#92 Jethro Tull and the Engineer’s Mind

by Steven Cerri on July 28, 2010

Emotions of Music versus Work

Hello everyone!

Recently I rented a DVD of Jethro Tull in concert live at Montreux, Switzerland in 2003.

For those of you who lived through the rock and roll era of the 1970s the name Jethro Tull probably brings back a flood of memories as it does for me.

While watching the DVD of Jethro Tull and hearing the music produced and performed by the band a whole flood of emotions came racing back.  Memories of what I was living through at the time I listened to the music the first time.  I still remember where I was the first time I heard Aqua Lung and Locomotive Breath.  I remember who I was at that time in my life.  I remember what I valued and what I thought was important.  I was a graduate student in geophysics at the University of Southern California, teaching, going to school, doing research; probably a typical graduate student in the mid 70s.

And as they say, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.  I am definitely not the same person, nor do I have the same values and beliefs.  Sure some remain but not all.  Yet, the emotions brought up by that music are strong and clear and pleasing as if I were back there on campus.

Jethro Tull or the Beatles

Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If it’s not Jethro Tull it may be the Beatles; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Credence Clearwater Revival; or Cream, just to name a few.  We acknowledge that these emotions are real, and in most cases, valued and even cherished.  We accept this flood of emotions because they do not seem to get in our way.  In fact, they seem to enhance our life, taking us back to a time we appreciate; even giving our current life some type of meaning and “juice”.  When we hear the music maybe we get a smile on our faces, maybe a spring in our step, maybe a racing of the heartbeat, a little more energy, a little more excitement for whatever we are doing just then.

The interesting thing is that most people accept these emotions and assume they are, in some fashion, exceptions in our everyday lives.  Actually, they are not.  We are generally influenced and even ruled by emotions of old just like those of our favorite songs.  Not just emotions tied to past music.  But most people are powerfully tied to emotions connected to their past experiences.  These old emotions often run us.  Most people don’t really choose how they behave.  They do not truly have choice in their lives.

Are You Really Logical?

Oh, I know.  As engineers, scientists, technical professionals, technical managers, and executives, you all think that your logical brain allows you to choose your behavior.  Those of us who traveled through the engineering curriculum … we are the logical ones on the planet.  We make our decisions through clear reason.  Well, I can guarantee you, you don’t.

I am constantly coaching engineers and technical managers and executives who are attempting to get to the next level of their careers and are stumbling over some block, some behavior that just isn’t working for them and they are not quite sure what is causing it.  The answer; in most cases, it is their old emotions; the old patterns that hold them back.  Old patterns that seem to be logically grounded.  But they are nothing but old patterns tied to the emotions of “old songs”.  Old ways of moving through the world.  Old ways of dealing with situations that worked at one time but don’t now.  Old bands, old concerts, old songs that no longer exist or no longer play well or sound so great in the present.

Old ideas, values, beliefs, and emotions that produce patterns of behavior that keep you from advancing your career in ways you would like.  Old emotions about leading and managing.  Old emotions about conflict avoidance.  Old emotions about whose ideas are more important, yours or the merging of the best ideas of the team.  Old ideas about how independently you want to work and old ideas about management oversight, whether you are a direct report or the manager.  And these old ideas may initiate behaviors in you that are more suited to your past than to your present.

The behaviors that keep your career from advancing may not be triggered by the music of Jethro Tull or the Beatles.  But they may indeed be triggered by present situations that resemble past circumstances.  They may be triggered by words spoken that remind you of words spoken years ago.  You may be aware of the triggers or you may not.  But the triggers are there none-the-less.

Waltz versus Rock-n-Roll

The first step in advancing your career as an engineer or manager, or moving into management for the first time, or influencing without having specific authority, is understanding what “old songs” are getting in your way and keeping you from making the adjustments that will make you successful going forward.  Just as the forms of music change over time, the idea that what got you where you are now will get you to where you want to go next is like believing that the waltz is the only music around.  The waltz is not rock-and-roll.  Music evolves. You must too.

Until you understand that you “run” most of the time on automatic, you’re stuck… in automatic.  Until you understand what “old songs” or “old programs” run you, you are stuck.  Only when you can go beyond those programs, only when you can start over with new programs of your choosing can you stop running on automatic and choose your actions.   Only then can you change your way of moving through the world so you can get unstuck and advance your career as you want to.

Advancing Your Engineering Career

It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the old music you liked in the past if you really want to… when you choose to.  It just means that you add new songs to your list and you are not always driven to choose Jethro Tull; The Beatles; Blood, Sweat, and Tears; or Cream as the only music to listen to.  Only at this point do you really have choice.  Only at this point and in this way do you really have the choice to “create the career you want”.  Even Santana evolves.

Be well,

Steven Cerri

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