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Correspondence to other Consultants?
Updated:  Monday, December 14, 2015 04:46 AM
As a result of the circuits and articles that have been published, I have been contacted by engineers who are either already consultants or who are thinking about it. Most want to know how I became a consultant, why I remain a consultant and secrets of my success. I am including some representative excerpts from my responses to this kind of correspondence. Perhaps some of these letters contain information that you might find useful. They should give you some insight into the real world of consulting. All the warts and concerns are left intact. I encourage your comments about the consulting profession.

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Dear Dave,

I noticed your message in sci.electronics.basics and went to your web page. It's very good, and I have added it to my list of favorites. Thanks!

I'm especially intrigued by the comments about creative people. I haven't studied the "creative personality" or anything, so I'm just kind of reacting to what I read on your page. One day early on in university, one other student accused me of being creative because I tied strings to the light switch in my dorm-room and routed them over thumbtacks to my bed. I could turn on or off three different lights by pulling strings without getting out of my bed (which I hate to do, most of the time :) ). At the time I didn't see what was so creative about it; I just satisfied a need.

Years later I realized I was happiest when I was building things. My revelation came when I equated "building things" with "creating things". Thus, I am a "creative" person. Before, I always thought a creative person was the one that came up with the most unexpected, but useful answers. My answers always seem to be kind of simple-minded, and not always the best. But sometimes I'm the only one with an answer, so it's okay. Overall, I get by.

The thing that struck me about your web page was your comments about creative people being generalists. Here goes: I studied Math at university, with the idea that it was the foundation on which I could do all other learning. I love physics, and enjoy electronics as a hobby. I also play the piano at a very advanced level, and have conducted choirs, written music for different instruments (usually as the need arises), and sing solos. I do lots of woodworking. I attend church religiously :). I play basketball each week, but do well at other sports, too. I take good pictures with my camera, speak a bit of French, and cook the odd gourmet dish. My garden is full of interesting plants, and I spend a lot of time babying them. Whenever I see something in the store that I think is overpriced or poorly done, I wonder about how I can build it, or improve it. It drives my wife crazy, and it gets to be a curse, eventually, because my house is very cluttered with projects on the go. My computer is cluttered with projects, too. But I learn from all of this, so it's okay.

My library is large, but suddenly stopped growing when I got connected to the internet. You're right, I read everything that's interesting. My wife jokes about me reading physics books before bed-time, but I learn new things so it makes me happy.

I write computer software for a living. I have just started a job writing design and simulation software for the fiber optics industry. Very challenging work, and I'm working with a lot of very bright people. Being a generalist in this environment is hard because you're competing with people who are focused very intensely on one thing. As a project leader I'm just hoping I can leverage their talents for our mutual benefit, without them feeling like I'm an idiot. To quote William Shatner, I know nothing. But
neither does anyone else!

My mother tells me that my powers of concentration were sometimes scary. Scary because I only used them when I had hopelessly procrastinated myself into an impossible deadline. Somehow I'd pull through, but just by focusing intensely. I have to agree that I'd prefer to concentrate on something and not be interrupted, but nowadays, especially when working in the computer
industry, I never get time to do that. These guys want solutions yesterday! It's making me distracted, and I feel I'm losing my ability to concentrate.

The thing about having several projects on the go is interesting. I just started my new job, and just three weeks into it I started working on an outside contract. Different programming language, a simulator again, but this time not an optical simulator, but an aluminum plant business simulator. Very interesting, and the guy that wrote it is a genius and a good friend. I'm hoping to learn new skills from him.

I wear casual clothes, but I'm not frumpy or disheveled. I put on a suit when I want a new job. I had very long hair for awhile, and now it's short. I prefer to be comfortable; I grew long hair when my winter coat had no hood and I wanted to be warm. It made sense to me. Why couldn't I explain it to
my dad? I don't think I've ever been labeled "laid back" (though I aspire to that moniker), but quiet, sensitive, and shy are overused terms in my personality file. I love humor, and almost anything anyone is likely to say around me is fodder for a joke, but I try to limit the amount of time I spend fooling around because work is important, too.

I left my last job when my biggest ideas and concerns were given short shrift by my supervisors. I long to start my own company, but supporting a family takes a high priority and I'm not willing to jeopardize that at the moment. I'm not concerned so much about power or control as I am about
freedom. There's just way too much fascinating stuff going on in the world to get stuck doing one thing for somebody else ALL of the time.

Well it's been fun talking about myself to a complete stranger. But somehow I sense that you know me already. Almost everything on your web page is me. So, perhaps this letter can serve to reinforce the conclusions you've already drawn. Thanks again for helping me to understand myself a little
better. Talk to you later.
- Owen -

 

Hi Owen,

Thanks for your kind words about my website. Thanks also for your wonderful story of your life as a creative person. I'm going to copy your letter and file it away. It is a perfect example of many of the highly creative people I have met over the years. Yes, I think we are very much alike.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Let's keep in touch. Let me know how your are doing. Perhaps we can start a dialog about how creative people can walk the thin line between earning a living and satisfying their creative urges.

A frustrated creative person,
Dave Johnson

 

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