Monthly Archives: October 2013

Pennies add up!

It was a dark and foggy night…

and I was a teenager.

My dad was driving the two us on the local interstate highway.

And I was impressed with how bright the newly-installed car lane markers were. “Much better than paint. Besides, who decided lane dividers should be white paint… seems pretty silly in areas where it snows, like here in the Midwest!”

The curves of the lanes were now easy to spot.

And almost elegant in their glistening arcs, eventually fading out of view in the thickening fog.

My dad commented, “Yes, I’m so glad we finally have these reflectors! I saw them on the roads many years ago when I was traveling in Scotland. Did you know the guy who invented them earns about a penny per reflector?”

I was in disbelief. “ONLY a penny? Geez, it sounds like he got ripped off.”

“But LYnn, start counting them.”

So I began counting.

Many outlining the lane we were driving in. And then multiplying by 3 to include the other lanes. Multiplying again to include the lanes heading the opposite direction… and how many miles long is this highway?

Quickly I understood– the huge numbers in use, not only in our state but throughout other major cities in the USA, let alone the other countries.

That “Reflector Guy” was RICH!

It got me thinking: “What if I could invent something and get paid a few pennies each … from millions of uses?”


Culture Clash: “Just the facts, m’am.”

Engineers spend years studying facts in their classwork.

Laws of gravity and mechanical leverage.

The rules of mathematics.

The sometimes-exasperating way a computer will do exactly what your lines of programming say… even if it wasn’t what you intended.

What you can ignore, and what must you account for. And how to apply your knowledge in an inexact world.

Mistakes can be costly: a bad yearly performance review, millions of dollars in recalled product, your job, or even the passenger’s life in the case of an automobile or aircraft failure.

As an aerospace engineer, I was taught that storytelling was a time-wasting distraction in a meeting, and sometimes was a way to distract from numbers that were not pleasing… and to be on guard for those effects when stories were being told.

In the world of the engineer, facts are crucial.

In comparison network marketing places the emphasis on telling stories.

The thrill of discovery of the product. The perseverance of the founder.

How you found your current company.

Tales of celebrations when milestones were reached.

An innocent misstatement of a detail doesn’t necessarily negate the lesson taught in the story.

And trying to learn (and teach) all the facts about your company’s pay plan can be paralyzing to the growth of your distributor organization.

I propose a balanced solution.

Engineers Can: build the skills of engaging storytelling.
A reasonable number of facts can be woven into a presentation, or simply held in memory until the question is asked.

To Communicate With Engineers: tell stories but be ready with your facts!
Be prepared to give a one-sentence synopsis of your story’s lesson that includes an important fact, such as “We sold ___% more product in 2012 compared to 2011.” Third party tools (such as DVDs and links to research articles about the product) can be helpful to present facts.

In A Nutshell:
If your stories seem outlandish to an engineer, they will become believable if you can back them up with verifiable facts.


Once a Rocket Scientist, Always a Rocket Scientist


Earning this degree was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.

In my childhood I watched humans set foot on the moon via television.

I stared at my dad’s moon map on the wall of our family apartment in the Married Student Housing at Purdue, memorizing crater names
such as Copernicus at the age of three.

My dad fed our mutual fascination about outer space, indulging me with trips to the local planetarium, watching the Space Shuttle coast overhead
on a brilliant June afternoon on our side lawn, and a family trip
to the NASA Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

My passionate memories helped sustain me
during the sometimes-punishing load of coursework.

Staying awake for more than 24 hours in a row to finish a semester project. For most classes in my major. Not because of procrastination. If you skipped one assignment, you were lost for the remainder of the semester and would likely fail the course. Plus your regular course homework due every week.
No late homework accepted. No relief for 16 weeks  at a stretch.

Muscle fatigue so bad during my junior year that in order to handwrite the non-programming homework,   I had to pick up the mechanical pencil in my left fingers, place it into my right hand, then squeeze my left fingers
around my right ones to close my right hand into a writing position.

Exhaustion so deep that I fell asleep sitting straight up in the study lounge.
I remember hearing footsteps enter, then halt,
and in my mind begging for their owner to let me sleep.
Professor Kathleen Howell told me later that day, she was the one who saw me and wondered why I didn’t say hi, then realized
I was sleeping with my eyes open.

Writing a seemingly endless stream of FORTRAN computer programs, including an 800 line beast for the senior year project, because that’s how you plan an accurate trajectory for your designed-on-paper
atmosphere-braking shuttle.

Worth every minute.

They don’t call it Rocket Science for nothing!