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upFront.eZine #1,138: What I Learned
Good-bye to Inside the Business of CAD | 12 September 2022
From the editor: This is the retirement issue of upFront.eZine, the last one after I (and guest editorialists) churned out 1,138 issues over 27 years — just over two million words, I estimate.
Frankly, I have become tired, having begun in 1972 with hand drafting. It is important to know when to finish well, and then to look forward to all that can come next.
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Throughout my life, people said and wrote things that had an impact on me, and so for this last issue of upFront.eZine, I’d like to share some of them with you.
As a boy, I was a voracious reader, among which I devoured the Hardy Boys series from the local library. The one that fascinated me most was “The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook,” from which I learned many useful life lessons, such as these:
Always be aware of what is around you (perhaps the most useful advice I ever received)
Learn to read upside-down (useful in meetings with bosses)
At the end of my first real summer job, the fabrication shop foreman called me into his office for the job evaluation. He called me a good worker generally, but had this complaint: I needed to work faster. His advice turned me into a speed demon in my work, and I taught myself to speed read in university.
In my first year of university, the music group Chicago released Chicago VII with a song titled:
Count on Me
...which gave me the impetus to become someone people could count on. (Paradoxically, the song is about an unaccountable guy.)
In a later university year, a line from the song “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” on Neil Young’s album Rust Never Sleeps struck a chord with me:
It is better to burn out than it is to rust
...and I made that my style for the next many decades, as I worked up to 16 hours a day, 6.5 days a week to pump out hundreds of books, magazine articles, and video tutorials.
While studying at the University of British Columbia, one of my professors said something that stuck with me (h/t Gerry Brown):
The conclusions are usually correct; it’s the assumptions you have to question
...following which I’ve found that when an argument makes an error in logic, it’s often in the first sentences.
The technical editor at Stereo Review magazine, Julian Hirsch, became a hero to me, as he offended advertisers by being hardcore in testing stereo equipment dispassionately, using consistent evaluation techniques. He was my role model when in 1985 I began the job of technical editor at CADalyst magazine, where I sometimes offended advertisers — something which continues to this day, and resulted in three lawsuits threatened by CAD vendors over the last number of years against me (none went further than the threat).
One day at CADalyst magazine, the managing editor came across an article and exclaimed, “This exactly describes you, Ralph!”
...is someone who, because they work with information, can work anywhere in the world for anyone. This was a new concept at the time, and my first inkling that I didn’t need to commute to work at a fixed wage for a single boss. The ever-cheerful Colleen McLaughlin went on to help me launch my book career.
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A few years later, in 1991, I quit my job as senior editor at CADalyst magazine to be self-employed. Shortly after, I devoured Alvin Toffler’s book in which he described the shift in power that was occurring, from big corporations to individuals:
...and I credit him with giving me early on the confidence to know that I could be successful as a one-man technical publishing company.
In the early years of this newsletter, a marketing person told me that he found upFront.eZine boring, because it read like every other newsletter. Then Yoav Etiel told me something life-changing:
Tell me what I don’t know
...and from that day on, I strove to tell you folks stories no one else was telling.
Along the way, I came up with a series of my own sayings.
Have many fingers in many pies
...which means you should avoid having too much business with a single client, for if they drop you, you are in sudden financial trouble. Instead, run many smaller projects for a larger number of clients.
It’s not who you know, but who knows you
...points to the importance of self-marketing. Because I can know about someone like Jeff Bezos, but that knowledge is not useful for my business, unless he knows me, which is unlikely.
Fire clients who are really annoying
...refers to some clients who are too much trouble to be worth the income they provide your firm. Lower your blood pressure by getting rid of them.
Society consists of those desperately hanging onto to their power by whatever means possible, being battled by those seeking shortcuts to gaining power
...explains the dynamics taking place inside businesses, among political parties, and on the battlefield.
We can’t predict the future, but we can predict human nature
...says we cannot know how future events will unfold (c.f. Ukraine), but humans do act in a number of predictable ways. On top of the list is #MeFirst.
It’s okay to be right when everyone else is wrong
…means that whatever is true is not based on consensus necessarily, but by thinking through the consequences, especially when the thinking is uncomfortable. This saying also guided me in thinking about things in reverse, the other way around, and what is wrong when all say it is right.
And a final one:
To be very good at anything, you need both passion and ability
What Others Wrote
Randall Newton and others on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6970178006946369537/
Roopinder Tara on engineering.com: engineering.com/story/the-big-grabowski-does-not-abide
Matt Lombard on DeZign Stuff: dezignstuff.com/ralph-grabowski-retiring
Ralph Grabowski on WorldCAD Access: worldcadaccess.com/blog/2022/07/acheving-my-three-goals.html
About that Mug
A *very* limited edition coffee mug (limited to four!) commemorating this retirement issue is available for $25 + postage to your country. See what it looks like atop this newsletter.
To reserve one, write firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let the first four respondents know the cost of postage to their country (it might be prohibitive!), and the ordering information.
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All is not lost, as all back issues of upFront.eZine can be found at upfrontezine.com.
Soli Deo Gloria
“This tweet has intentionally been left blank.”
- Manager Speak (@managerspeak on Twitter)
Thank You, Readers
Thank you to these readers who donated towards the operation of upFront.eZine:
Christopher Huntley: “I have been reading your newsletter, on and off, for around 20 years and it will be a shame to lose your commentary and insights. I wish you a happy retirement.”
CAD Concepts (small company donation)
KCL (small company donation): “Thank you for the great read over all of these years.”
Dairobi Paul: “Individual subscription, plus small contribution to retirement. All the best.”
Novedge (small company donation): “We will really miss you. For so many years you kept us up to date with what was going on in the industry and with thought-provoking articles. We wish you the very best for whatever life will bring to you next.”
upFront.eZine is no longer published. To unsubscribe, click the Unsubscribe link at the end of this newsletter.
Retiring editor: Ralph Grabowski
Retiring copy editor: Heather MacKenzie
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