Lessons Learned

People, circumstances, and concepts that have influenced my life – Jerrold Foutz

My Father – Lehi Junius (LJ) Foutz (1878-1954)

A man of absolute integrity whose word was his bond. Measuring up to his standards in today’s world is the toughest thing I do. It was probably no easier in his time.

My Mother – Klea Young Foutz (1891-1980)

At an early age she taught me manners, etiquette, and which fork to use. I had no idea how useful it would be in later life.

My Wife – Dolores Hodapp (Dee) Foutz and Children (Diane, David, Darlene)

Who taught me what love is all about.

Brother #1 Advice – Walter Junius (Jay) Foutz (1910-1968)

Arrange your life so you can tell anyone to go to hell and live your life so you never have to. From my mining engineer brother when I was a teen.

Brother #2 Advice – Stuart Russell (Stu) Foutz (1950-2000)

Pick a career based on brains and experience, not brawn. The body wears out before the brain. From my lawyer brother when I was a teen.

Brother #3 Advice – Stanely (Stan) Foutz (1917-1943)

When you get punched in the nose and it hurts, you don’t quit, but refocus on the here-and-now and what you are trying to accomplish. From my super-salesman brother during a boxing lesson when I was 8 years old. He was killed in World War II.

Brother #4 Advice – Merrill Young Foutz (1921-2002)

A keen sense of humor makes any life better for you and those in your company. By example by my pilot/bank-manager brother.

Sister #1 Advice – Klea (Kallie) Foutz (1912-1981)

The world is full of fools waiting for their ship to come in when they never launched a ship. (Could this be a rationale for buying a lottery ticket? Or is that another kind of fool?) From my author sister. http://www.morningtalks.com/my-sister-the-ugly-duckling.

Sister #2 Advice – Vera Jean Foutz (1926-1982)

It is possible to retain personal grace and dignity no matter what life hands you. From my sales clerk sister who spent much of her life in mental institutions.

My Career in Photography

Which taught me to be aggressively assertive if needed to get the job done. This mostly nullified what my mother taught me about manners. Paparazzi are not usually role models.

Friends who Died Early — in the Korean “Police Action” and Elsewhere

It’s OK to have plans and goals, but your joy in life should be in getting there, not in arriving. Today may be the last day of your life – has it been worthwhile?

A UCB Instructor in a tent classroom 17 miles behind the front lines in Korea

If you do nothing else with your GI bill attend a top University for at least one semester, even if you flunk out. It will open your eyes to life’s possibilities and change your life forever. I attended UCLA for 3 1/2 years and graduated. He was right.

One of My College English Professors

Who introduced me to semantics, which started to set me free from manipulation by others.

An Engineering Supervisor Early in My Career

Who taught me how to bring in a project on schedule and do it right the first time. He set all deadlines on Monday and if there was any danger of your not meeting it, he made all 20 of your co-workers come in on Saturday and Sunday to help you out. With this kind of peer pressure, you quickly learned how to make every scheduled milestone. And it better work. His cure for shoddy work was an hour-long private tongue lashing that questioned your professional competence and even your right to choose engineering as a career. After such a lashing, some left his office with tears in their eyes and took several days off while they re-considered their career choice. Fortunately, I only witnessed others go through this character building process.

The Engineering Laboratory

You can convince yourself of any dumb thing through analysis, logic, and rationale thought. The lab sorts it all out and keeps you honest. Switching-mode power supply breadboards taught me that the world is nonlinear and sometimes chaotic — long before I learned this in the class room or by reading. I distrust the work of any engineer who spends less than 50% of his/her time in the lab. They are in danger of thinking the world is simpler than it is.

My First Rock Climbing Partners (Los Angeles)

Who taught me that you could trust others with your very life.

My Later Rock Climbing Partners (San Diego)

Who taught me that you’re crazy to trust others with anything, let alone your life. Based on their actions (sloppy belays, etc.) I chose to leave rock climbing, an activity I loved.

The Books of Eric Berne and Other TA Authors

Which introduced me to the games people play and transactional analysis. This mostly completed my freedom from manipulation by others.

My Civil Service Career

Which provided an ample opportunity to study second and third degree game players. These people are scary if you don’t understand what’s going on. The rest of the civil servants are great – they have to pick up the load of the game players and make our government work as well as it does.

Learning from Failure

Early in my career, a colleague’s first power supply oscillated in production. He then took every control course offered, then taught them, and eventually became the highly respected corporate guru on control theory. My first power supply circuit had 18 field failures in three months. I learned what went wrong, corrected it, and went on to design the power supplies for what the Air Force claimed was the most reliable electronics in the world at the time. I still consider myself an expert in how to design reliable power supplies.

Concept of Parallel Redundancy

I learned this concept both from engineering and from rock climbing. (Rs = R1+R2-R1*R2) can apply everywhere in your life. For example if you are 90% sure you know the answer you can proceed with the knowledge or ask someone else who is 90% sure and increase the odds to 99%. Pleading ignorance to confirm what you already “know” or asking “dumb” questions saves a lot of mistakes.

The Best Don’t Fit the Mold

The best manager I ever had was a technically obsolete alcoholic who seldom showed up for work. You don’t often see these as wanted attributes in job descriptions. He insisted on schedules being met and on running design reviews – usually the only thing for which he came to work. Because he seldom came to work, delegation was absolute, even to the most junior engineer. In design reviews you had to know and be able to explain and argue anything, because he would insist that black was white and would not back down unless your arguments were overwhelming and you were willing to place your career on the line. More of his people went on to be managers than any other unit in the company.

Plans for Life

There is no shortage of people and organizations (religions, cults, political parties, etc.) who want to tell you how to live your life. If you choose a pre-packaged plan, do some comparative shopping – it is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. More interesting is to craft your own plan, accepting truth no matter where you find it.

Computer Programming and Web Sites

I learned computer programming at the same time I was taking a class graded by “blue book” essays. My essay grades always seemed so subjective — some times I just thought the professor was in a bad mood when he graded my efforts. By contrast, the computer programs either worked or did not work — nothing subjective about it, although it could be frustrating and time consuming to get them to work. When they did work, you felt elated no matter what anyone else thought about it. Social interaction is a necessary part of life and a lot of it occurs in the work environment. But when things get subjective and negative and your support group is off doing other things, I still like the lift that writing a working computer program provides. Writing web pages that validate provides the same satisfaction, even if the content is still subjective — and sometimes others like the content.


Just when I thought I couldn’t be manipulated by others, I read Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion.” Boy was I wrong. This book should be mandatory reading for any adult (or youth approaching adulthood) who wants control of his or her life.

More to Come

Hopefully I will keep on learning. If so, this page is not complete.

One thought on “Lessons Learned

  1. Thank you so much for taking time to compile this list and share it with others. This says a great deal about who you are and what you choose to learn from your experiences, inspiring to say the least. Look forward to additional lessons learned. I’ll be compiling one of my own. Thanks again!

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