Unwritten Laws of Engineering

The Unwritten LAWS OF ENGINEERING (New York: American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1944)

This is a wonderful little 49-page book that offers timeless principles to support the pursuits of engineers and engineering managers. 

It should be required reading for all students studying engineering, especially before they head out to work as interns.

Book: The Power of Acknowledgement

The POWER of ACKNOWLEDGEMENT (New York: IIL Publishing, 2006)

Are You Like Me?

Although I’ve been working on this for years, I find there are still too many times when I think of a positive thought about something someone did, or how they treated me, but then let the thought disappear before acting on it.

My lost opportunities run the gamut from good things done by family members, friends, business contacts, and by everyday people who help me at the grocery store, the auto parts store and at many other places.

It’s An Easy Fix

Judith Umlas wrote this powerful little book as a reminder, and as a guide, to help readers strengthen their habits of acknowledging others.

Although it’s a quick read (97 pages), she packed it with an array of personal examples and a framework of seven valuable principles to guide our understanding and use of acknowledgements.

A Few of My Favorites

To give you a flavor of the book, here are some of my favorite gems:

  • “There is no scarcity of qualities we can and should acknowledge in the people around us.” P.12
  • Principle #1: The world is full of people who deserve to be acknowledged. P.23
  • Principle #2: Acknowledgement builds intimacy and creates powerful interactions. P.31
  • “All of us have acknowledgements stored in us. As you start paying attention to them, you will be shocked at the many things you could say to the people all around you that would make their day and change their lives.” P.35
  • “Acknowledging and striving go together. When people feel validated through acknowledgement, they can’t be stopped.” P.65

Be Brave…Do It Daily

This quote from the last page is a wonderful call to action. Will you be brave today and offer someone an authentic acknowledgement?

“You simply don’t know the full force and power of acknowledgement until you start using it, bravely, courageously and on a daily basis!”


Book: So Good They Can't Ignore You

So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love (New York, NY: Hachette Book Group, 2012)

This Book Goes Against The Tide

How often do you hear the career advice to simply “follow your passion and the money will follow”? 

As you can see from the title, this author has taken a contrarian perspective on careers. Essentially what he says is that you need to work your tail off to develop specific skills, and the passion will follow. He uses a nice variety of real-life stories to sell you on his thinking. 

I’m A Fan of the Author

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a fan of Cal Newport, his thinking, his blog, and the idea that hard work is most often a better path than relying on crazy dreams and passion.

My only wish is that I would have crossed paths with him and this book while I was in college. My career would probably have been much less ziggy and zaggy!

You’ll Learn About Steve Martin Too

I found this book to be a fascinating read. I especially liked the story of how he got the title of the book from a quote that comedian Steve Martin made during an interview with Charlie Rose.

The story about Steve Martin led me to buy and read his autobiography, Born Standing Up. It was enjoyable too, partially because I had seen Martin deliver his “wild and crazy guy” stand-up routine at Iowa State when I was in college there.

To learn the true story of his success via his book was a lot of fun. Trust me, Steve Martin paid his dues through years and years of practice before his huge success and payday arrived.

I Give It A Thumbs UP

For a unique and valuable perspective on career planning and development, I highly recommend this book (especially for young people).

Newport’s blog and other books are also very good. They include:

UPDATE: Another Perspective On This Topic

After writing this post, I stumbled on an article written by Jason Fried, a very successful entrepreneur and contributor to INC magazine, that he titled, ‘The Fallacy Of “Do What You Love’. Like Cal’s book, it’s worth reading.





Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations (Corvallis, OR: Jackson Creek Press, 2015)

An Important Book For Your Organization, Your Career…and Your Life

I’m excited for you, me, and the rest of the world. Why? Because I know what the ideas in this book can do for individuals and for groups. 

For over 12 years, I saw these ideas transform the work inside of a global, 65,000+ employee manufacturer. I’ve also experienced their positive impact personally, outside of the workplace, in many different settings since 1997. 

Not Your Boring, Run-of-the-Mill Book on Meetings 

As the Introduction reveals, this book goes much, much deeper than simple structural suggestions such as using agendas, starting on time, etc.

In fact, the sub-title reveals the real essence of this book: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations

As the author states early on, “Conversation and relationship create the foundation not only for meetings, but also for everyday life.”

As such, helping us understand perspective, effective conversations, and the creation of supportive relationships, is where he takes us in Strategies 1 through 3. Then in Strategies 4 through 7 he teaches us about designing, leading, and participating in meetings. Finally, Strategy 8 speaks to the building of “Remarkable Groups”.

Get To Know the Author

In the spirit of full transparency, you should know that Paul Axtell is a long-time friend, colleague, and mentor. His ideas and training programs have impacted my life in a host of positive ways.

Trained as a chemical engineer, his expertise today centers on designing effective conversations, leading meetings in ways that make them matter, and building remarkable groups. 

As you consider whether to purchase and leverage this outstanding book, I encourage you to check out Paul’s website HERE.


Book: CoffeeLunchCoffee

Coffee Lunch Coffee: A Practical Field Guide For Master Networking (Shawnee Mission, KS: Alana Muller Enterprises, LLC, 2012)

Learn How To Build A “Network of Supportive Relationships”

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of the word “networking”. However, I’m a huge fan of what the word represents and how vitally important the process of building relationships is for our social lives, for our careers, and for our businesses. I’m also a long-time fan of the idea that the activity of connecting with others should always be done from a win-win perspective.

These reasons, and others, are why I’m recommending this excellent book written by consultant, speaker, and coach, Alana Muller. Alana is a person who walks the talk. Her thinking aligns with mine, and she is always looking for ways to help the folks who she’s connected with. I like her, I like her approach and I like this book. 

If you’re serious about learning how to reach out to others and build what I like to call a “network of supportive relationships”, this book should be on your reading list. Alana’s blog is also a great resource.

Note: Sometimes I get pushback from engineers around this topic. This is a real shame because relationships are key to doing remarkable engineering. This is something Professor James Trevelyan speaks directly to in his new book, The Making of An Expert Engineer. I’ll be blogging more about it in the future.