Enjoy Your Life. You Have My Permission

Developing Your Potential: You're the Captain of Your Own Ship--Take the Wheel

In 1964, one of my friends suggested rather strongly that there was more to life than having a big fat rear-end and sitting at a desk. My response was, "Like what?"


"Skiing, for example," he said. So he took me skiing and, of course, I fell a lot and couldn't schuss worth a damn, but had a ball. I totally forgot about technology. When I went back to work, my brain was refreshed and, it seemed to me, I got a lot more work done a lot faster.


I was hooked. I wanted to go skiing every week. I did notice that going Saturday and Sunday was useless because of the lift lines. It appeared to me to be more logical to go Thursday or Friday when there were no lines and the slopes were groomed for the weekend. So I told my boss that is what I wished to do. He told me it was against the "rules." What rule? You know, the rule that says you have to work during the week and have weekends off.


 "If it's not too late, get back to the reason you're an engineer in the first place—be-cause you like to build stuff."


I said that was silly and so I quit. I figured I could make an income by being a consultant and working out of my cellar, which I did for a while. So the company that wouldn't make the arrangement in the first place decided that they would hire me back for three days a week at the same pay I was getting for five. It was my first lesson in economics. I was making the same money as before and I had tax advantages. Fascinating! So off I went.


I learned a lot of lessons. For example, the lesson of price and cost. A friend of mine, of little education but lots of money (from selling used computers) said: "Dick, how come you're not successful?"


I said I didn't know. He offered a solution: "You don't want to be low bid, you want to be the highest bid. Would you go to a low-bid surgeon or a low-bid lawyer if you're on trial? No. If you are one of the best engineers in the world your price should reflect that." So my price did. I made sure my fees were always equal to or higher than anyone else's and I've been making a living since 1964.


I would point out that consulting, in general, is not a good way to make money. The way to make money is to get some equity position as part of your payment for your consulting. So when the company blossoms (1-in-10) over the next 10 years, you can be ready to reap the reward. That's when you get the motorcycle, the country home and the exotic vacations.


Why did I do this? Everyone assumes there's a plan. There is not. Generally, I just respond. In other words, I was annoyed that someone else was managing my life. I did not want to be managed. I did not want to manage my own life as a matter of fact. All I wanted to do was go skiing, logically, when there were no lines and because I could do better work over the weekend than I could during a weekday.


I loved technology (still do) and did not want to go into sales and marketing or management—especially not management. In fact, even now when I get an idea to start a company, I start it and then try to get out of the way and maintain a less than 20% ownership. Someone else can then run with it and get rich or go bankrupt. Most of the time it's bankrupt. It wasn't so much about how I changed, it was more that I didn't want to change into the suit.


"Is this all there is?" The answer is yes. You're here on earth to do good for yourself and for others. Your own health, both physical and mental, is more important than your family and your business. That is the real rule: get healthy first, the rest falls out as a result of your own internal physical and mental health.


I strongly suggest you read the book "Die Broke." It talks about the professional athlete who works for a living, signs a contract, plays his heart out, but in no way is he part of the team. This team stuff only comes from the top and not from the team members.


Another good book to read is "The Innovator's Solution." Try finding some outside reading too. Go to conferences you don't quite understand, and if it's not too late, get back to the reason you're an engineer in the first place—because you like to build stuff.


Meanwhile, you have my permission to enjoy the rest of your life.


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