Recently on the Manager Tools forums, I shared some of my favorite quotes.
(If you lead or manage people, as a boss, a project manager, or a team lead, you really should be listening to Mike & Mark’s podcasts. Even on the rare occasions that I really disagree, I learn something. I try, with some success to apply what I’m learning to my work. I’m a premium member.)
“Don’t be ridiculous sergeant. They can’t possibly hit us at this.”
- unknown officer, often attributed to a American Civil War General.
This is probably apocryphal, but I don’t care. The point is that the guys in the trenches are closer to the problems, so if you’re going to second-guess them, it’s best to do so from good cover, and concealment.
- J. Robert Oppenhiemer, at the Trinity test.
This isn’t the quote usually attributed to Oppenheimer, but it is what eyewitnesses agree he said. I usually find it surprising when things work on the first try, particularly when it’s an entirely new system.
- Buzz Aldrin. (First words spoken from the Moon.)
When you are in the middle of doing a new thing, get the thing done before you worry about dressing it up. The “Tranquility base here….” line is a great one, but the first few seconds were still about making sure they were down, in one piece, and getting set up to get back off the surface in a hurry if they had to. They had a procedure for touchdown, and they stuck to it, even having just gone through an unexpectedly difficult approach.
“That’s enough of you. Let me talk to Beavis.”
- My brother, an Air Traffic Controller, to a particularly dense pilot.
My brother is both witty and subtle. He is also very well organized, and has little patience with people who aren’t prepared, particularly where safety is involved.
“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.”
- Werner von Braun
There is a companion to this quote, which I can’t quite place, that is something along the lines of …Real science starts when you say “that’s not right…” The other thing is, when you get stuck, don’t get frustrated, get interested.
“For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong.”
- H. L. Mencken
When people tell me to keep it simple, or that things should be easy, this is the one I remember. It is far too easy to jump to the wrong conclusion and hope the world is simpler than it actually is.
“Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.”
- Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
That’s my plan.