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Man in the Arena

I worked on a C3 (Command, Combat and Communication) air defense system at Northrup Grumman when I was 19.  I was so proud of the fact that I was the youngest associate engineer on the project and I was always learning, like a sponge that just soak in all the knowledge.


One day, I was in a meeting and for the first time, I proposed (with great enthusiasm) a design solution to process simulations data to produce aircraft readiness report in hard real-time.  One of the senior engineer jumped out, criticized my design and later rejected it WITHOUT proposing a solution to the problem.  He just criticized.  Needless to say, I was very discouraged and somewhat upset.


That afternoon, another one of my teammate, Bruce, pulled me aside and explained to me that the reason why that senior team member was jumping up and down about my design was because that he was the one who is suppose to come up with a design and did not.  Bruce also showed me a printout in his hand and in that printout was a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt:


“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – President Theodore Roosevelt, Speech at the Sorbonne, April 23, 1910


Today, the almost exact same thing happened again.  I moved into a new role last week and the team I moved into is charged to created a technology road map for the next 6 ~ 12 months.  The team was struggling and puzzled for the past week and half with the format and the level of the road map presentation .  Our manager demands a draft by the end of this week.  So, I took the first stab at it and did a draft on the board.  Try to provide a framework for the team.  One team member jumped up and down about it without a proposal.  I later had to erase what I did on the board and almost exact same thing was later recreated on the board with much less organization.  Later, one of the team member later talked to me and joked about what had happened.  This time, I was the one who shared the quote.  ^_^


I was aggrieved at the first but this time I was not discouraged at all.  I think it was actually a good thing that what happen happened, for one, I know the team is now thinking and moving forward and two, because of what happened, the guys may feel that they must do a so good job now so they don’t end up looking so bad at the end.  Either way, I may now get what I wanted: the draft deliverable by the end of this week!  ^_^


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