Running out of Creative Puff.

Paul Fairweather
3 min readJul 7, 2022

A windsock is a very clever piece of engineering.

My father took early retirement in his mid-50s from his position as Chief Engineer and Manager of the Works Department at the Brisbane City Council. He had spent his whole career as a public servant, initially as a young engineer working on the Tinaroo irrigation project near Mareeba in North Queensland, and then as Townsville City Engineer before moving to Brisbane.

After leaving the BCC, he tried his hand at a private practice. He worked as a construction engineer on various civil projects in the west, a role usually filled by much younger practitioners. His last position was General Manager for a truck manufacturing company in Pittsworth after it had gone into liquidation. I had never fully understood what drove him to leave a high profile, well-paid, secure position to take on hands-on, lower-paid positions.

In Fairweather Observations V5, I wrote about the different thinking styles that change as we age. Conceptual or Fluid in the first half of our careers, and Experimental or Crystalline in our later years.

In his book From Strength to Strength, Arthur C Brooks makes a more profound distinction between these two very different thinking styles. It is not just when these different styles are more and less dominant; they grow and diminish in a semi-circular arc over time, like a long lob of a tennis ball. The arcs of each of these thinking types last for about 40 years. As such, we peak at around 20 years. From then on, while good at our jobs, the challenge of climbing and learning is gone. We tend to get burnt out or bored.

I never fully understood the windsock code until I looked for inspiration. I thought the red and white rings were, so they were easy to see. I now know that they are very accurate predictors of the strength of the wind. If the sock creases at the first colour change, the wind is 3 knots, the second crease — 5 knots, up to no creases at 15 knots or above. It is hard to tell the direction if there is little or no wind.

I think the same is true for our careers. When we start to run out of puff, it is hard to tell which direction we want to go.

I think my dad ran out of puff. After retirement, looking for a new direction, he found it very fulfilling to apply his career’s worth of knowledge to do things differently. A breath of fresh air for him.

Dad also took up painting in his later years, but that is another story.

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I am a speaker, writer, artist, and recovering architect.

My Talk BOLD, BRAVE and a bit QUIRKY is all about reinvention.

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