In The Trenches
by Gerard Fonte
The Business of Electronics Through Practical Design and Lessons Learned
In The Trenches
Everyone wants to succeed.
But, some people are better
at it than others. Is it really
the person? Or is it how they
address their objectives? We'll look
at the skills needed to be successful.
And, we'll see that anyone can
improve their success rate once
they understand the steps for
What is Success?
NUTS & VOLTS
A while back, I was one of a
number of people asked to participate in a "Career Day" at a local
high school. Before each of us started to discuss our particular area of
interest, the principal addressed the
students and defined success in
terms of four clear and simple steps:
1. Define a goal; 2. Decide what you
want to spend to get that goal; 3.
Make a plan; and 4. Execute the
plan. I was surprised to realize that
I'd been saying those same things
(but with much less eloquence).
However, before we start on
these steps, there is an important
point that has to be made. Success
is a subjective measure. Success is
what you think it is ... not what
someone else thinks. You don't have
to get straight A's to be a successful
student. You don't have to make billions of dollars to be successful in
business. You are a success if you
think and feel you are. (Of course,
this doesn't preclude others from
trying to change your mind.)
Remember, success is achieving
your goal, not someone else's goal.
Defining a Goal
The first step is probably the
most direct and simple.
Nevertheless, it seems to be overlooked with regularity. It's just defining what you want. Naturally, there
are many things you want. Some
are general like fame and fortune.
Others are more specific like getting
a raise or a promotion. It's important to know precisely what you
Unfortunately there are a fair
number of people who want to be
successful but don't really have any
goals. These people are really walking through life without any direction. They think that if they go to
work each day and do their job that,
in the end, they'll be a vice president
of the company. Unfortunately, this
is not a very likely outcome.
These people are depending on
others to bestow success on them.
Success is not something given by
others, it is something you craft for
yourself. Let's be realistic, if you had
to choose between giving a promotion to yourself or some other worker, you'd most likely choose yourself. Being selfish is human nature,
and there's nothing wrong with that
(within reasonable limits). Everyone
wants to win.
It's important to choose a reasonable goal. I'm 5' 5" tall. So, it's
not reasonable for me to have a goal
as a center for the New York Knicks
basketball team. But, gymnasts are
generally about my size. So, being
an Olympic gymnast might be a
reasonable goal for me (when I was
younger — much younger — that is).
Most academic or business goals
are usually less restrictive. There are
a lot more doctors, lawyers, and
engineers than there are professional athletes. For most people, it's usu-
ally easier to learn how to be a better doctor or engineer than it is to
learn how to rebound better.
This leads to one of my favorite
sayings which is, "Anyone can be
anything they want, but no one can
be everything they want." What I
mean is that is that anyone can
exceed well beyond what they think
they are capable of. (If they work at
it.) So, lofty goals are not unreasonable. You can be a senator or the
vice president of a large company.
It's also important that your
main goals in life be flexible and
open-ended. Athletes often have
problems because they don't see
past the Super Bowl or World Series.
How do you deal with a career that
ends at age 27?
These are very competitive people who can no longer compete.
They have no more goals in life. If
they don't make new ones, they can
have serious problems.
After you make a million dollars, will you stop? If you do, what
do you plan to do after that? If you
don't stop, how many millions do
you want? (Making a million dollars
is fairly straightforward — more on
I was talking to a business
friend. She seemed serious when
she said she wanted to retire and
live the rest of her life in the sun on
a beach. I asked her how long she
really thought she could do that
before she went nuts from boredom.
She paused and said, "You're right.
Probably a month." Do your goals fit
you? That's important, too.
Engineers are very fortunate in
that they often choose learning as a
life goal. This is a great choice. It's
open-ended. You can never learn