Making good decisions is a very important aspect of engineering.  Get as much information as you need in order to make an informed decision and then commit to it.  Sometimes people provide you with additional information after you decide.  It’s okay to change your mind even after you make a decision.

More than two decades ago, I was asked if I would move to South Africa for the company I was working for.  The idea intrigued me.  At dinner that night I asked my wife and two children if they would want to move to Africa.  In unison they said, “NO!”  Undeterred by this rejection, I asked, “How about South Africa?”  Again, I was met with a hearty, “No!”

The next day I reported this to my employer.  He asked me if I’d consider going there for two weeks to see what I thought of the place and the possibility of moving there.  That night I discussed it with my wife.  We talked logistics, like would we keep our house, would we have to store everything. 

The following morning, I asked my boss more questions.  He said we could ship a container with our belongings, and he’d pay to have the rest put into storage.  So, off I went to South Africa.  Two weeks turned into four or five weeks.  By the time I returned home there wasn’t a chance to sit down and make a logical decision because if we were going it would be soon and there were a lot of things to do to get prepared.  Find a property manager, have a yard sale, take whatever is left to a charity.  Decide what to pack and what to store.  So many things to do.  My wife asked me what I wanted.  I responded that I didn’t want to look back on my life and wonder what my life would have been like if we had gone to Africa.  She understood completely.  We took care of the logistics as quickly as we could.  It was hectic.  Our moving truck was to arrive January 2nd, 2000.  The day after Y2K.  For anyone who has forgotten, that was the event where our computers might not work right because we’d previously been referring to years with only their last 2 digits.  Fortunately, the world didn’t implode.

There is a lot more to the story, but this is about decision-making.  When I made my decision, it was based on incomplete information, but it was informed.  It was almost a snap decision, but it had been in the making for several weeks.  And I think it was the right decision.  I literally wouldn’t be who I am today if I’d just stayed in my comfortable ranch house in the suburbs.   

Most engineering reports really are a collection of opinions.  And data.  And analyses.  Hopefully those opinions are very well-informed.  There are a lot of decisions that have to be made in order to develop those well-informed decisions.  Learn to make good decisions based on the available information in-hand.

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