Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I Want to be an Astronaut When I Grow Up

Did you ever hear the old joke,

Q: Why do adults always ask children what they want to be when they grow up?
A: They're looking for ideas.

I thought of this when I read the first comment to my last post. The post itself was wholly unremarkable. If I had any dignity left, I might have regretted not posting something more clever. But it certainly begs the question, "what do I want to do next?"

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an Astronaut. I had decent grades in school and a pretty good command of the science stuff, so it was not out of reach. I took flying lessons starting at 16, and got my private pilot license at 17. I pursued a degree in Aerospace Engineering, just what the Air Force and NASA were looking for in those days. But by the time I got fully rated, the Shuttle program had found itself mired in problems and then totally derailed with the explosion of Challenger. NASA was still recruiting new groups every two to three years versus annually as they had in the past, and then only fewer than ten pilot candidates in each group. I didn't even try.

And that is where things started to go astray. Then one day, while I was on leave and visiting my family, an 18-wheeler went over the top of the front-end of my car. A few fractured bones and a wicked concussion grounded me and put an end to my aviation career. Not that I was disqualified, but while I was grounded I went to New York and met a "kid" two years younger who took me fo a ride up the East River in his 40-foot-long half-million dollar cigarette boat, just like the ones you saw in Miami Vice. I can't say I was hooked on the boat ... I sail or cruise now and then, but it's just not my thing. But I was drawn by the lifestyle ... He was a stock broker. A nice guy ... not very bright or exceptional, but he had the boat, a nice condo on the upper east side, and no shortage of hot babes looking for a good time.

Compared to that, the Air Force was hitting on 2½ cylinders ... no boat, an assignment in the middle of the country surrounded by cornfields, and at best nice but marriage-minded "farm girls" (If you had asked me then, I would have told you that I was looking for a Maryanne rather than a Ginger, but I was kidding myself. Today, however, it would be a Maryanne). It was the 1980's and I was missing out. So off to business school I went.

I once heard a joke that B-school is the fallback for people who fail out of every other career choice. I would contend that that would be more correctly stated to be Real Estate. But the funny thing about B-school is that for all of their talk about applying rigorous study and analysis, it is largely psuedo science. B-school and Business in general is simply muddling through a fairly common set of problems and hopefully not making the same mistakes that led others to failure in the past. That is why a lot of business school is doing case studies. Here is Company A .... they had this problem, this is what they did, and this is how things turned out ... if the outcome was good, apply their measures to your own similar problem, otherwise don't do what they did.

It's a formula that has worked for me for years ... People think you are brilliant for solving problems or moving things forward, and they throw a few more dollars at you each year until you no longer fit the organization say "No" too often. Then they throw even more money to make you go away. They never ask why you started to say "No" so much, and if they did they would never have let you go. You say "No" because you start to see the same dumb ideas being suggested and, having lived through the results of those ideas once or twice before, you grabbed a clue and said "No."

I was amused to hear that my old company went ahead with a project that I had said "no" to and had lost a ton of money. Then I met with a consultant who is working with one of the several people who took the pieces of my old job and he told me that the guy is working out just fine. Win some, lose some. In the meantime, the consultant asked why I had take the job I was currently in, and I coulnd't give him an answer other than I wanted to stay in Germany with my Partnerin and this was the least worst way of doing it.

Not exactly the best way to make a life choice. Which is why quitting the job was probably not the worst choice I could make. Jack Welch would probably have told me to find another job first before quitting ... my mother and the Partnerin certainly did. But when I described one of the mind-numbing exchanges I had a few weeks ago to the Partnerin, even she agreed that I needed to take a positive step. So I did.

My somewhat cruel boss was in my office yesterday, and he saw an insect crawling across the end of my desk. He said, "You have an animal in your office." Oddly enough, the Partnerin also calls bugs "animals." Anyway, I grab one of the mindless 40-page powerpoint presentations I am asked to prepare and move toward squashing the bug, and the boss says, "What, are you going to kill it?"

"Yes, why not?"

No explanation, but he picks up the bug and puts in on the floor. So I say, "Great, now I'm going to have bugs breeding in my carpet."

So he continues, "Yes, but he did nothing to harm you. Why would you kill him?"

"Because I don't want bugs breeding and overrunning my office while I am still here."

And I wonder ... why would someone who doesn't think twice about swatting down the members of his staff be so concerned about an insect.

I made a right choice indeed, but I still have that nagging question of what I want to do next ....

I'm too old to be an Astronaut, but I think I want my next career to be back in the aviation world. Aerial photography and banner-tows don't make you rich, but they aren't the worst way to pass a few hours and make a [very] few bucks. I could do it today in the US, but to do it in Europe will take a little effort. Hmmm. We'll see.


Blogger mshuffma97 said...

Aha! I knew it. Your club membership application is in the mail.


9:42 AM, June 08, 2007  
Blogger Haddock said...

A change is as good as a rest!
Hope you really enjoy what ever you do next! :)

6:59 PM, June 09, 2007  
Blogger mshuffma97 said...

By the way, here's a quote I found recently that sums up my opinion on things:

"It is better to struggle in the service of one's dreams than to find instant success at meaningless work."

Of course, those around me may not agree with this at times, but I certainly do.

10:38 AM, June 11, 2007  
Blogger Claire said...

Figuring out what to do next is a challenge. When I decided to quit looking for university positions, I was a bit sad. However, there is a lot to be said for being your own boss. I am sure that you will figure out the right path.

PS I wanted to be an astronaut, too! But then I had physics in high school and it was all down hill!

12:50 PM, July 16, 2007  

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