Crucial lesson in understanding by Dr. Rick J.

My first job out of college was as a newbie Engineer/Programmer hybrid at GE Power Generation Engineering. I was teamed with a gifted engineer, Dr. Rick J., for one early project. Working late one evening driven by determination while addled by advancing (likely Mountain Dew fueled) punchiness (not a sanctioned suffix admittedly) he asked if I understood and I said yes to which he retorted.

“No, grasshopper. The first step in the journey to true understanding is understanding that you will never reach a point of full understanding.”

To which I retorted:

“Ah, so once I understand that I truly do not understand I will have attained the first level of understanding.”

So on and so forth back and forth until we realized that we had a witness to our caffeine based lunacy in the form of another colleague working late down the aisle who laughed out loud and declared that we had lost it and needed to go home.

We listened. But, his words, at least in part meant in jest, stayed with me as it contained a truth. Like my father taught me as a child in order to grow I needed to:

“Never be so stupid as to think that you know everything and have nothing left to learn.” -RLW