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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Being Open to Learn

Being Open To Learn
11 Offered to Teach One offered to Transform
Michael H Ballard of Resiliency for Life

My Dad shared a conversation with me I’ve reflected on for many years. It still sits top of mind for me. He first shared it with me when I was just 12 years old. I’d just started my first stand alone business. I’d had a paper route (Grew it from 27 to 58 customers in 20 months) , shovelled snow, been very successful selling door-to-door and done lots of odd jobs. However, I’d never had a stand-alone business where I was in charge of everything.

I had and have an abundance of energy. However, don’t call me hyper. I hate it, does that mean if you’re mellow you’re lethargic? I have this abundance of energy I love to harness to get things done and make things happen! So at 12 my parents figured I best have something positive to focus on and use that energy that summer as school drew to a close.

So they put their heads together included me and asked me what I thought of having my own business.  I loved it.  A little freedom, plus hard work, some income and a chance being the extrovert I am meet some new people. A great way to invest time in that summer.

So a lawn mower and supplies was shopped for, purchased and brought home.  My paper route reputation made it relatively easy to get my first few customers. My little business grew as did my modest bank account. Soon I had to stop taking customers. Eleven lawns, two of them being a 1/3 to ½ acre in size kept me very busy.

Soon enough, that lawn mower needed some maintenance. That’s when my father took me out to teach me a few keys on how to maintain power engines and mowers.  He showed me how to clean the air filter, re oil the filer, he taught me how to gap the spark plug, retighten the wheels, then check all the bolts and nuts for the correct tension. Then, just as I thought we we’re done, the lessons was shared.

It was time to sharpen the lawn mower blade. My father as a Master Machinist was no slouch when it came to working with his hands and with metal. His home tool kit was far from average as was his skill set. At one point he’d been tasked to join a team and work for NASA where he’d had to sign off on the official secrets act of the day. Then he helped build and assemble two satellites over an 18 month period for the then “space   race”.

Dad called me over to his wrench set and asked me to consider what size of nut held the blade on? Then, would given the configuration and placing / spacing of the nut on the blade relative to it’s location in the mower should I use an open face wrench, a close face wrench, or a socket and ratchet set? Any of them as it turned out. There was lots of space to work with. So each of them served the purpose just fine.  However once I took the nut off and before the blade was removed, Dad had then showed me that this was no ordinary nut. Michael:  Note the quality of the design and machining. He had me notice that this was a very specialized nut with a safety feature built in. This nut had a specialized special non metallic insert of what we used to call “space age material” that was fitted into the nut in such a way that when the nut was tightened onto the mower blade shaft it stayed on tight.  I enjoyed hearing my Father extoll how the excellence in design and production of this nut ensured a safer experience for many hours of lawn cutting.

However once the blade was off the mower and cleaned, and the safety glasses went on, then proper angle to sharpen the blade had to be determined. Dad set the guide to rest the blade against the grinder and proceeded to sharpen one side of the blade.
Then he turned off the grinder. Then he handed the blade off to me and said “ So where is your hand placement going to be to a) be safe, b) help guide the blade?” I showed him. Then I was then I was in the midst of experiencing what he’d learned from his coworkers when he as a 16 year old apprentice in the process to be a machinist, a master machinist.

Well as much as that was a great lesson lesson, it’s what he shared with me next as he coached me into putting the blade back on the lawn mower ~ right side up!  Tested the tightness of the bolt (with the specialized insert) and offered his approval. That is when his insightful life long lesson was shared.

He took me back to his first few weeks on the job as a new apprentice. He had 12 machinists in the shop he worked in. Each one over the first weeks took him aside to teach him how to sharpen the tools they worked with. Well, most did, all but one of them did. Dad explained that despite being shown by most of them several times how to sharpen the cutting bits in the shop each time he held his tongue and watched, listened and for the first couple of times learned. However by the 10 and 11th time they all showed him the same process and same outcome. He remained patience and listened. That’s when the very quiet one took him aside. “I want to share with you something – This lot won’t do.” He then showed my Dad.  He then took him over to the grinding wheels and proceed to show him how to sharpen a drill bit in a slightly different manner that both sharpened the cutting edge, helped it stay sharper longer and the cutting bit lasted a little longer.

My Dad’s lesson I wanted share with you:
My Dads lesson that day to share with you is this: You never know who is watching us while we are listening and learning. Their added insights and contribution if we are open to it can be a game changer.

I have been very fortunate in life to have several mentors that have been first rate. One of my best after my Dad, was Trevor Hunt.  He offered wisdom, patience and respect. He was skilled at coaching me in process and the key skills to be my very best during my first few months in business-to-business sales. Who mentors you? Who do you mentor?

So until next time Imagine Yourself with more Resiliency for Life Travel well. Be safe.


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