05 November 2009

Economics, USAFA, and life

My goal in life is to one day be as smart as my kids think they are.

Over the semester, I've had the good sense to write down some of my economics professor's quotes. He's a grad, 1978, I think. Apparently, he was a terrible cadet, breaking rules and letting his hair get too long. But...

If you stay inside the boundaries, you never get in trouble but you never do anything.

Today, an A-10 pilot and 1999 grad told us one of the most important things he learned from the Academy: living under pressure. It's a good skill - there's a lot of pressure in the cockpit. Dr. L agrees:

The whole four-year program is a course in crisis management. You've got five or six balls in the air and you've gotta figure out which ones you gotta keep going and which ones you can drop.

He has other advice about USAFA, which the A-10 pilots seemed to agree with:

One of the crazy things about this Academy is that we do an exceptional job of hiding just how fun the Air Force is.

He also has some advice on life:

Getting old beats the alternative.

The secret to happiness is low expectations.

People are willing to give their lives for their country, but they're not willing to ruin their careers for their country.

And a little bit about economics:

The reason economists are dangerous is because they think they're right. The average person knows he doesn't know. The economist doesn't know but thinks he does.

Economist: someone who's good at numbers but doesn't have the people skills to be an accountant.

Most important is what he's learned about officership:

When engineers look at problems, they look for solutions. The problem is that as an officer, your problems won't have solutions. They'll have trade-offs.

All this comes from a man who was a terrible cadet, but by what I can gather, a great officer. That's probably because a good cadet is someone who shines his shoes and keeps his hair short. A good officer cares for his men. His uniform is far less important than his people.