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March 03, 2012


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I was rather fortunate that soon after I started work in 1960 at what today is the largest aerospace company in the USA my supervisor was discussing with me a particular structural analysis that was routinely being performed on the heat shields of the warheads carried by ballistic missiles. The current method being used was extremely tedious requiring that a huge amount of data be collected from the thermodynamic and aerodynamic departments, tabulated on 80 column worksheets, then transferred onto cards by keypunch operators for input into a computer program. This process took weeks to obtain the results for a single trajectory. He asked me to come up with an improved technique. Without going into all the details I was able to come up with a technique that used the computer to do all of the tedious dog work and shorten the time involved from several weeks to a couple of days.

The engineers that formerly did the boring dog work were very happy and were then available to perform more challenging assignments. The net result was that my supervisor put me in for a "Cost Improvement Award" which I later received along with a promotion. By the time I retired in 1992 I was running multi-million dollar R&D programs.

I also found that you can't always be "Mr. Nice Guy" when you're in a competitive situation. We have all heard the old proverb, "Nice guys finish last" and it's true. If you see an opportunity for advancement you have to jump at it rather than sitting back and hoping that it will come to you.

Another way to get a promotion is to have sexual relations with your boss. Beleive me, it works.

Believe me! it's "i" before "e" except after "c".

Not the response I'd have expected after your standard Yahoo! Finance comment.

Promotions are easy - raises to compensate for the promotion are much harder to come by.

Sometimes it's a case of being in the right place at the right time. During my whole career from 1956 to 1992 I was working in the Defense industry, this period coincided with the Cold War, when the government was developing and building new missiles, ships, aircraft etc. at an unprecedented rate. I received a raise every single year that I worked and by the time I retired I was earning just under 17 times what I was earning when I started. The Cold War ended just before I retired. My former company gave me a Golden Handshake to retire about 6 months earlier than I planned. Since I retired, the facility where I worked has gone from 35,000 employees to less than 5,000.

Very often one's success or failure in any endeavour is the result of timing, and unfortunately since none of us have a crystal ball, timing can sometimes be unbelievably bad. An example of bad timing is buying a home at the peak of the housing bubble, making a large investment at the peak of the bubble, or opening a business, or graduating from college at the start of the current recession.

When I started my career at the age of 22 I had no idea that, in hindsight, my timing would turn out to be perfect. That's where LUCK comes in.

Limey makes two of the most critical observations about finance: Timing and luck.

So much effort has gone into trying to optimally time financial moves. Only long after the fact can one determine if you acted at the best time.

However, I think the most underrated contributor to anyone's success is luck. None of us chose where, when and to whom to be born. We didn't select our physical or mental abilities. Even if all the decisions within our control were executed perfectly for the best possible strategy, we still can be undone by factors outside our control.

The "Luckyiest" event in my life happened in 1950 when I was 16. My friend Geoff and I went to a dance one evening and who should I see when we walked in but an ex-girlfriend sitting next to another girl that turned out to be her cousin. I danced all evening with my "ex" and my friend danced with her cousin. A few days later Geoff contacted me to tell me that he had a movie date with the cousin but he wouldn't be able to make it. Knowing that I lived very near the movie theater he asked me if I could be there Saturday at 7pm when she showed up and give her his apologies. I showed up, gave her his apologies and asked her if she would like to see the movie with me. That was the start of a courtship that lasted unti 1956 when we got married and then 4 months later emigrated to the USA. That also happened to be the first time ever that either of us had gone to that particular dance hall. We're still married and this July will be our 56th. anniversary.

That wasn't the only chance event in my life that had a huge effect, there were 2 or 3 others that were so life changing that I hate to think where I would be today if they hadn't happened. As you say it's only by looking back in time that you can see that your actions were either beneficial or detrimental to your life. Our three children on the other hand each made a big mistake when they married, as have over half the population.

No, I meant Beleive. I speak the Engrish language, not English.

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