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Attitude sets the stage
It was early in the morning and I had just opened a new box of cereal. I had struggled to open the bomb-proof inner lining that protected the precious contents. Could not rip it open so I had to get a scissors after briefly considering breaking out the acetylene torch. I had poured the cereal into a bowl and added raisins and almond milk. I just needed to put the box away and I could have breakfast, finally, when I discovered they had not made the box properly. I had not had my coffee yet and was in a grouchy mood. Did I mention that it was early? They had not made the box correctly because they cut the box edge straight across, see photo of Life cereal box. I put the other box so you could see how it should have been done. They needed to cut a tab to fit in the notch, again see the attached photo. My neck hurt because of the way I had slept. Did I mention I was a bit grouchy? How could they do that? This is life cereal, not a knock off brand! It’s not that hard to make a box. How can you screw that up? I mean they have all the tooling done and in use for years. It’s not like they had to think or anything… I hope you realize I am embellishing here a bit for dramatic effect.
This was a few weeks ago. On the weekend, my daughter in law pointed at the box and asked me if I had opened the bottom of the box, see second picture. Sure enough, in my early morning stupor, I had opened up the wrong side of the box. That explains a lot.
I want you to take a look at the two pictures one of them is taken looking straight down while the other is taken from an angle. They are taken from two different perspectives. I think that is really important. Our perspective of something, can make all the difference in the world. Perspective lets us see a problem, whether it be an engineering problem or a problem with another person, co-worker, boss, subordinate, from a different point of view. When we only see the world from one view, our own, it can cause us to feel a certain way about the world, the people around us or the circuit that we have right in front of us.
As engineers, specifically electrical engineers, the perspective that we view our circuit from is often the way we think it should work. “That’s not possible, it can’t do that.” Well, what we really mean is that the circuit shouldn’t be able to do that if it worked like the model of the circuit we have in our minds. At the university I had a professor that was fond of saying, “the circuit is always right.” In other words, saying it can’t do that is a waste of your time.
Perspective about what we do
In the epigraph of the book, “East of Eden,” John Steinbeck describes the creative process of writing the book to be like making a box and then filling it with things “the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.” Was he talking about writing or was he talking about engineering, because design has elements of pleasure and sometimes despair? What really got me exited was his description of the indescribable joy of creation. I think that is why we become engineers. It makes us happy beyond description to create new things. Things that do just precisely what we want them to do. They behave the same way that we envisioned them when they were just doodling’s on a piece of paper.
Yes, there is some despair in what we do. There are difficulties in designs, getting funding, dealing with other people (humans are difficult), delays, etc. We can choose to focus on the despair part of engineering or we can shift our perspective and look at is in the future, looking back after it is all done and anticipate the indescribable joy of creation.
If you look at my LinkedIn page you will see under my name it says, “Innovate – Design – Create.” That is what I think we do as engineers. And John, his elegant and descriptive prose, does a wonderful job of describing how we feel about doing what we do.
Sean O’Leary is sometimes known as the Celtic Engineer. He was involved in putting two missions on the space shuttle. He has worked at the Smelter’s Biproducts department of Kennecott Utah Copper. Has helped design ballistic guidance systems for Northrop Grumman. Worked on various DARPA projects, an anti-RPG system known as Iron-Curtain and has been involved with the downhole oil and gas industry. He currently is the owner of Celtic Engineering Solutions a consulting Engineering Company in West Jordan and Murray Utah.
Celtic Engineering Solutions is not just a bunch of people doing a job. We are passionate about engineering. It gives us indescribable joy, to create a project for our customers. Contact us today to see how we can help you succeed.
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