Monday, January 28, 2013

You can make good money...

I love my parents. And I am about to tell a story that could be perceived as being critical of my Mother. It was not her intent, or mine that is the point. It is just what happened. And what I learned.

I grew up in a rural community. This gave me lots of experience with hard work and down to earth people. Good folk. Good work. And good times.

After graduating high school I needed to earn money to get myself to college. I took jobs doing more construction work and became a skilled drywall hanger. I learned to make nice flat walls, ceilings, and take them from bare studs to attractive rooms with paint.

It was hard, back breaking work. It paid better than bailing hay and walking beans. And I was good at it.

A few weeks before I was planning to leave for college, my boss, and friend took me aside. "Roy," he said, "If you stick with me, in a year,  you will be able to hang out your own shingle as a contractor." I was being given a great honor. This man was offering to mentor me. To take me under his wing and teach me his business.

But I dearly hope the absolute fear that I felt didn't show on my face. I was going to college. I was not planning on doing hard, back breaking work the rest of my life. I may have been really good at hard labor, but it was a means to an end, and not a career.

So I went to college. After college, I was looking for jobs. (I had jobs during college too.) Because as a responsible husband and father, I needed to put food on the table and a roof over that table, I grabbed a short term jobs in ... construction.

I worked hard all day, and searched for employment in my area in the evenings and weekends. One day while discussing this, my loving mother came up with this. "You can make good money doing drywall. Have you considered focusing on that?"

I understand that she was just trying to be helpful, but my wife and I both burst out laughing. There was no way that I was simply going to lower my sights to point at the ground I was standing on. I had bigger dreams.

Now let me say. I really love and enjoy opportunities to get my hand dirty and build something from time to time. I am pretty handy when it comes to fixing things around the house and helping my neighbor in a time of need. But I am not a drywaller. I am many things, a computer programmer, a writer, a teacher, a husband and father. But a temporary job I had while I was starting out does not define me.

From time to time, mostly during our budget summits, my wife or I will still quip, "Well you know, you can make good money drywalling." It still makes us laugh. And I remember the boss that offered to mentor me as a contractor with fondness whenever I am doing any home repair.

As I look at these two events, I see that both my boss, and my mom were trying to be supportive and helpful. But I also see that they were missing the plan, and not really valuing my own goals. I may not succeed all the time, but I try to ask people what they want and where they see themselves going before I offer them career advice. Or life advice.

The point is that you need to have a plan. And you need to understand that there may be detours along the way, but don't let a detour, a job, or a well-meaning friend displace the plan.

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