General Engineering Introduction/Attitude


Engineering education changes people. It gives them an attitude much like the police view everyone as perpetrators, the military view everyone as civilians, lawyers view everyone as clients, and physicians view everyone as patients. Engineers view everyone else as customers. Fortunately, most engineering customers and clients are other engineers.

Engineers themselves are viewed as being different (video .. the Knack). Interpersonal skills such as reading body language, eye contact, and conversation are sacrificed for an ability to concentrate (video .. engineering mind .. diversity). Many students drop out of engineering courses because they “don't want to be like them” and “don't like them”. Most engineers know their faults, work on them, and ask forgiveness. Please don't give up.

The engineering attitudes experienced and rewarded in college don't dominate the profession. People with good interpersonal skills have an advantage in the engineering market place. STEM is tolerant of the negative side of concentration gifts, but ultimately the world rewards those in balance. Talk to working engineers. Most will describe themselves in terms of their role in projects rather than the science and technology they studied in school. For example, they might say I am a “test, prototype, sales, support, manufacturing, quality, operation, project management” engineer.



STEM stands for "Science Technology Engineering and Math." The world has no clue what Engineering is. Have this negative explanation memorized: "With out Engineers, Math and Science would just be philosophy." "Without Engineers, Techs would have nobody to blame." STEM should be STEAM where the A stands for "Art."

There is a huge difference between "Can" and "How Can", between "May I?" or "Can I?", between "I think I can" and "How do I?". The first in each of these pairs bypasses an ego associated with being smart, previous experience, being mentored, tutored, and educated. "Can" implies just going out there, examining; fiddling with things to find a solution; playing without expectation. The problem itself gives permission to engineer.

"How Can" internalizes the problem, holding hostage the history of one's life. The scary unknown is a double bind ignored by the creative and used to suppress by sociopaths. Permission, risk, and change are all handed over to another person. Arbitrary authority is given to another person as simply as a baby duck starts following the first moving object it sees.

It Is the World's Problem


It's not your problem. It is the world's problem.

Engineers never personally have a problem. Don't ever think, "I am not smart enough." Engineering is not a matter of being smart. It is a matter of having the courage to stand in front of people and say "The world has this problem, and I am going to solve it." Problems are never inside of an engineer. Problems are always outside of an engineer's body, mind and life. Problems are in the world and are to be served. Differentiate. Separate yourself from the world. Trust that a solution will emerge from your activity. Remember that it just has to be "a solution", not the best, not the solution for ever and ever. Remember that there may be no solution and your task becomes to exhaustively search all possibilities, documenting the futility. Either way it is a personal win-win situation ... engineers get paid to explore!

Future engineering courses are a boot camp where you are going to be stressed and feel unprepared. You will face unfair expectations, and cold shoulders giving you no help. You will find yourself mentally challenged, and will have face failure. The best students don't blame themselves. They blame the world outside of themselves. Students cope in a variety of ways:

  • give up
  • feel discriminated against
  • cheating
  • stop sleeping
  • blame the teacher, then college, then the profession
  • eventually they blame the world and begin to see opportunities
  • document failure .. document why what is being asked for is impossible
  • once failure documentation begins, paths to solutions can be seen
  • then better tools, better materials, better parts begin to emerge

This is especially true in colleges where engineers are living with other majors that don't experience this stress or community colleges where students go home to non-engineering families. It is really hard to understand what engineering classes are trying to teach you. As long as you hold onto the concept of "being an expert"; as long as you feel your brain should remember all the content that is being flashed in front of you; as long as you try to climb into other people's brilliant brains rather than choose to develop your own, you will suffer. Don't give up and choose an "easier" profession.

Education Entitlement


Students feel perfectly at home stressing their bodies to become athletes. They feel perfectly at home stressing their muscle memory in music classes. They feel perfectly at home stressing their emotional memory in drama. Yet when it comes to STEM, students have been taught that mental stress should be avoided, and the people that should help you avoid this stress are teachers.

Most of the world feels entitled to education. This results in excuses like this:

I am not trained
I am not an expert
We have no money for training
Teach me how and I will do it
Let's all get educated together
I learned nothing, the course was bad

Most teachers and professionals will talk about the adult learner, the self motivated learner, critical thinking/learning, and comprehension and synthesis objectives. And they will state that their goal is people that learn on their own. But every educational institution has a vested interest in making sure that you view the human species as needing education. This has created an attitude of education entitlement coupled with an education addiction.

Engineers are addicted to self education. Here is the rant of an engineer trying to create a resume:

"Why should I list any experience, when I am trained to learn without resources. I can learn from nature. I can learn from the slightest clue. I don't learn from other people. I create the manuals, the tutorials, the first classes in anything new. I am the source of change. I am not an expert on past technology. Why should I list my areas of expertise? I've never done the same thing twice. I can be more productive quickly than any "experienced person." Why should I get certified? My goal is not to be educated in a homogenized, best practice, predictable, standard way. My goal is to create something new. I bring a "fresh" approach with out crippling expectations. Call this art. Please."

