An Engineer’s Guide to the Perfect Valentine

Hey, it’s me.

The nameless engineer who has helped guide you in all things topical and seasonal, from banana bread to Easter eggs. You might be wondering why I’m addressing you directly.

“Don’t the powers that be at BFW/Marcum usually publish you out of the fear of reprisal?” You might ask.

You call it fear of reprisal, I call it a tacit understanding of my profound and generous intellect.

To-may-to, to-mah-to.

Still, though, this is the first time I’ve had unaltered access to my audience. Was I granted this honor?

Not at all! I simply guessed our marketing guy’s password; a combination of his birthday, street address, and the words whoop whoop, which I’ve ascertained is some kind of Detroit street slang.

As we get close to Valentine’s Day, I figured it would be nice to share my thoughts on how to make the perfect valentine for your loved one, whether they be human or guinea pig.

The Origins of the Valentine

I’m an engineer, so that means with every construct we celebrate in society, I find myself wrinkling my brow and asking “why?” I don’t do things just because others do them. With that said, there was a time in my life when I stopped the whole Valentine charade and wondered, why do we do this ritual in the first place? I always feel better when I have answers.

There are three legends of where we derived the “Valentine” in “St. Valentine’s Day.” One says that the saint secretly married couples that were forbidden to marry by a Roman emperor. Another, suggests that a priest condemned to death befriended his jailer’s daughter, signing one last letter with “from your Valentine” before walking to his execution.

Whatever. I’m more interested in the giving and receiving. Who decided to send their loved one a small box of chocolate? Or whatever the historical equivalent was. The truth is, no one really knows. There are some vague ties to Roman times, but history shows us that the giving and receiving of valentines came into style in the 1500s and grew in popularity from then on. Just like love itself, there is no clear answer to the question of why. Let’s talk about how I make the perfect valentine for my one true love, my pet Archimedes.

Step 1: Make it Yourself, Or Don’t

Have you ever heard the term, “don’t reinvent the wheel?” Let’s actually dissect it. At its most superficial, it seems to mean, “don’t do unnecessary work.”

However, I’d like to take the adage a level deeper. Instead, I think it means that you should find meaning in your work.

As an engineer, that means knowing when to get into the weeds on something and when to step aside and let precedent do its thing. Use your tools, but let inspiration persevere as well. Don’t do something just to do it, do it because you find meaning in the work. Following in someone else’s footsteps is pointless unless it’s simply a means to an end.

How does this figure into valentines? Let me tell you! A friend or loved one will always love a handmade valentine. Yet, if you go the DIY route, ensure you honor them by doing it well. If you don’t think you have the skills, then go to some high-end gift shop and get them one that is unique and nice. A great result is some proportion of thoughtfulness, skill, and ingenuity. The proportions can change, but they need to add up when all is said and done.

Step 2: Write Something Heartfelt

We’re trained as children to grab a box of holographic dinosaur valentines filled with candy hearts off of the seasonal shelf of the supermarket and call it a day. After all, what kid doesn’t like a chalky, ambiguously flavored piece of candy? If you’re valentine shopping for a 6-year-old, then that’s good enough. I’m sure they’ll love the pre-printed message inside as well; something like “you are TRICERATOPS on my list.”

However, if you’re crafting a valentine for an adult, then you better make sure the interior message is both handwritten and heartfelt. Authenticity is an important attribute in your personal and professional life.

For instance, when I talk to a client, maybe I don’t tell them if I’m having an off day when they ask how I’m doing, but I certainly speak to them honestly. I want them to know that when I say something, I’ve thought about what I’m going to say and I mean it. This goes a long way to building your credibility.

The same is true in your personal life. If your friend or partner opens their valentine to find a hastily scribbled “Happy V-Day.”, then you might has well have not gotten them anything at all. Instead, take a moment, really think about them as a personal, and write something meaningful.

Step 3: Anonymity is Overrated

Like I said earlier. If you’re going to do something, make sure you do it well. You should feel proud. Along the same lines, you shouldn’t be afraid of letting people see what you’ve done.

Don’t sign a valentine “from your secret admirer.” That’s a total copout. You’re going through the trouble of spilling your heart out. Own up to it.

Let’s be honest; if the work you’re doing is good, then you don’t mind getting recognition for it. At work, I love it when we’re recognized for our work in the community and beyond. It motivates you to keep going and to try harder.

Step 4: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Finally, we come to the biggest contradiction in this multi-step process. I hope I don’t shock you with this.

None of this matters.

Wait, didn’t I just imply the opposite with this exhaustive and preachy diatribe? I did, but I also want to emphasize that your good intentions mean nothing unless you actually follow through.

At the firm, we’ve long learned that actions speak louder than words. It’s much better to show people by doing rather than speaking endlessly about what you will do. If you think about it, an engineer is truly the perfect valentine. Let’s break it down before I sign off and our marketing guy changes his password:

  • We know when to innovate and when to defer to the tried-and-tested
  • We thrive on authenticity; you can’t fake it in this industry
  • We take ownership of our work and actions
  • We have follow-through. We’re doers.

Put that all together, and you’ll have yourself the perfect valentine. Happy Valentine’s Day.