|LOOKING BACK - AND FORWARD.
The Great Race 2011
Last week I reached the official NZ retirement age and (hopefully) became a recipient of NZ's universal pension.
Formally and officially retired; receiving the state pension no less!- a social welfare beneficiary - aagh!
So, time to take stock;
What's worked in my life, what hasn't? What could I and should I have done better?
Actually I've been goofing off for some years; retired in fact, if not officially.
And I don't just mean that I've been playing with kites instead of doing something vaguely useful.
But it hasn't really worked out that well (premature retirement that is). Sure, for the last few years I haven't had responsibilities for employees and don't have to get up early (like at 9.30am as I used to have to ), but things haven't been less busy either.
A problem is that I've somehow acquired far too many toys: Various Kite Boats
Like: about a fifty tonnes of antique stationary engines, veteran and earlier cars, an 8m Stirling engine'd boat, an early steam sawmill, an engineering workshop to die for(which would have been really useful 30 years ago), a private kite field (ditto), at least 10 functional kite sailing boats and a barbecue/social area big enough for more friends than we have, even when the wine cellar's overflowing.
The maintenance of all of which is a full time job: leaving little time for their actual enjoyment. I really do need to redress my life/toy balance.
And then there's going to too many kite events.
Please keep this to yourselves, but I do have just a teensy sense that in the last few years I might have been used a bit by; going personally out of pocket by too much, putting in too much work when the wind is shit, and willingly accepting too much kite damage- without receiving commensurate support from some event organisers. Plenty of you have privately lambasted me for this at times, so maybe it's true. But kite flying is a marginal activity, events just don't have money to spare, and enthusiastic amateurs may well have spoiled the business for us professionals (as it has perhaps, for an even older profession?), so it's more likely that I've developed an over-rated sense of my own importance rather than that I'm being hard done by.
Nevertheless, about six months ago, (with Elwyn's encouragement) I finally plucked up enough courage to say no to some of the invitations that come in. The Great Race 2011
And this has worked out great; not only do I now have a bit more time to play with all the toys, but I've really enjoyed every one of the kite events I've been to in the last few months- and the more fun it is, the better the job that gets done I reckon.
But back to the stock-taking:
I've generally believed the rationalisation that the continual striving for new and original ways of doing things- which has certainly been the driving force in my life to date- comes from the laudable goal of wanting to change the world for the better.
What a load of self serving bullshit!
With the wisdom of the years finally upon me, it obvious that the real motivation has been boredom (the avoiding of it that is), abetted by being born with something of a silver spoon (usually enough money, indulgent parents), a fair amount of good timing (otherwise called luck) and Elwyn's unflagging support.
I've been a spoilt kid who never grew up; shiny new ideas were interesting, but after a short time I lost focus, (even when they start making money) scuffled around for a while then found some new dream to chase after- for 50+years.
Of course it's true that there has to be a starting point- some new and original way to do something, to make something or to sell something, before the iterative process of making whatever it is truly successful can begin. But iterative development is where the real work is done- as Germany's Mittelstand engineering firms have so clearly proven. Start with almost any product or a process, grind away unrelentingly at making it ever better for a 100 years or more, and you'll have made the world a much better place- and come to own a solid bit of it.
Ideas are the easy bit, and in themselves are worth very little- mostly nothing. They have to find their way to a profitable market before they can be useful to anyone (including the inventor)- and this is as often about how they are sold as it is about whether the underlying product or process is intrinsically (if there is such a thing) worthwhile. Many great ideas have languished for a period by not having found a path to market (both the aeroplane and the motor car made no impact on the world for at least 5 years after their first viable developments because no-one bought them). Conversely, some mediocre and even downright fraudulent or dangerous products get traction because of effective selling (just now it's often by using the catch word 'natural' which city dwellers are suckers for).
Process and product innovations have been more interesting to me personally than marketing creativity- but this is really screwed up. There are at least as many creative opportunities in how to sell things as there are in how to make things- and a lot more money I would judge.
So I'm also having a talk to myself about this character flaw.
Where now then?
New Year's resolutions:
*More and better pilots- this time by incremental development via the rigid application of self discipline- it's time I grew up.
*And ditto for Stirling cycle engines (my secret life); the next prototype, number 14 in the current series will be an iterative development building on prototypes 11, 12 and 13 rather than another wild attempt at changing the world in one giant dump, err, jump. The link below is to a replica 19th century fan tail launch built by Nop Velthuizen and powered by engine number 12. click the image above to watch the movie
*And to clear some time for these ongoing developments, I need to introduce a predator or pathogen that can cut into the wild breeding frenzy of the toys around here. Apparently they've developed immunity, and/or defences against the usual ones (wives and bank managers).
Some land use change that will destroy their available habitat maybe? Any other ideas?- but not including the scrap dealer next door!
*And, just possibly, I might now have another go at making kite sailing work; based on the Longboat design of -Jan 2007 (which we've just pulled out of the long grass for re-evaluation). Even 5 years down the track, and considering every development I've watched $millions being spent on in San Francisco during this period, it's approach still seems to me to have the best chance of success.
The Longboat and Tory
The Longboat Sailing
Best wishes for the New Year,
Peter Lynn, Ashburton New Zealand, January 1 '12
Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
105 Alford Forest Rd
Ph: +64 (0) 3 308 4538
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