Lessons from an Engineer

2016-03-02 16:05:31 by

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5 Lessons I Learned from My Grandfather

I don’t really remember my grandfather talking much about what he did day to day at work, but I remember wanting to be just like him.  He was a great man – funny, smart, hard working.  He was also an engineer thru and thru.  He kept long journals of the things he worked on.  He often fixed things in the most complicated ways you can imagine.  His HVAC system at the summer house was the stuff of legend.  (Don’t turn on the water until the electricity has been on for 4 days).

He epitomized the American Dream.  The son of Irish immigrants who got his start at a community college and eventually got his degree at MIT.  He went to war.  He played football.  He ran a small company and raised three daughters.  He was my hero.  I loved his ability to find humor in the most ridiculous situations.  I admired his quiet strength and his diplomatic nature.  He was incredibly generous and kind.  He was an avid reader, always learning.  I remember sitting at the table with him on the weekend mornings.  He would be surrounded with every paper in the tri state area.  I often wondered how many days it would take to read through all those papers.

He inspired me and my love of engineering. Here are the 5 biggest lessons I learned from him that have shaped my view of my work and my world.

  1. Work Like a Beaver – My grandfather was an MIT graduate, hence, the beaver reference.  There’s something to be said for being industrious.  The real beauty of my grandfather’s work ethic wasn’t necessarily his need to build things, but his ability to keep building when things went wrong.  Failure wasn’t an option.  You keep working until you find the solution.  He was a master at working to the very end.
  2. Always look at the Doughnut not the Hole – When I was in college he once sent me a doughnut shaped coffee mug with this saying pasted to the side.  His sense of humor was always apparent, but the message was not just humorous, it was inspirational.  He had a way of encouraging others with a quiet humor.  That humor stuck with me.  I often find difficult situations are disarmed with a little humor.  Keep a sense of humor and wonder and consider how you treat others.
  3. Be kind and generous – My grandfather often had to deal with difficult situations, career shifts and family issues, but he was always able to be kind and generous.  He took the time to treat people with respect.  He valued being the head of the family.  His generosity sticks with me.  There wasn’t a week when I went to school that he didn’t send me something whether it be a motivational article or something I needed.  He was so generous.  Generosity is never wasted.  When you don’t need to be generous that’s when you should consider being the most generous.
  4. Never Give Up – When I was kid he took us out fishing.  One trip was the worst.  The weather was terrible, the seas were choppy, but we stuck with it.  When you commit to something you see it through.  He always saw things through, even when we went out to sea and wound up seasick.  He kept going and always with a smile on his face.
  5. Never Stop Learning – A man in his 70s doesn’t often try and learn Spanish and AutoCAD, but Grandpa did.  He was forever a student.  I remember him getting a computer in his 70s.  New things didn’t scare him, they inspired him to try something new.

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