Keep Doors Open

  • Easiest major to get into Medical School
  • Easiest major to get into Law School
  • Can switch to Science or Math

You Already Are an Engineer

  • You consider ANY non-engineering course "easy".
  • You think that when people around you yawn, it's because they didn't get enough sleep.
  • The salesperson at Circuit City can't answer any of your questions.
  • You have a habit of destroying things in order to see how they work.
  • Half of your Google searches land in HowStuffWorks and Wikipedia.
  • You perform an autopsy on everything before throwing it away.
  • You collect random screws, bolts and short pieces of wood.
  • You worry about energy resources rather than world peace.
  • Modern Marvels Engineering Disasters and Myth Busters are your favorite shows.
  • Drive there once, directions memorized.
  • Memorize door codes, combination locks.
  • Count seconds while doing something else.
  • Count steps even though you are not blind.
  • I think I could do a better job, how would I do it?
  • Where would this break?
  • Facts not Feelings.
  • Follow the cables.
  • Fix or totally destroy.
  • Old is good.

Work Hard


Don't wait to be nice. Don't wait to be correct. Don't wait to see if someone else will do the work. Don't wait because you are not qualified. Take the initiative. Train your brain not another's. Pull people into your mind, into your context. Don't climb into someone else's mind.

Sing Loud

  • Guess. If right, become expert. If wrong, let others, let nature correct you.
  • Learn from others in their presence.
  • Expect to learn from nature. Expect mistakes. Set up the tension so that you will never forget!
  • Create context.
  • Take the initiative.

The word "Can't" is evil. The words "I am not good at", the phrase "I don't like" are merely disguised versions of Can't.

Technology Waves


Most engineers have periods during the day or year when nothing is going on. Boredom is the Enemy. Use the time to pick up a new paint brush, learn a new simulation tool, and read engineering society news. Pay attention to advertisements in engineering magazines. What are they selling?

Technology is like a beach wave. It is always moving. Engineers surf or ride that wave. Then they get off and find another wave. Behind the wave are people that are using the technology. In front of the wave is the opportunity to do things first. It is possible to get too far out in front of the wave. People will not understand you. Figure out where this boundary is. Expect to grow as an engineer constantly.

Business to Business


The majority of engineering is B2B. Engineers buy from other engineers, sell to other engineers, and compete along business boundaries. Often the "customers" of an engineer are other engineers. Often the "suppliers" are other engineers. Sales engineers are selling technical trust to support engineers. Sometimes engineering firms hire a marketing person to help with getting investors, creating and qualifying sales leads, attending trade shows, and closing sales.

Marketing and engineers have different contexts for defining truth. Most engineers believe in objective utility. Marketing knows that subjective values impact purchase decisions. Engineers are influenced by numbers, measurements and data. Different objectives lead to tension that can be used constructively or destructively. Engineer this tension!

Don't Doubt

  • Others' faults are really your gifts.
  • Forgive them, accept your gifts.
  • Evil fertilizes good.
  • Privilege is often a handicap.
  • Everyone has difficulties and pain in their lives.
  • Often what you don't want to do is related to your gift.



Successful students:

  • are seduced by opportunities to work hard.
  • identify processes or means.
  • figure out how to stick their foot in the door.
  • have worked hard in the past and been rewarded.
  • have experienced delayed gratification.
  • have an ego that is not associated with an external product, design, or accomplishment.
  • have an ego that is associated with finding something to work hard at.

Politicians call this "getting in front of the issue." Athletics call this "create space." Engineers call this "tunnel vision."

In all cases it represents a chance to separate from the normal.

Least successful students:

  • Are always confused, want advice, want to be told what to do.
  • Have the same gifts as the successful.
  • Don't look for opportunity.
  • Can not see process or means.
  • Hesitate in front of open doors.
  • Don't shout YES, FINALLY, My time has COME!
  • Wait to be seduced by a person, a thing, an experience or subject matter.
  • Fall into the mechanical/versus electrical engineering discussion.
  • Jump into any conversation associated with establishing personal preference, projecting/owning ideas, or introspective "finding my gifts/calling/inspiration."
  • Cultivate the ability to see patterns of "like/dislike" in culturally based emotions of "normal."
  • Are confused about when to go inside and when to look outside themselves.
  • Wait for feelings inspired by the outside world.
  • Watch their internal world for evidence of penetrating outside influences.


  • Look outside at means, process and opportunity.
  • Work hard
  • Expect feelings of success, inspiration and security to come afterwards during presentations

What kind of student are you?


  • Opportunity is a bird that never perches. ~Claude McDonald
  • Opportunities are never lost; someone will take the one you miss. ~Author Unknown
  • When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters – one represents danger and the other represents opportunity. ~John F. Kennedy, address, 12 April 1959
  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~Thomas Edison
  • When one door of happiness closes another one opens; But often we look so long at the closed door that, we do not see the door that has opened for us. ~Helen Keller
  • I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dripped it carelessly, Ah! I didn't know, I held opportunity. ~Hazel Lee
  • Work is worship.