Arnie and the Golden Rod
I was recently at a party and met an older man named Arnie. As we chatted, I asked him what he did for work. He’s retired now, but before he was an aerospace engineer. “Did you like it?” I asked. “I loved it,” he said. So much so that he’s been unable to fully retire. He tries to retire, he says, but he keeps taking projects in some form. I asked how he got into it…
When Arnie was in college, everyone told him to pursue a degree in Computer Science. This was the 1960s, and apparently, “That’s where the jobs were.”
But he hated it! He found the classes so long and boring. So he quit.
One day he stumbled into a class on Thermal Dynamics. He can’t really explain it, but there was something about the material that simply clicked. It was the craziest thing—he hardly had to think about any of the lectures. This is notoriously dense and complicated material, yet it was like he was being reminded of things he already knew. He just absorbed the information naturally and effortlessly. He aced every single quiz because this was the stuff he’d read about in his off-time.
Arnie was a “gearhead” his entire life. He was always able to take things apart and put them back together in a more improved way; or, to find the inefficient component in a machine and then isolate and improve upon it. Engineering, he said, was just an extension of that.
He stayed in aerospace engineering his entire career, eventually designing rocket engines and Mach-3s. He loved every single second of it. “Companies had a problem, and they kept paying me more and more money to solve it,” he said. “Once I solved it, I’d go to the next place and get paid even more. And so on.”
After the story I asked him: How do you find something you love so much?
You don’t, he said. It finds you.
He called it “The Golden Rod”. You know you’ve found it because, once you give it a tug, it shocks you! And then you can’t get enough of it. It feels different than anything you’ve experienced. BUT, he says, you can’t necessarily find it because you don’t really know what you’re looking for. If anything, he says, you more so “trip” over it.
Essentially, it finds you. And it can happen at any age.
I feel it’s not necessarily it finding you, but a coming together. You express you’re seeking, you demonstrate intention and action in finding it, and eventually you turn over the right rock in your most innocent moment and ZAP! You’ve found the rod.
As I was leaving the room, Arnie yelled across:
“Never stop looking for it! Find your Golden Rod!”
To which I say the same to you.