career

This is a page from my book, “A Survival Guide for New Consultants”

“Excuse me, you’re in the way”

“A man of knowledge lives by acting,
not by thinking about acting.”

Carlos Castaneda

By now you know that I think a lot about attitude, and if there are any major secrets to my success, one of them is that at some point I learned that I was smart enough, and aggressive enough, to know when I was right about something. Once I gained confidence in myself, if I was clearly right about something and someone didn’t agree with me, I didn’t hesitate to say, or at least think, “Excuse me, you’re in my way.”

Port covers

Just a few months out of college, I was assigned to a missile project that had to do with something known as “port covers.” In short, port covers are like little doors on the sides of air-breathing rockets. If you’ve seen a little model rocket, or perhaps a firework that shoots up into the sky, you know that a rocket is basically a tube, like the cardboard tube that’s inside a roll of toilet paper. A normal solid rocket motor like this is filled with solid rocket fuel, which is something like a solid version of gasoline.

The frustration of working with people who aren’t “A” Players (or don’t care)

Let me start by saying that I don’t know if I’m an “A” Player. In part, that definition depends (a) on what work I’m doing, and (b) who you compare me to. For instance, if you compare me to Linus Tourvalds as a Linux C programmer, I’m very clearly not an A Player. Shoot, I’m not even a player.

But if you were to judge me on other skills, I’d like to say that I’m at least a B Player in the things I care about. As I wrote in my book, A Survival Guide for New Consultants, my superpower as a programmer/analyst is empathy; I care about my work, and about my success and my client’s success. If you pay me $100,000 to do some work, I want you to make at least 2X or 10X or more from my work. I want my clients and sponsors to succeed.

Beyond that care, since I began paying attention to Apple and Jonathan Ive starting back around 2005, I’ve become more interested than ever in quality. When I work on something, I imagine that I’m either working with Mr. Ive, or that I’m going to have him review my work, and I want it to be impeccable.

Steve Jobs: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon” alvin February 22, 2019 - 7:33am

In terms of being a nice person, Steve Jobs may have been the worst Buddhist in the history of the world, but he captures the Zen/Buddhist essence in this quote:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Photo from forbes.com, words from Steve Jobs.

It’s enriching to have a brotherhood of guys that you know have your back alvin September 8, 2018 - 5:53pm

“I didn’t understand it at first,” Jack says. “As I got older I understood. It’s so enriching to your life to have a brotherhood of guys that you know have your back.”

~ that quote comes from this article about football, but i find the same to be true when you’re working with a great team of men and women

You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish alvin June 7, 2018 - 9:21am

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

~ Richard Feynman (one of the great physicists of the 20th century)

“They’ve got the keys to the car and they can drive it”

Several years ago I stepped away from a consulting gig. I had an opportunity to continue the gig, but I didn’t enjoy it, and didn’t like the direction the project was headed in. This quote from this article about the Denver Post expresses how I feel very well:

“I have total disagreement with how they're managing the place, but I'm not going to stand up and be overly critical of them. They've got the keys to the car and they can drive it any way they want to. But they're not driving it in a way that I want to be a passenger of the car.”

(That reminds me of the old Alaska sled dog saying: “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”)

What’s Important Now (WIN)

I know, it’s a little corny, but instead of writing out a “To-Do List” — which implies hard labor and/or something I force myself to do — these days I write “WIN” on the top of my index cards. WIN stands for, “What’s Important Now”, and I find that this change in wording changes my attitude towards the things that need to be done. Rather than thinking, “Ugh, okay, what do I have to do next,” I now think of these tasks as important to me, my future, and my success.

The Parable of the Carpenter

Way back in 2005 I read an SI.com article about football coach Dick Vermeil, and the article mentioned a story called, The Parable of the Carpenter. I’ve never found an official version of the story, but here’s a version I cobbled together from multiple sources, including that SI article: