I have been meaning to get this out for a few weeks now. I have been wanting to memorialize my good friend Tim Dearborn since his death back in 2017. After having my own near-death experience recently I thought it would be a great idea to get this story out so we can have it memorialized forever.
“Remember Work is Theater”
Lessons learned as an Industrial designer from my late friend Tim Dearborn.
These were prophetic words and some of the best advice I had received from another Designer. He didn’t say this to be snarky about the job or the work that was required to be successful. It was a simple phrase intended for you to not get so caught up with what was happening. Other people’s reactions and actions are beyond your control. In the larger scheme of life, you really shouldn’t sweat it. No one is going to get hurt and it isn’t a matter of life and death. Just relax. You can control yourself and only you.
Yes, we need to take the work seriously and we need to do the best job we can. You can take your job seriously and still detach emotionally from those things that are not in your control. Being able to detach is a great skill we should all practice no matter what level we are in our career. It gives us the ability to see what is happening instead of having tunnel vision. It allows you to see, step back, and assess the situation. In combat flying the term is called the OODA loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. This tactical advantage allowed US airmen to beat a superior Soviet aircraft in the 1950s.
Tim was the only guy I know at work who embraced this with a smile. He really enjoyed the work and it showed. This is why so many of us enjoyed working with Tim. He was an excellent Designer and he had an uncanny ability to provide you with very accurate feedback.
I don’t know if we realize the importance of these types of coworkers in our career development. I would call them peer mentors. This is one of the most important types of relationships we could all build during our careers. He wasn’t a manager but he was a senior-level individual. He led Design efforts and never gave the perception that he was “in charge”. He was collaborative and he never shied from getting the work done that needed to be done. He never acted like there was work beneath him. He was a great mentor for me at Dell. He really engaged with you no matter the question and he was always happy with others’ success in their careers.
Tim was also a really good friend. When I was going thru some personal issues he was always a willing ear to bend. He listened and provided thoughtful feedback and in his way, he could steer the conversation to something a little more light. He wasn’t one for chewing on the fat of a subject for too long, especially one that would become negative. We would always have a laugh and talk about some of the sillier things that would happen at work. His ability to find humor in the mundane day-to-day work efforts really opened my eyes. It was something that really helped me to lighten up a bit. I wouldn’t have my role now if I didn’t start down this path of lightening up a bit. It was the beginning of me really beginning to make some small adjustments in me that many years later paid off with a leadership role here at Dell Technologies. I didn’t know it at the time, but I started to take ownership of myself more substantially.
My favorite story from Tim was the fact that he got dinged during his end of the year review for the same thing two years straight. Not two infractions that were similar in nature but the same singular infraction. That two toned model that could never be found. Our boss was plenty upset that that model couldn’t be found. I remember this incident and this model. He would tell this story and chuckle. “I got dinged two years in a row!” he would regal with huge smile on his face. Most of us would get grumpy being dinged for the same thing twice. He claimed to not know what happened to that model but somehow I think he knew. Perhaps it was permanently lost? Sorry, Ken.
The cliched saying is you are as good as the company you keep. I think most people know this intuitively. When I arrived at Dell I was introduced to Tim. I was happy to call him a friend.
What I learned from Tim.
That we need to detach and not take things so seriously or personally. Things will work out. No one is going to get hurt.
Working with a smile isn’t that hard and it is contagious. The idea of the temperamental Designer doesn’t get you far. I tried.
The small things you do for others and your actions can have a long lasting impression. I don’t think he knew the impact that he had on the rest of us. We can choose how we want to engage with others. Do you want to give or take?
Tim was a great friend and colleague for many of us at Dell inside the EDG organization.
I had the great opportunity to have a memorial discussion about Tim with some of his good friends from Dell technologies. Pedro Alfonso, Eric Bogner, Scott Lauffer, Thad Pasquale, and Richard Crisp. If you are interested in learning more about our good friend you can listen to the cliff notes.
May his memory be eternal.
December 19th, 1963- October 1st, 2017