Importance of Documentation – Indispensable vs. Immortality

January 23, 2007 at 11:27 pm 1 comment

A couple of months ago, buried in musings about Troy and Log Files, I talked about the importance of documentation.  An example I cited was the knowledge we know about Monticello and Ashlawn.  Both were residents of former Presidents who lived at the same time and who literally lived only a few miles apart.  But with Monticello, the details are solid.  We know for a fact.  With Ashlawn, they just have best guesses.  Why the discrepancy?  Jefferson wrote things down.

Terri Irwin’s recent address to the National Press Club about her husband, Steve, reinforced the importance of documentation:

You may also be surprised to learn just how disciplined Steve was.  He was never a great sleeper.  He would always wake early, sometimes around two or three o’clock in the morning and he would slip into his office and he would write.  He’d write up his latest research; write down his ideas and visions for the future, the zoo; study notes on wildlife documentaries he was filming or plan how to do something better for animals.  And today I’m very blessed because I have all the documentation, all of his plans, all of his ideas for the future.  So I’m really lucky to have a direction for where Australia Zoo is headed, where our filming is headed, what research projects were most important to him.”

The builder who designed and built my parent’s new townhome had a heart attack and died suddenly around Christmas.  He left behind a staff of good people able in their own roles.  He did not leave behind that kind of direction Terri Irvin got.  No one could succeed him.  In less than a month, the builder’s company has shut down. 

I think there is a pleasure in feeling like you are a vital part of an organization.  We like to feel important.  We like to feel valuable.  We like to feel necessary.  We like to feel indispensable. 

But at the same time, we also like to feel like we have a little bit of immortality.  Some argue that religion’s purpose is to give us hope that death is not the real end.  Ambition keeps many striving to be the best in their field, to excel through accomplishments and plaques.  And in later years, some wonder, “What’s my legacy?”

If your legacy happens to a business, be it a zoo, a building firm or perhaps a document management software, then you want it to thrive without you.  You do not want your years of hard work to wither up and die just because you are.  You want the business to continue on after you are gone.  You want to be the exact opposite of indispensable.

Steve Irwin somehow managed a delicate balance of being important and inspiring and extremely well-loved, but not indispensable.  His business endeavors and his conservation efforts will live on.  Part of this can, of course, be attributed to surrounding himself with competent, caring and dedicated individuals who’ll carry on. 

But… as his wife is finding, documentation sure makes a tough task easier.

Entry filed under: Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin.

Journal Excerpt: Bottom Creek Gorge You Must Assimilate to My Tastes

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Clint  |  January 24, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Terry Irwin’s interviews [we/a]re available for download on


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