For all but the most committed, an engineering degree is a hard slog. Dry math, laborious labs, drivelling lecturers; no wonder we have a reputation for drinking.

So I’ll save you all that, and just pass on my single best lesson from those 5 long (long) years:

Quality = Fitness for purpose

Yep, 5 years, right there. Stoked I spent the money. But let me actually try and communicate the power in that simple definition…

A Ferrari is a quality car if you’re driving race track laps. However if you feel like some off-roading, it’s about the worst quality you could get.

A Patagonia down jacket is a quality way to stay warm, unless you’re trying to surf in Antarctica with it, in which case it will be a sopping mess.

To measure performance (fitness), you need to have defined your purpose. If you don’t bother to do that, you end up trying to please everybody:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

So, let’s say you define your purpose as helping uni students fill their first apartment with un-embarrassing furniture. You know they don’t have much coin, they care about the planet, and if they have a car, it will be small. Is IKEA all of a sudden looking like good quality furniture?

This definition gives you a filter with which to judge things, while also getting you to consider just who that product, essay or even kiss is designed for. It’s a nice definition, but probably not worth 5 years of uni…

Further reading: If you’ve never picked up a copy of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, you should. It’s an amazing book in which the author explores the metaphysics of quality – kind of philosophy meets quality on a motorbike, and it’s a 5 star read.