Hello. I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Brian Shell, and I’m the new contributing writer for the Engineering Society of Detroit’s Technology Century magazine’s “Art of Science” section. Why me? Because I was an electrical engineer in Los Angeles who left at age 27 and became a published author, artist, and musician.
During that time of deciding, I attended Steve Martin’s poignant stage play titled Picasso at Lapin Agile where Einstein and Picasso have a conversation at a bar about how there really is an art to science and how there truly is a science to creating good art. Couple that with hanging out with the drummer for Michael Jackson (who got his start in Santana) and it was as if a whirlwind of events took place that swept me out to sea.
That was back in 1995 when I made my leap of faith away from engineering and into a new career as a writer, musician, and artist. When I made that decision, that drummer and my senior scientist mentor contributed crucial pieces of advice that were very much two sides to the same coin… like Einstein and Picasso agreeing how new ideas swoop, fall like rain, land with a crash, “thunk,” pop, (but almost never) flow in Steve Martin’s Picasso at Lapin Agile. In other words, when you arrive at the visionary realms of any endeavor, they tend to travel full circle in opposite directions and meet on opposite sides of that same circle… and then tend to shake hands.
Like Steve Martin has Einstein saying, “The theories must be beautiful.” The artist and the scientist must champion a new way of looking at the world, with elegance always seeming to be the best approach to the right solution. Or Occam’s Razor.
So let me tell you the advice that the senior scientist and the professional drummer offered:
- The only truly happy people are those who are creative on a daily basis.
- You can either be right… or you can be happy… but usually not both.
- Until you “make it,” everyone will think you’re crazy and stay away.
- Once you “make it,” everyone will return and say, “I knew it all along.”
As Confucius said, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
The whole point is that when we search for our meaning in life and our destiny, finding that fine line of creativity that offers us a reason to get out of bed each morning can get muddled along the way. That’s when finding a way to think outside the box each day is what gives rise for us to go to work and say Hooray! If you don’t have that, find it.
Sure it can be tedious and tiresome to try, but it’s a habit of searching for excellence and elegance in every step we take and every thought we make so that by perfecting ourselves in all these small steps, the giant strides soon arrive and come alive – naturally.
The thing is, as engineers trained in the scientific method, we hold an advantage. As I’ve experienced, once an engineer, always an engineer. It’s easier for an engineer to become an artist than it is for an artist to turn into an engineer. It’s our attention to detail and that dot-every-i-and-cross-every-t tenacity that is bred into us early on that provides an advantage which helps us to transcend the chasm that tends to exist between art and science. However, our problem is often our hit-the-nail-on-the-head-with-a-sledgehammer approach that makes non-engineers feel like they’re taking a drink from a fire hydrant when we meet and mingle in areas and arenas outside the office.
In other words, less is always more. When in doubt, err on the side of shorter being better and leave ‘em wanting more. To think outside the box, consider grace, dynamics, and permutations as fine friends because Mother Nature applauds freedom and variation.
If you can’t distill it down to a simple one-to-two line explanation, it may not be right.
In Hollywood, it’s the essence of high concept loglines, or movie premises that are said in a single sentence. In the media, it is crucial to be able to speak in sound bite. In art, a picture says a thousand words. In science, a simple equation can echo and blossom.
Want proof? Einstein’s “E equals m-c-squared” has to be the art of science at its best.
So go out and find a way to bring this elegance into your every action today. Try to actively travel in elegant bows instead of knots that tie and bind. It is actualizing a wisdom that is conscious about being conscious. Achieve new proactive participations, not inactive reactions. As a human, doing isn’t being a Human Being… until ya love whatcha do to Be. If you think outside any box, the biggest box has no corners, because there is no box.