Engineer Mode


I have what I call “Engineer Mode”.  I don’t like Engineer Mode, mostly because of what must trigger Engineer Mode, but it exists and I have to accept the fact it exists.  I went pretty heavy towards Engineer Mode today, and now that the wine bottles are open I can start to embrace it.

Engineer Mode starts from an idea that was proposed to me almost a decade ago.  One of my managers at work was discussing training they had, where it was identified that people can act a certain way when the world is good, right, and regular – but when stress levels rise, they act in a completely different way.  I think there isn’t a person reading this blog that wouldn’t agree with this idea.  I mean, the whole concept of “losing your S##t” over something is based on that idea.  I’ve seen folks go insane in moments of stress, or shut down, or just become awesome.  When you realize we all change in those kinds of modes, you can start to ask yourself what happens when you go into that condition.

I go into Engineer Mode.

I am normally an easy going guy who thinks he’s way funnier than he really is.  I am the guy that is chill, the guy who doesn’t care much about things, or the guy who can laugh at himself first more than anything.

When I come under stress, all of those emotions shut down.  It’s an instinct to a certain point.  Part of that is because laughing or joking around in those situations isn’t going to help anything.  Crying neither.

My mindset becomes about problem-solving.  If facing a stressful, difficult situation, I want to get out of it.  The only way out of it is to analyze the possible outcomes, look for solutions that correct or prevent the problem, and implement changes that take me down that path.  In other words, I engineer a solution.

Today I was faced with a series of situations where Engineering Mode clicked on.  I was traveling to Denver by way of Burbank than Phoenix for an audit I am performing tomorrow.  Because it was an early flight, I dropped Auggie the Doggie off at the Pet Hotel last night, but before I did I noticed he had a bit of a red mark under his eye.  I let them know and left him there.  When my plane arrived in Phoenix for a 2-hour layover, I had a voicemail from the pet hotel – his eye had grown ‘poofy’ overnight, and they moved him to the Vet that was in the store (not my regular vet, but I wasn’t complaining).  When I called in, they hadn’t examined him yet, but I was able to talk to enough people to authorize further treatment.  Meanwhile, folks at work were sending me common work-related questions; so I needed to find a place to log in.  Doing so found that a recent update to our security didn’t go as planned, and I couldn’t get logged into my computer.  The entire layover was now spent troubleshooting with limited success and no new news on the pup.

Engineering Mode put me in an active work through the issues at hand.  Calling the Vet, troubleshooting my work laptop, dealing with the layover.  Those were actions with results that I could manage.  So that’s what I did.  That’s how Engineer Mode works.  Deal with the problem ahead of you, no emotions and no reactions.

Where I let it get to me is when things start to fall outside of my control and/or I have no actions to take.  Without going into detail, the vet that Auggie stayed at was having a ‘stressful day’ … something that the actual Doctor almost hinted to something traumatic, so you knew it had to be bad.  Still, I had to take the initiative to call them for updates.  Normally I would be going out of my mind in those situations because it requires me to rely on someone else to do something.  Not today, because — for one, I was on a plane, what was I going to do; and for two, I had the laptop to deal with, plus driving to a hotel, plus planning for an audit tomorrow, plus everything else going on.  Engineer Mode had control.

Engineer Mode does suck when those actions become out of my control.  Like anyone, I can get swarmed under by life.  For me, it’s regularly related to the things in my life I can’t control.  Most of the time its circumstance; some of the time it’s people.  That’s part of the challenge, I guess, recognizing that as life piles on to us, we don’t let the anchor of our own imposed emotions weigh us down and take us under.  I’m not saying I am an expert from avoiding that kind of outcome, far from it, but it sure does feel like when I can shut down the parts of me that want to cry my way through a problem it seems to make it all move quicker.

As far as the pup is concerned, it’s something kind of minor we will watch.  It turns out, he had a yeast infection in his ear.  He was trying to scratch it, and regularly missed thereby scratching his eye.  There’s an ulcer now in his eyelid, and they will measure it to track it.  Plus he is going to get meds to take.  Plus he will wear the CONE OF SHAME!   In the end, it’s going to be some minor things to pull him through until I can get him poked and prodded by his real vet next week.

Plus I got my laptop running.

When things resolve like this, It’s good, and I am happy.  In fact, it’s an excuse to have a glass of wine with dinner.  Maybe two.  Maybe three.  Engineer Mode also has its way of balancing out my brain.  Dealing with stuff like this means I can enjoy when I let emotions, concern, and happiness back in my life.  So, I can accept Engineer Mode for what it is.

Maybe the fourth glass of wine; I mean, I did skip lunch.



2 thoughts on “Engineer Mode

  1. Cindy Hertrampf

    You are a rock star, Mitch!! I could relate to everything you shared, and I am glad you were able to shine through it all!❤️ Here is me hugging you right now AND high-five-ing you, too! So glad you were able to power thru AND (more importantly!) were now having time to relax and unwind (AND enjoy that glass of wine…or two😊👍🏼🤣❤️…I just love me some wine now and then too!😉🍷🍷😍)
    I recognized you going into “engineer mode”…I used to call it going into “automatic pilot”…but I am REALLY happy you are taking the time to “de-stress” when you can👏🏻❤️ Very soon you and Auggie will be snuggling on your couch and you will both be enjoying those continuous soothing pets that have a way of calming us all😍 Love ya, pal❤️

  2. Greg Blum

    Awesome post, Mitch.

    You have accurately captured “engineer mode.” When everything is going down the toilet, you have to stop whining and get down to solving the problem.

    The only possible flaw in your plan is that US commercial airlines are the Gordian Knot of problems. What should be a straightforward problem/solution approach does not enter into the process.

    Stranded at CLT airport, the aircraft we were to board could not leave without having a proper trash receptacle, and we were told that a spare wastebasket would be coming on the next flight from Miami.


    1. If the plane could not fly w/o a proper garbage can, how did it get to CLT?
    2. Could we go to the AA hanger and ask to borrow a wastebasket?
    3. When the wastebasket ferry got to CLT from MIA, and we took THEIR wastebasket, how will THAT plane be able to fly?

    “Engineer mode” can only be activated in a universe that will allow Q & A with the people who can enact the engineer’s directions on solving the problem. The airlines don’t know that. The user interface is generally non-responsive, as the Gate Agents cannot make these decisions, or even tell the truth about the problem.

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