30th May, 2021

Week 22/52

Photo: me + dad, taking a refreshment break while working on the fence (~1978)

I’ve been describing Top Three as “a weekly collection of things I notice in 2021”. But I didn’t anticipate this.

On Tuesday this week my dad passed away. It's sad but also a relief that he's no longer in pain. The irony of this is it's been a lovely week with my mother, brother and sisters together in person remembering the fun times we all had with him.

👨‍👧‍👦 Father

Dad Jokes get all of the attention.

And more recently Dad Bods.

But what about Dad Advice? I think it’s under-rated.

When my own kids were young they both asked “why?” all the time. It was exhausting. But lately I’ve noticed the tables have turned. When I see them making assumptions about the world or not paying attention and missing something interesting or treating something that’s complex as if it was simple, I’ve started consciously asking them “why?” and getting them to explain it to me. It’s fun.

Sometimes questions rather than instructions are what tease out the biggest lessons. Perhaps, in years to come, they’ll reflect on that.

Still, there is a place for an over-repeated expression too. Two of my greatest hits from the last 16 years of being a dad are:

Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have.


You only get one chance to make a first impression.

But the one that has been especially front of mind this week as I’ve been remembering my own dad is:

Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.

He would say this to me constantly. Perhaps I was just especially reluctant to work hard when I was young. Or maybe we had a different definition of what was important work. Either way, I catch myself every time I say it and can physically feel history repeating.

For some people I expect speaking at a Memorial Service for their dad would be firmly in the “would prefer not to do” category. But tomorrow, when I get this opportunity, I’ll remember this and be proud to talk about some of the many lessons we got from dad over the years.

He showed us by example that speaking in front of a crowd was not something to be scared of but an exciting opportunity.

He didn’t miss many opportunities.

⛏ Descend

Speaking of eulogies …

This week marked the 68th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.

Hillary and Tenzing reach summit of Everest, 29 May 1953

Sir Ed climbed his Everest (which just happened to be the actual Everest) at the age of 35. And, after that he got on with the next thing.

I remember watching his funeral on TV. This quote from Peter Hillary’s eulogy to his dad sticks in my head (from memory, so please excuse me if I don’t have the wording exactly right):

“Don’t wait for great things to happen to you, or else you might be waiting a very long time.”

I’m interested in the language we use to describe Sir Ed’s original achievement. For example, in the article I linked to above the first line is: “A beekeeper from New Zealand, Edmund Hillary, and the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to stand on the summit of the world’s highest peak.”

There is another great Sir Ed quote about this. He was asked about the possibility that a previous expedition had actually reached the summit before them. He immediately replied (and again I’m paraphrasing): “I always considered it a return trip.”

The reason we remember him is not because he was in the first group to reach the summit. It’s because they were the first to reach the summit who also made it down to tell their story.

Source: “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert

🔁 Loop

Here is a wonderful 5-minute “lightning” talk just shared today by Marcin Wichary:

This is a live recording, without any post production or editing. Bravo, Marcin! 👏🎬

It’s fun to mess with time, even if you’re not in Paris.

BONUS: back in the before-times, when we used to hold conferences in person and invite people from overseas to come and speak, Marcin presented at Webstock in Wellington. His talk there is very different, delving deep into the details of early user interface experiments:

Charles Babbage’s mouse pointer



Top Three is a weekly collection of things I notice in 2021. I’m writing it for myself, and will include a lot of half-formed work-in-progress, but please feel free to follow along and share it if it’s interesting to you.