Sailors live by wisdom imparted from those who came before. Back when ships were wood and men were steel, the ability to predict the weather was essential. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in morning, sailors warning” is as popular – and as enduring – as they come. It’s written that Jesus of Nazareth mentioned this weather prediction method in a public rebuke to his detractors some two thousand years ago.
I’ve long since made my home among the landlubbers, so my need for meteorology has largely been reduced to knowing when to grab my raincoat. There is, however, a piece of advice I’ve hung on to from my days on the boat:
“Always strive to raise yourself to your next level of incompetence.”
I received this bit of wisdom from Chief Tom Polonczyk, on the occasion of my advancement to Second Class Petty Officer while on board USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) – that makes it officially nautical in nature. And, it’s been key to almost all successful aspects of my personal and professional development. So, thanks for that, Chief.
By applying this wisdom, I’ve embarked on journeys where my knowledge & experience level offered me no chance for initial success. I’ve found, though, that the learning curve can be as steep as my passion to climb it. At times, it’s also revealed my limitations…which I consider tuition paid to the “School of Hard Knocks” and I’m proud to call that finest of institutions my Alma Mater. Sometimes you have to find out what you can’t do, in order to find out what you can do.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to put it in practice here at EXAIR. While in the Navy, I attended Naval Nuclear Power School, so I’ve got a better-than-average handle on the particulars of Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow. A couple of months ago, this convinced me that I had the ability to specify a system of Super Air Knives in a mass heat removal application. Turns out, there were variables that weren’t taken into account, and I consider it a divine stroke of luck that those variables worked in my favor, as the system performed above expectations. I don’t expect to get that lucky every time, so those variables are now part of my analysis of cooling applications. And so begins my ascent of the latest learning curve.
Just remember that this ongoing quest to exit your comfort zone is, in fact, continually expanding your comfort zone – and therein lies the reward. So…what’s your next level of incompetence?
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