Inspiration _HeaderPeople ask me about the name of my firm – Parnassus Analytics – with relative frequency. Some folks cannot pronounce it. Most want to know what it means and why I chose it. These are fair questions and I propose to answer them. I’m not certain how this story will succeed as a written document; it is much more fun to tell in front of an audience. I will let you be the judge.

My wife and I have been coming to the North Olympic Peninsula for over thirty-three years. In fact, we became engaged right here on a beach at Dungeness. And while we knew that we would eventually return, we also knew that we had many years of work ahead of us before we could. Life took us to Southern California where we established our respective careers and raised our family. Several times we looked at moving back but the circumstances were not propitious. At last, all of the stars aligned and we circled a date on the calendar.

We had never made a secret of the fact that our days in the Southland were numbered and we formally announced our intention to relocate a full three years ahead of time. Nevertheless, many people were in denial including several of my work colleagues. It only began to seem real when the escrow closed on the house in Sequim. Then, denial turned to panic and disbelief. I even remember someone asking me in all seriousness, “Steve, do they even have internet there?”

My original plan was to stay with the firm that had employed me for eleven years. For a variety of reasons, this strategy became more difficult to engineer than expected. In the end, my boss and I negotiated a deal whereby I would start my own firm and then subcontract back on projects already in process.

I made the decision rather quickly and was stuck for a name for the enterprise. I wanted something that reflected this locale, nestled as it is between the Olympic Mountains to the south and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north.   A quick look at the local phone directory was far from inspiring. Almost everything was “Olympic” this, “Peninsula” that, or “Strait” something else as a play on the word “straight” (e.g., Strait Advice). I may hide it well, but I have something of an unconventional streak. I wanted a name that was unique, something with zest and panache.

And then it came to me. Parnassus! Of course! Mt. Parnassus is the mountain in Greece that in mythology was sacred to Apollo and home to his daughters, the nine muses. It suggests not only the mountains, but enlightenment and inspiration as well. It resonated for me the way the marvelous light here shimmers, reflecting off both the mountains and the ocean. Parnassus Analytics: Inspired Intelligence. Besides, I have a particular affinity for Euterpe, the muse of music.

As it turns out, there was something oddly prophetic and directional in that choice of name. It is not an idea that I thought about, calculated, or anticipated. Instead, it seems to be a path on which the firm is traveling. Part of it has been learning to recognize relevant concepts and ideas from amidst the ocean of seeming irrelevancies. Another element has been creating a network with those recognitions, bringing concepts into focus in unexpected contexts. Consider for a moment the nine muses themselves:

  • Calliope, the muse of epic poetry
  • Euterpe, the muse of song and elegiac poetry (by extension, music)
  • Erato, the muse of lyric poetry
  • Polyhymnia, the muse of hymns
  • Terpsichore, the muse of dance
  • Melpomene, the muse of tragedy
  • Thalia, the muse of comedy
  • Clio, the muse of history
  • Urania, the muse of astronomy

Notice the union of the arts and sciences as they were thought about well over two millennia ago. The nine subject areas appear together on equal footing. Contrast that with education today and how we create impenetrable silos for these realms of knowledge. In today’s schools, most of the nine muses are deemed irrelevant anyway. Can you imagine standing up in a typical MBA marketing class and using musical counterpoint to illustrate a business concept?

And yet that is precisely where Parnassus is taking me. At first it just seemed to be random commonalities that were finding the light of day, conceptual parallels that made for interesting self-improvement reading on this blog rather than sharp concepts for systematic application. Over time, though, a web of reusable or “pan-applicable” ideas has emerged that demonstrates relevance across the silos we have created in both education and business. On several occasions, concepts drawn from musical counterpoint have been useful to me in a business context both structurally (because counterpoint is structure) as well as metaphorically. It is stimulating to think where this path might lead eventually.

So that is the creation legend for Parnassus Analytics, describing as it does how I named the firm as well as the significance the name is taking on. It is as appropriate to what we are doing as it is to where we are living. By the way, if you would like to know more about the latter, visit my newest web page Sequim and click on the elk to view a terrific little video. In the meantime, you have but to look around you for insight and revelation. The nine daughters of Apollo are still very busy gals and inspiration is instantly at hand if you are attentive. And should you happen to bump into one of them, introduce yourself and tell her that Steve sent you.


Do you have a creation story of your own to share? What was your last big “Aha!” moment?