was in love with his Dulcinea. However, she rejected his advances. In fact, Dulcinea was not her name. Don Quixote renamed an ordinary farm girl, Aldonza Lorenzo. She becomes Dulcinea del Toboso. They joisted over her name, and he failed.

Don Quixote and Dulcinea joisted over more than merely her name. His perception of her was not the way she saw herself. Sadly, this joisting continued until Don Quixote laid on his death bed until she saw the light of his love.

Even though I have danced with death twice, I am not on my deathbed. I still have time to realize my quests regardless of whether they are professional or personal. However, doing the dance awakened me to the reality that I needed to get into gear by getting on my horse, taking my lance, and joisting the next windmill on the horizon.


There is a windmill!

Some of my onlookers might question either my professional and/or personal goals. Nevertheless, I learned from Don Quixote to pursue both quests regardless what the world might think. To be blatantly honest with you, some of my windmills might not be worth the effort after all has been done and said. I fully realize that. While I believe all my windmills are worth the effort, in time, I might discover one or more windmills might have been a waste of time.

For example, Don Quixote might have been wrong regarding how he viewed Dulcinea. Perhaps, what he saw wasn't his Dulcinea but merely Aldonza Lorenzo, a farm girl. The same is true for me. Maybe what we might see in another person is not the personalization of perfection. Neither Don Quixote and I can know, as we are joisting, the absolute accuracy of our beliefs. Perhaps in time, we might be proven wrong. Instead of giving up, both of us continued our various joistings. After Don Quixote died, the people of La Mancha might have concluded that he was merely a delusional knight-errant dreaming an impossible dream about his Dulcinea. My family, after I die, might say the same thing. Nonetheless, neither he nor I are deterred. We both trust our perception to be accurate.

As for my professional quests, I have a good friend, and we were recently talking about some of my professional quests that I have. I told him that I wanted an opportunity with an organization that is dying on the vine and has been for a long time. I told him that having done the dance with death, I have something to offer this company. The fact that this corporation is in an ICU emboldens and excites me. Trust me. I mean every word that I write. They are hanging on wanting things to change, but they are still doing what hasn't worked for years. I would love to assist them to get out of ICU.

I owe Randy Pausch's Last Lecture and Don Quixote's joisting with windmills a great deal. I know about dying; I've done the dance twice. Therefore, I want to joist with this nearly dead company. However, they will remain another year or two in ICU. During that time, they will get weaker and weaker, smaller and smaller, and when they die only a few will mourn their passing since most have already died.

So why am I writing this essay? Do you really want to know? I am not sure how you will take my comment.

Okay, I'll tell you. I am Don Quixote...at least in my gut. Some will laugh at me being a knight-errant. You will wonder why I care. The reason is that I have done the dance twice. I could have given up and died, but I didn't.

Now, I can vividly recall being in a rehab hospital unable to walk down the middle of the hallway without falling down due to a traumatic brain injury. I recall being put in something like a playpen. That isn't living; it is vegetating though. I don't like seeing others doing the same thing, but the corporation is vegetating and not acting.

In time, I will die. Some of my joisting with windmills will be beneficial, and some won't be. Regardless, I won't stop now fighting the fight. As Teddy Roosevelt said in Man in the Arena,

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

That is my legacy that I will leave my children and grandchildren. They will say that I lived my life joisting with windmills and "if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." I would rather be remembered dreaming the impossible dreams than live vegetating dying on the vein of life.

Don Quixote reminded all of us, "Sanity may be madness but the maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be."

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