“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” – Admiral Jim Stockdale
It was hot in our valley this past week! I built a simple outdoor weather station that displays current temperature, pressure and humidity. This is the first time I saw it go above 114°F (45°C). I was never so glad that I had planned time off and we had arranged for home healthcare to stay with my mother-in-law so that my wife, daughters and I could get away for a day. Our big vacation was a trip down the 126 freeway to Ventura.
Sometimes the simple things are best. We parked at the beach, rolled down the windows and enjoyed the cool breeze. We ate lunch in our van and watched the surf perform its dance across the shore. It was like each wave was an ocean exhale reminding us that time keeps moving forward. Its cool breath swept up the beach and gently across our faces. It was serene and relaxing.
As you can imagine, we were not the only ones to have this brilliant idea. The streets and beaches were full of cars and people. Sadly, most were not wearing masks or even attempting to social distance as they wandered about between the parking lots and beaches. It struck me how difficult it has been for us to maintain vigilance in this area as we enter our 6th month of this pandemic. I understand the frustration and know the desire to get back to normal, without face masks, distancing or shields. There is a temptation to dismiss the science, minimize the seriousness or even justify rebellion against these safety measures. Some of us figure that if we ignore it, it will just go away. Unfortunately, that can only prolong and increase the impact.
We must never lose hope. As the ocean reminds us that time marches on, so must we. But that faithful determination must be coupled with discipline to confront reality. As engineers, science is the illumination and tool of our profession. We practice the scientific method to systematically experiment, learn and devise solutions. Uncertainty, mystery and fear are chasms that we can bridge with methodical, step by step discovery and progress. We can tunnel through difficult realities with cunning application of knowledge and persistence. The same can apply to this coronavirus pandemic and to the challenges in our businesses. We can use our skills and expertise to help chart a solution forward.
Are we or others assuming or inventing a reality inconsistent with our scientific training? Are there problems in front of us that could use a methodical approach to fully uncover and fix? Do we set the example for others of being helpful, but logical, optimistic but scientific in our approach? While 2020 has been an extremely challenging year, it is also a reminder that we have come a long way as a human family. Behind us is an ocean of knowledge, discovery and tools that can amplify our ability to help those before us. This week, I challenge you to tap that reservoir and heroically apply your talents to the problems at hand. Strengthen your mind with hope and logic and let the winds of knowledge propel us forward. And please, like other super heroes, wear a mask. Stay scientific (and safe) out there!