If setting you on fire isn’t enough, let’s push you off a cliff. Sound too dangerous? This sensible advice comes from my dad, Stanley Feld.

My dad pushed me, firmly but gently. As a kid I did very well in school, loved to read, and played sports (tennis and then running). When I was 13, I bought my first computer (an Apple II) with my Bar Mitzvah money (and a little help from my dad). I was a typical nerdy, inquisitive teenager — I hung out with “the honors gang” but also liked plenty of time alone to read and explore new things. I sucked at anything mechanical so almost everything I explored was “in my mind.”

Before I could drive (so I must have been 15) my dad introduced me to a patient of his named Gene Scott. Gene had been a technology executive in the 1960s and 1970s. When I met him, he was running a technology startup with his son Brian called Scott Instruments. Gene and Brian had created one of the first consumer voice recognition systems. It was called the Scott Instruments VET-2 (VET for “voice entry terminal”; I think the 2 was because it worked on an Apple II). Gene was my second mentor (my dad was my first) and he introduced me to the wonders of technology entrepreneurship.


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If setting you on fire isn’t enough, let’s push you off a cliff. Sound too dangerous? This sensible advice comes from my dad, Stanley Feld.

My dad pushed me, firmly but gently. As a kid I did very well in school, loved to read, and played sports (tennis and then running). When I was 13, I bought my first computer (an Apple II) with my Bar Mitzvah money (and a little help from my dad). I was a typical nerdy, inquisitive teenager — I hung out with “the honors gang” but also liked plenty of time alone to read and explore new things. I sucked at anything mechanical so almost everything I explored was “in my mind.”

Before I could drive (so I must have been 15) my dad introduced me to a patient of his named Gene Scott. Gene had been a technology executive in the 1960s and 1970s. When I met him, he was running a technology startup with his son Brian called Scott Instruments. Gene and Brian had created one of the first consumer voice recognition systems. It was called the Scott Instruments VET-2 (VET for “voice entry terminal”; I think the 2 was because it worked on an Apple II). Gene was my second mentor (my dad was my first) and he introduced me to the wonders of technology entrepreneurship.

One day when driving home with my dad from lunch in Denton, Texas with Gene, I was overflowing with ideas. Gene had given me a VET-2 and I was bringing it home to plug into my Apple II and create all kinds of stuff with it. I’m sure medical dictation was one of them because my dad was always using his business, running a thriving endocrinology practice, to give me business and software problems to work on. It was during that car ride that my dad hit me with words that would prove to be fundamental for me:

“If you aren’t standing on the edge you are taking up too much space.” 

Thirty years later that line continues to be a defining characteristic for how I live my life. I’m constantly pushing, looking for the edge of whatever I do.

Comment by Michael Schade
I agree that standing on the edge and pushing the envelope can sometimes become exhausting, but as long as you know when to rest and pull back a little bit, knowing that you must always continue stretching your own boundaries is a great thing, I think.

Once you stop pushing the edge, both your own and society's, you stagnate, and that's like letting your copy of a software get really outdated: once you get behind, it's so much harder to catch up, be productive, learn something new.
June 2011
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