Machine Design

Joel Orr Commentary: Why Are You Here?

Dr. Joel Orr
Orr Associates International

[email protected]

The passing of Machine Design Editor Ron Khol, my friend of many years, leads me to think about life, meaning, and purpose.

The beautiful comments on the Machine Design blog bear witness to Ron's impact on engineers and on his co-workers. Without stuffiness, without hypocrisy, he modeled the behavior of a responsible and caring member of society.

Most of Ron's articles were about issues: Something is amiss, and here's what needs to be done to make it right. I found him to be a powerful exhorter, calling us all to account, himself included; encouraging us to take responsibility for our lives and our work.

Rarely do we say of anyone "It was his or her time to die. And many 70-year-olds today have many fruitful years ahead of them."

But we can look at Ron's life and its impact on so many and say, "This man lived a life of contribution. We are his witnesses."

What about your life? Are you doing what you came here to do? Are you living out your dream?

Or are you deferring it? Are you thinking, "As soon as I get my 25 years in, I'll leave this humdrum job, and then I'll really start to live."

You know where I going with this, right? How can you think of putting off for a moment the life you were destined to live, with some puny rationalization?

It inevitable that confronting someone death leads us to consider our own mortality. What will people blog about you? Will they say, "He helped me." "She blessed me."

Or will they say, "What a shame he never got to do what he dreamed about?"

Take some time to quietly consider these questions:

Am I doing what I was born to do? If not, why?

What can I do today to get on track?

What am I afraid of?

I'll tell you what I am afraid of, on your behalf. I'm afraid that when you face death, you will be thinking about all you could have done but didn't.

Make a plan now. Sit down with your spouse (or best friend if you're unmarried). Settle on a course of action that will empower you to give that which only you can give.

We need it.

Joel Orr has been consulting, writing, and speaking about engineering software for more than three decades. Visit his website at

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