YOU DON'T LEARN IN
What you don't know
hurt you and hold you back.
—Consulting engineer at Cooper Union seminar
I CLEARLY REMEMBER the date when
Stuff you Don't Learn in
was, shall we say, "born." I remember this
clearly because I was about to confront something in my career after
20 years of stressing over it. It was the morning of Thursday, Octo-
ber 20, 1992, around 9 AM, on the 61st floor of One World Trade
Center, in New York City. I was sitting with about 20 other col-
leagues from The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and
we were going to take a two-day course in "Negotiating Skills."
Why was I taking a "negotiating" course? After all, I was a sea-
soned manager in my forties, with over 20 years' experience, and
yet I felt that I finally needed to learn this skill since I was about to
negotiate with several bus and limousine companies to start ground
transportation services to our regional airports.
You see, I had never learned how to negotiate. To be honest, I
had a "thing" about it, and was scared of negotiating: I thought it
was too hard, it always involved conflict, and you either won or you
lost. As a result of these perceptions, I had avoided negotiating like
the plague during my career. So now it was time to give in and final-
ly learn how to do this terrible thing.
People were introducing themselves—who they were, what
they did, why they were there, the usual. Then the instructor—a
lawyer, whose name I've forgotten—started off the course. "Wel-
come," he said, "glad you're here," . . . then, "Why do you think they
hired a lawyer to teach you how to negotiate?" My ears perked up.
"We're the world's worst negotiators."
Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School.
By Carl Selinger.
ISBN 0-471-65576-7 © 2004 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.