93) Some Context for My Story – 2004

At 54 years old, what had I become?

And where was I going?

Welcome to my autobiography.

I am glad you are here!

In the last post you read about another contract assignment I accepted with Intel of Fort Collins, Colorado. In this post I try to paint a picture of where, at age 54 I found myself in life, and events taking place the year of 2004.

Top 5 News Stories of 2004

5. Remember the Gipper

FOX News’ fifth top story of the year was the death of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan (search), at the age of 93 on June 5 at his home in California.

4. Massacre at Beslan

Parents, children and teachers gathered outside School No. 1 in Beslan (search), Russia, in September to hear the usual welcoming speeches from the principal. But what was supposed to be a happy day turned into a nightmare after dozens of terrorists wearing ski masks and explosive belts began firing weapons into the school yard and herded everyone into the gymnasium.

3. Oil-for-Food Scandal Rattles U.N.

FOX News’ third biggest story of the year is one in which we took the lead in uncovering a story of scandal, money and international intrigue.

What was supposed to be a program to help the Iraqi people ended up hurting the reputation of the United Nations and proving even further that former dictator Saddam Hussein was one of history’s most corrupt leaders.

The Oil-for-Food program (search) — initiated and monitored by the U.N. Security Council and run by the U.N. secretariat, which Kofi Annan heads — allowed Iraq to sell unlimited amounts of oil provided the money went primarily for humanitarian goods and reparations for victims of the 1991 Gulf War. It was discovered that Saddam scammed $21.3 billion in illegal revenue from the system, leaving thousands of Iraqis without much-needed food.

2. Iraq and the War on Terror

This year began the way 2003 ended — with a focus on Iraq and a hope for stability. But the reality of a growing threat from foreign terrorists and former regime elements organizing and adapting to their new fighting environment was taking a toll.

“You’re dealing not with a static situation, you’re dealing with an enemy with a brain,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. “They get up every morning, go to school on what we’re doing, and change what they’re doing to advantage themselves.”

A barrage of homicide car bombings this year was deadly; 14 in the first three months of 2004 alone killed more than 530. In March, four U.S. security contractors were killed in Fallujah — their charred bodies dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge. As U.S.-led forces tried to wrest Fallujah from the insurgents’ control, militant anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) rallied followers to rise up against the coalition.

1. W for President

And the top story of 2004 is the presidential election that pitted the incumbent George W. Bush (search) against his Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) — the first race for the White House since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Despite a sluggish economy, a controversial and difficult war in Iraq, slow going in Afghanistan, and the War on Terror, Bush won a clear victory over Kerry in what both called the most important election in decades. 1

According to Reuters, the expansion that followed the mild downturn of 2001 was calculated to average of 3.2% during 2004, 2005 and 2006.

“For the three-year period, GDP grew at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, or 0.3 percentage points less than the earlier estimate.” 2

Reasons for Personal Optimism

With a new mask design contract in my hand, Nadine and Jenna doing well in Fort Collins, Stevie’s chronic pancreatitis held at bay with pain medications and the U.S. economy beginning to show signs of growth, I had every reason to be optimistic about positioning myself for early retirement.

While you may think it is crazy to hold out hope to find “passion” in your work at age 54 –  especially at the risk of losing everything – as an optimistic baby boomer, I continued  to believe in a purposeful life. And it wasn’t working on a job that I hated and that made me hate my life.

But in a practical sense, I realized, in spite of the fact I was no longer passionate about my work as a mask designer, contract work offered the best opportunity to meet my financial obligations and make some small investments while I continued the search for work that stirred something within me and gave meaning to my life.

At age 54, looking like a man of 43 and in robust health, I still felt there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish, once I set out to do it.

Was I fooling myself?

Little did I know at that time, many failures were ahead.

What can go wrong with overconfidence?

Sources –

1 Fox News, Rewind 2004, The Years Top News  Stories, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2004/12/30/rewind-2004-year-top-news-stories/#ixzz2brGML0nq

2 Joanne Morrison, U.S. Economic Growth Revised Down for 2004-2006, http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/07/27/usa-economy-growth-revisions-idUSN2646636520070727

Next – How I Allowed Extreme Overconfidence to Make Me Numb

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