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What You Do Best

Jan. 1, 2019
No trend will relieve the pressure we face to keep up with passing fads. You simply have to know your own capabilities, resources, and potential.

What you’re reading now is meant to be some opening remarks, a preview of what’s to come but also a summary message, a capsule review that will properly frame something you should know now. That is the custom for January columns. If I do it right, it will elevate your thoughts or encourage you to reconsider what you already know or believe. But it also has to appear fresh or unusual. That’s the trap of January: raising hopes that everything is new, coercing us to set goals, and hectoring us not to give up on our promises.

We try to make January stand out for our readers by compiling the annual FM&T Idea Book, assembling new applications for metalcasting process technologies from our best sources. We think it’s important to provide a reference to developments that concern the work that readers do – and to answer questions they face. It’s decidedly not an effort to be trendy, though trends are part of the program.

Metalcasting is not immune to trends, of course, simply because “trends” are a social phenomenon. Our fixation on trends also reaffirms the impulsiveness of individuals. We want to know what others are doing because we’re curious and competitive, and we want the crowd to validate our choices. We want to know what is trending because we want to mimic others, to improve our wealth or health, or satisfaction, or some other aspect of ourselves that needs social affirmation.

It used to be that trends were the subject of special investigative reports or projects, like January issues. But individuals and what connects us have changed utterly in the past decade. Trends are constant now. They may last a day or a week and will be forgotten just as quickly. Does something that appears and disappears so suddenly still qualify as a trend?

These are important considerations because the evaluation of such things is often largely solitary, and the “wisdom” of crowds includes quite a lot of foolishness.

Separating trends that come and go from developments that may truly matter to us and the company we keep means keeping an ever deepening understanding of the work we do – how we do it, why we do it. More than that, it means learning who you are, what you have and what you lack, and what you will become once you commit to that trend that seems so appealing right now.

This matters as much to businesses as to individuals because in the streamlined organizations that are the standard now the choices of one affect many, and the policies of a business matter to its various associates, suppliers, customers, and more. When is a metalcaster’s “digital transformation” complete? What is the practical meaning of “servitization” for businesses that design and manufacture precision parts? What must you know in order to know you’re up-to-speed?

There is no trend that will relieve the pressure to keep up with passing fads. You simply have to know your own capabilities and potential. People working in metalcasting may be fewer than we would wish, but each one must have a wider understanding of what the work entails, what the products require, and what the customers need. If there are trends affecting metalcasting, you’ll know how they matter and how to respond, but first you’ll need to know what matters first.

The work you do may not define who you are, but it helps you to reach and influence other people, and it may be shaping who you will become. Because we are increasingly commerce-focused and transaction-oriented, the opportunities this presents to influence others must be anticipated, and accepted. If we are not projecting the improvements we want to see, we may fall for every trend that comes our way. 

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)