Thursday, July 29, 2010

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When I first started writing The Computer-Aided Engineer column, my emphasis was on "computer-aided." Then I became aware of a need among my readers to be whole, feeling people--who also happen to be engineers.

Many engineering professionals were trying to find balance in their lives--they wanted to be good engineers while also being good children, good parents, good citizens. But there was a dearth of guidance, a lack of role models.

So I focused on character issues, and began to receive wonderful letters telling me I was speaking to readers' hearts.

What is character? It's who you are when nobody's looking.

Good character is keeping promises--to yourself and others--long after the emotional state you were in when you made them has passed.

And, amazingly, it's entirely a product of choice--not something you're born with, nor born into. It's built by your choices. If it is weak, you can strengthen it. It's who you choose to be, regardless of circumstances. It is you creating yourself.

One reader writes (I'm omitting personal references for privacy's sake), "While one may argue that an engineering magazine isn't really the place for such a discussion, one could argue equally convincingly that we all need to be reminded of these things all the time, everywhere possible.... What really caught my eye is the statement you made ... `We CHOOSE how to react.'"

That's the key to character--taking responsibility for what we do, how we react, even how we feel. We may not choose our initial "knee-jerk" reaction, but we certainly decide whether to feed into it, or reject it and replace it with a better one.

Nobody can force us to feel or act a certain way. If we say others control us, we create ourselves as victims--pathetic and impotent.

True, we can't help what happens, but we can help what we do about it.

Another reader said: "Once again I write to tell you how much I appreciate your columns in Computer-Aided Engineering.... They really touch me." I am touched, myself, that my words have an impact on readers' lives.

From a piping engineer: "First of all, let me tell you how I feel. Now most men will not say what their feelings are, but in this case I must. I think your column in Computer-Aided Engineering is great! When I get the magazine, I turn and read your article first."

Families share the benefits when engineers get the character message. "I read your column, and loved it. I even read it to the family. You bring the balance to life that I have always tried to grasp, too. Thank you for trying to get our colleagues to look at the fullness of life, and not just the technical baubles we love to talk about."

This reader identified my source: "A huge `thumbs up' for being bold and a great attitude for a consultant. Thank you for sharing your obviously inspired wisdom." I earnestly pray for direction when I write these columns; when they hit the mark, Someone other than me got through.

"I just read your Smile column. Bravo! Hope you have many converts [to smiling]! And thanks for having the courage to speak on the power of prayer."

Isn't it something? A columnist may discuss, or even advocate, all kinds of power--political, social, financial. But the power of prayer? That requires courage.

And I know why. If I advocate prayer as more than a self-gratifying noise, I must be saying--gasp--that Someone listens ... and even responds!

Well, let me make it really clear. I don't advocate any religion, but I do know Someone speaks in every heart--a Voice that says, "Take an umbrella," and we don't; later, standing in the unexpected downpour, we say, "Something told me to take an umbrella!"

I recommend listening and speaking to Something.

The Victorious Engineer

To purchase a copy of Joel Orr's book, The Victorious Engineer, go to

Dr. Joel N. Orr consults to Fortune 500 companies, high-tech startups, and government agencies on CAE issues. Founder of the League for Engineering Automation Productivity (LEAP) and the Bentley Engineering Laureate, he can be reached at;

Source Citation
Orr, Joel N. "Engineering Character." Computer-Aided Engineering 19.12 (2000): 10. Computer Database. Web. 29 July 2010.
Document URL

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