Be Master of your Fate, be Captain of your Soul

The poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley was profoundly impactful whilst I battled cancer.

Out of the night that covers me
Black as pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloodied but unbowed

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid

It matters not how straight the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

Contracting cancer was absolutely a bludgeoning of chance, but we are all bludgeoned by chance throughout our careers and lives. Luckily I had the most amazing parents who taught me to be master of my fate, to be captain of my soul. So that when I was bludgeoned by chance, I didn’t get angry, I didn’t get upset, I sat down and focused on developing strategies to continue living a happy life. The lessons we learn early in our lives, guide us to our destiny, and this one has led me to some amazing places. Thank you, Mum, thank you, Dad.

Thank you Mum, thank you Dad

My Dad was a Boiler Maker Welder with the largest onion exporter in the Southern Hemisphere, an amazing little company called Vecon down in Tasmania. He would build onion harvesting and processing equipment in his workshop with little more than chalk sketches on the workshop floor. He taught me that when you hit a problem; you don’t get mad; you don’t get angry; you accept that it’s there; you sit down and you develop strategies to minimise the impact on you living a happy life, even if it’s with chalk sketches on the floor.

My Mum taught me to trust my gut, and to understand my needs and wants well enough so that when opportunities arose, I knew when to jump in. She also encouraged me to try new things out, sometimes insisting. When I was in primary school she sat me down in the playground and told me in no uncertain terms “your brother is playing hockey, you can play it too!” I really didn’t want to play hockey, but I did, and I loved it, and I played for the next thirty years and made so many good friends.

My Mother also let me lead the way. When I wanted to go sailing, she let me do it, even though I couldn’t swim and I would be sailing in Bass Strait, one of the roughest waterways in the world. I had so much fun jumping off the waves in Bass Strait, even when they knocked me off the boat. This showed me at a young age, to not be afraid of trying new things, even if they are a little scary.

A great example of being master of my fate and captain of my soul, is my first job in hospitality whilst I was in high school. On my first night working in hospitality, I was the only waiter in a Pubs counter meal restaurant. They then had the busiest night they’ve ever had. Every seat was taken as soon as we opened. But I was master of my fate, I was captain of my soul. I did not wince, nor cry aloud. I slowly and surely did the best I could and I am happy to say I conquered that tough night. I also respected that my boss wouldn’t put me in that position ever again, and he never did, and I then had many enjoyable nights working there. My head was bloodied but unbowed.

Then I started my career studying Civil Engineering at the local TAFE College. But as I worked through my first year I realised it wasn’t my thing. But it did introduce me to an amazing little company called Elpinstones which modified above-ground construction equipment, to work underground in the mines. I really wanted to work there, but I wasn’t going to do that with Civil Engineering. What happens next, highlights a key attribute of Chalk Sketches on the Floor, that’s to let a design evolve over time. I had to modify my career chalk sketch to give me experience and qualifications to enable me to work at a great company like Elphinstones. So I was master of my fate and I found that experience and qualifications with a government-owned training centre, that was run as a business, called the Centre for Precision Technology. It was a five-year program where we received a trade certificate in Precision Manufacture whilst studying for a Bachelor of Technology in Manufacturing Engineering at University.

I had so much fun learning how to use a variety of computer-controlled lathes and mills, building cool shit out of metal. I still look back at it, as the best job I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, the government decided to shut the Centre down in my third year. But I did not wince, nor cry aloud, I accepted that the decision had been made and focused on planning my next move. I also respected the government’s decision, because most of the graduates from the program escaped to the mainland after they graduated, so why should the Tasmanian Government be funding the mainland’s manufacturing industry development. My head was bloodied but unbowed.\

I then searched desperately for a similar job, but the manufacturing industry in Tasmania is tiny and the job market was suddenly flooded with personnel. I had to let my career sketch evolve once more. So I was master of my fate, I was captain of my soul and I rubbed out my old chalk sketch and created a beautiful new one and I moved to Queensland to start a University degree that would lead me to work with several of the world’s biggest companies. My new chalk sketch was filled with palm trees, beaches, warm weather, spending time with mates, and a bright new future.

Straight after University, I got the most amazing job with a company that converted Chevrolet Corvettes and pickups, to right-hand drive, so they could be driven in Australia, called Corvette Queensland. Who wouldn’t be excited to work there! It was so much fun driving Corvettes and the big V8 pickups. But it was my first job out of University, and I realised that I needed more learning and growth opportunities. I needed to modify my career chalk sketch once more. So I was master of fate and I found the most amazing job with the multinational giant Boeing. But even though I couldn’t see learning and growth opportunities at Corvette Queensland, it was the quality assurance capability that I developed with Corvette Queensland, that gave me the experience, that landed me the job at Boeing. So even though some people may say that I chose the wrong job straight out of university, because it didn’t have learning and growth opportunities, I wouldn’t have got the job with Boeing if I hadn’t gained the experience at Corvette Queensland. It doesn’t matter which road you go down and who knows what cool shit you’ll see on the way. Trust me, driving the Corvettes was cool shit.

At Boeing I was the first Lean Manufacturing specialist they had employed in Australia, so I got the absolute pleasure of learning all about Lean in their airliner factory in Seattle Washington, and then establishing a Lean Manufacturing program in Australia. That’s cool shit.

But even though I really loved that job, I was then master of my fate by jumping into career opportunities, because it doesn’t matter which road you go down and who knows what cool shit you’ll see along the way. I let my career chalk sketch evolve by keeping an eye out for other job opportunities within Boeing. My next role was as a Quality Manager in Integrated Logistics Support. I wouldn’t call Integrated Logistics Support an exciting job. I jumped into this role because there was such a good manager in charge, and I really wanted to work for him. I’m so glad I did, it was a valuable new capability to add to my career.

Not long after I jumped in, a requirement arose for a Reliability Engineer, as a customer on a $500M program had concerns we were implementing it correctly. I didn’t even know that job existed before the requirement arose. But I threw myself in the deep end; learnt all about it; gathered evidence it was being implemented; presented that back to the customer; everyone was happy. It doesn’t matter which road you go down and who knows what cool shit you’ll see on the way.


Dane McCormack
Dane McCormack
Dane McCormack was born and raised in Tasmania. He escaped to the mainland to pursue his career and has worked as a Business Transformation specialist for several of the world’s biggest companies including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and KPMG. His love of writing was reawakened as he explored how he survived and thrived through a recent cancer journey. After being given 24hours to live several times and losing his long-term memories, he set out on a mighty quest to find them and wrote his autobiography. It emphasised just how important history is because it made him who he was, which helped him survive and thrive. It left him determined to leave a legacy for his family. He’s now sharing his stories, to help others dealing with tough times and develop their careers. He is also exploring his family and friends’ history in more detail.

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