From the beginning of a career spanning more than 40 years, Dave Sabey has sought out people with a fresh perspective, an inspired vision and a relentless sense of purpose. Among his earliest developments were building Boeing Electronics clean rooms, constructing an early ADP data center, building and owning one of McCaw Cellular’s first switches, developing facilities for Exodus Communications, (a provider of the world’s first Internet colocation services) – even developing Starbuck’s first external roasting plant – all were breaking new ground in industries of worldwide importance. Today, that trend continues both through real estate development and investment with a particular focus on high performance data centers, healthcare and life science research and communications.
From IT efficiencies and technology platforms dedicated to solving some of the hardest problems facing health care and life science, Dave is passionate about promoting ideas that positively change the world. He is a founder of the Seattle Science Foundation which was established to foster the collaboration of medical scientists, practitioners, and engineers through high bandwidth transmissions while sharing some of the world’s most sophisticated skill sets. We spoke with Dave about technology, training your subconscious and snapping yourself out of bad moods when they strike.
We live in a world that’s technologically moving so fast, it’s hard to keep up. I once heard you say it’s not necessarily learning new technology that’s the issue, it’s unlearning what you already know that truly holds us back.
The ability to unlearn what you’ve long held to be true is difficult, especially when dramatic changes in work and technology are happening at such an accelerated pace. You have to train your subconscious to be more flexible. Irrelevant and outdated knowledge can become a burden. It’s like being a tugboat with a barge filled with garbage holding you back. And to truly unlearn anything is nearly impossible. You can’t unlearn riding a bike. Those memories, those pathways in your mind are embedded. Such as, when someone loses an arm, at times that person will feel as if it were still there.
We fear technology just like anything we really don’t understand. The fear of the unknown is embedded into our survival instincts. When we don’t understand something, we assume it must be negative. This is why risk takers are rare; nobody likes to stick their neck out if they don’t have to. We’re afraid because we’re developing technology so quickly it becomes difficult to understand all of those moving parts.
As adults we’re forced to relearn technology over and over again which is part of the ongoing fear of technology. There’s been a lot of wasted emotion lamenting how things have changed. That’s our internal software overriding our firmware.
Besides unlearning, it seems like the actual learning and training aspects of our society could use a bit of help as well.
We’re still educating students as if we’re living in the industrial age. These are simply conformity leftovers. Life is just like software – in a very real sense, we’re all operating systems – originally programmed by our parents, our ancestors, and, in the modern era, traditional education systems which are terribly behind the curve. And in a time of change, it’s the instinctive learners that will inherit the earth. The internet is owned by kids because it’s moving so fast, and because they aren’t as burdened with the baggage of all that previous learning. They don’t need to unlearn anything.
And believe it or not, we actually are well equipped to deal with all of these oncoming changes. We desperately need to reinvent our education system toward skills based in adaptability, which is far more applicable now as we’re racing deeper into the information age.
Viewing oneself as a kind of technology could be a powerful catalyst for self-reinvention. When did you begin to see the world this way? When did you start to control your own personal operating system?
We are products of the mind. At thirteen, Lou Tice was my high school football coach. He saw I could have success in sports. I could play football in high school, college, get a scholarship, and maybe have a pro football career? He said, “Come with me, I’ll show the way.” What he meant was I had to create a positive belief system and then align my actions to it. He understood that you cannot act in opposition to your closest held beliefs.
Pete Carroll, coach of the Seattle Seahawks, is a personal friend. He was both introduced to me by Lou Tice some years ago, and also influenced by Lou Tice’s teachings. Look what Coach Carroll did last year by instilling a positive belief system in the Seahawks—they won the Super Bowl. Dream you can do… then do it… have big hairy, audacious goals. Stop the negative self- talk which is an obstacle to the efficient pursuit of goals.
There are piles of self-motivation driven bestsellers about converting bad momentum into positive energy. Most of it seems like fortune cookie wisdom. Getting deep into the nitty-gritty of it, that moment of decision, how does one snap out of an oncoming deep funk?
You know, I love puzzles, especially jigsaw puzzles. Having success at simple tasks can fuel the larger ones ahead. When you feel yourself entering the moment of a downward spiral, stop and allow yourself to have a small victory. Do something small. Complete a simple task well. The critical element is, train yourself to recognize the moment when you’re about to turn negative, stop that momentum, and then shift direction. Allow yourself the space to just think. The negative feedback loop is a trap that will take much longer to crawl out of. Better to take five minutes to shift directions than to lose five hours of forward-momentum productivity. Catch yourself before you fall into a bad space, allow yourself a small victory no matter how tiny, and then start building upon it.