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Are you a poet or an engineer?

When they welcomed us into business school, very quickly the professors categorized us as either poets or engineers. Obviously, people come in all different kinds of packages and defy categorization, but sometimes it helps. Although there is a part of me that likes to pull together manuals a…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

When they welcomed us into
business school, very quickly the professors categorized us as either poets or
engineers.

Obviously, people come in all
different kinds of packages and defy categorization, but sometimes it
helps. Although there is a part of me
that likes to pull together manuals and ensure good procedures, I’m definitely
a poet.

Poets are like artists – they see
things in their mind’s eye and then create them. They get the big picture, but not necessarily
the details. They understand problems
and conceptualize solutions, creating the superstructure for the engineers to
come along behind and build around.

What do engineers do? Our business school dean talks about them
being “technicians, such as actuaries, time-and-motion efficiency experts,
accountants who get the books to balance down to the last penny, logistics
honchos who slim down your inventory, and derivatives analysts.” Engineers
actually build stuff, whereas poets may just talk about doing it.

At the end of the day, while we all need poetry in our lives, we probably need
more engineers than we need poets.
Dreams may be inspirational, but they don’t put bread on the table.

If you find a poet whose work is real
artistry, then you want to hitch him to a bunch of engineers and you’ll change
the world. Just look at guys like Steve
Jobs or Richard Branson.

If you’re a young person, you
would do well to find clarity about which of these you are – a poet or an
engineer. It will save you a lot of pain
if you focus on your strengths.

Comments (8)

  • Amen,
    I’m glad to know that poets like me don’t have to write poetry. The truth is we poets need a bunch of engineers to clean up our mess more times than not. But in cleaning this mess, together we create something of value.

  • Sigh. A poet who longs to be an engineeralthough I am good at helping OTHER PEOPLE figure out how to go about doing what they want and getting it done I am no good at getting my own projects moving in the right direction and finishing. Can you be an engineer for other people but a poet for yourself?

    Then againconsidering spiritual gifts makes a big differencehaving the gift of helps and service probably explains why I can help others get where they want to go while not being able to get myself off the ground more than a few inches. Naturally I am a poet, spiritually I am an engineer. So confusing.

  • That’s funny, I’m an engineer seeking a good poet. I’ve always been good at breaking down a vision into workable steps. Alas, I can’t find a good poet, which makes me sad.

  • hi I am definitely a poet and your article definitely makes sense. I think I am married to a poet as well, and we have the problem of trying to get the engineers around to build stuff.

    I bet this is the first remark you have had from my part of the World. It is Papua New Guinea, if you know where that is. I have had friends from the USA who did not know where it was.

  • John E. WordSlinger

    love this, well done and said… I created the poetry train / poetry e train, poetrytrain.com

    thank you Seth, appreciated & charm’d…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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