Zen For Skeptics (and Engineers)

Zen For Skeptics (and Engineers)

I went to college to become an engineer . . . to learn math, physics, and principles of electrical design. Black and white stuff. No gray in engineering.
I remember my first introduction to digital computers. I learned to program the Digital PDP-8 and PDP-11 by moving banks of switches into either the on or off position. Ones or zeros. No other choices, no other possibilities. You were either right or wrong. As a college senior, I belonged to a plucky bunch. Very sure of ourselves, we were confident we would change the world with our highly disciplined, university-trained minds. Maybe you saw us on the way to class. We were easy to recognize . . . a few of us still carried slide rules on our belts. The more affluent . . .

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Bring Your New Year’s Resolutions Back From the Dead

Bring Your New Year’s Resolutions Back From the Dead

With a third of the year behind us, the end of April signifies an important milestone—a four month benchmark for the goal-setting exercise that’s been a traditional part of each new year. Four months ago, many of us were writing down our resolutions and setting goals to stop smoking, get a better job, find a spouse, lose weight, and hundreds of other wanted changes in our lives. How’s everyone doing? According to national statistics, not very well. Ninety-five percent of us have not only given up, we’ve forgotten about our resolutions completely. That leaves only five percent who are still taking action and will actually accomplish any kind of lasting change.

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A Note to my Nephew

A Note to my Nephew

I have a nephew who reminds me of myself—the me from thirty years ago . . . aggressive, wanting to excel, battling the other “bright boys” also competing on the fast track, hoping to score a cushy corner office on the tenth floor of the corporate office. I have no idea if he’ll read this. And if he does, if he’ll recognize the similarities—where I’ve come from and where he’s likely headed. I hope he’ll see the commonalities, and understand how quickly they can become consequences. For the last several years, he’s been following the path laid out for him. The same path that has lured generations . . .

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It’s Not Luck . . . It’s Still Who You Know (Or Meet!)

It’s Not Luck . . . It’s Still Who You Know (Or Meet!)

While pure luck can play a part in everyone’s life, there are definite actions anyone can take to improve the chances of success. There’s no hocus-pocus involved, just a few straightforward steps that can increase the number of “chance encounters” with those who may influence your thinking, help with a project, or simply refer you to a critical resource or individual. Welcome strangers. We have a tendency to avoid those we don’t know, but strangers can be the very best source of new opportunities. Try breaking the ice with someone when standing in line, while in an elevator, seated at a concert, or wherever you encounter a stranger and innocent chit-chat is not objectionable . . .

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I’ve behaved badly, but I’m trying to change

I’ve behaved badly, but I’m trying to change

I was talking with a friend in the gym last week. We were discussing our “personal demons,” the things we know are bad for us, but still require a mile of mental barbed-wire to keep them away from corrupting the parts of our lives we value the most. “Mine’s sugar,” he said. “That piece of Danish in the morning is just too hard to give up.” I nodded, but didn’t say anything. Not because I don’t have an equivalent weakness for something sweet, because I do. My once-a-week Snickers is definitely something I should do without. But in this case, a candy bar wasn’t what came to mind. I’d focused on a much different culprit, one far more serious than eating a couple hundred calories of sugar and fat.

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Spring Cleaning For the Mind

Spring Cleaning For the Mind

We accumulate a lot of “stuff” during a year of living, and spring is traditionally the time to sort it out, dust it off, and throw away what is no longer useful or necessary. The best place to begin? With our own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. In many ways, our minds are like a well-used closet, collecting old impressions, assumptions, and judgments—the clutter of life. Every once in a while, we need to take a look inside and determine what should stay and what needs to be swept from our lives. It’s really a chance to get back to basics, to recharge our motivation and, if necessary, make a few course corrections. And while the process can be rewarding, it can also be very challenging.

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Waiting For My Life to Begin

Waiting For My Life to Begin

I did it because it was expected of me . . . If I hadn’t, I would have disappointed my parents and my friends would have felt sorry for me—maybe even pitied me. And that would have made me feel like a loser. But I didn’t have to worry. I’d done the right thing. And now my parents could brag about their son’s success. Even better, I could give that all-knowing nod to my friends, letting them know I’d scored the mother-lode. I was two months away from my college graduation and I’d just accepted a job with a major corporation—we’ll call it Acme, Inc.—a company with offices and production facilities all over the world. Lots of opportunity, lots of room to grow for a young man just starting out.

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