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  • Writer's pictureDel Chatterson

The Best Advice I Ever Got

This Real Life Story is an excerpt from Uncle Ralph’s book, "Don’t Do It the Hard Way.” Read the book.

Real Life Story: The Best Advice I Ever Got

In three words

This story should be shorter. Otherwise it appears to contradict the best advice I ever got.

However, I am choosing to reinforce the message and help make it more memorable by telling the story that goes with it (in keeping with the theme of this book). You may choose to read it for the same reasons.

It was at UBC in 1964, my first year in Engineering. All first-year engineers were given the Engineering Handbook providing all the advice and information we needed to successfully complete the following four years of study. The book was full of useful material and started with welcoming comments from the Dean of Engineering, the University President and other dignitaries – with all the usual flowery clichés expected in these publications.

One page was reserved for Steve Whitelaw, then President of the Engineering Undergraduate Society. Steve was a popular President with a reputation for bright, creative leadership. That reputation was partly based on his past leadership in a number of engineering student stunts that made the national news, like the time the engineers kidnapped another university’s mascot or hung a VW beetle from the Lion’s Gate Bridge. His biggest coup was bringing to a conclusion a long campus debate over some weird-looking concrete modern-art sculptures that appeared one-year on campus when we came back in September. The sculptures had received the scorn and contempt of ‘ignorant and uncultured’ engineering students, but were vigorously defended by arts students, their faculty and the administration.

The intensity of the debate exploded both on campus and in the local papers on the day the engineers went on a rampage and completely destroyed all the sculptures leaving them in heaps of broken concrete and steel. Then Steve announced that the engineers had built and installed them all in the first place.

So his advice in the Engineering Handbook would have received our attention. It was a blank page with his signature and the three words:


Call it leading by example.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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