Doing What Has to be Done
I once took a window cleaning job doing construction clean-ups on a townhome development. The money was steady for a year and as most of you know, that’s real attractive to a seasonal kind of guy. What I didn’t anticipate when I took the gig was that the work would be steady for a year and I was in Minnesota. Take your time and let that one sink in. I nearly panicked when I finally realized what I had done.
Those jobs couldn’t be rescheduled to nicer days because during that year’s January and February there were no nicer days. I ended up on a ladder in raging wind at fifteen degrees below zero with a wind chill in the negative thirties.A two hour job took 5 hours or more. I’d do one exterior with straight methanol and then rush inside to do a couple of inside surfaces and warm up, then I’d head out to do another one or two. I don’t remember being colder.
It’s easy to think back on it and pat myself on the back. After all it’s minus twenty right now and I’m warm, in sweat pants, with a single malt in a tumbler right beside me.Back then I was rethinking my life’s choices.I was also weighing my options. I could have refused. After all, it wasn’t like they were going to easily replace me with the weather being so brutal. But that’s not what I did. I was raised on two lessons:
- Figure out how.
- Do what has to be done.
I had given my word and I was going to get the job done. That’s really all I built my business on is giving my word and doing the work. You know, that’s all anyone wants out of you.
There are all kinds of advice-givers on the internet these days who would quickly tell a young window cleaner to forget working in those temperatures. They dismiss certain kinds of windows and certain kinds of customers as “not worth it.” They fill the comments with reasons why not.
I’m here to tell you to find a way to get it done. Sometimes it’s going to be miserable and often it’s not going to be very much money and way too much time. But you know what you’re going to get out of doing the difficult jobs and trying the impossible ones?You’re going to learn to respect yourself.
My grandfather put me on a tractor when I was eight years old and told me to drive straight and slow while he threw hay bales onto its trailer. It made sense for him to grow his own feed for the livestock since he didn’t have a lot of money, but once the hay was baled it had to get to a dry place before it spoiled and I was the only help he had sometimes. So he put me on the tractor and he threw those bales ten feet high. I never admired a man more than him. He taught me that you care for the animals before you care for yourself because that’s the deal you made when you got them. The horses. The cows. The pigs. The chickens all ate before we did in the morning. “It’s my responsibility,” he would say.
For my life, that’s been a key lesson and once I take something as my responsibility I see it through. Never think in terms of if, but instead in terms of how.
How am I going to get to this window?Not, If I’m going to get to this window.
How am I going to finish all my route work this weekend? Not, If I’m going to finish my route work.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t turn down work. We do it all the time. But once you say yes. Once they’re on your schedule, then you absolutely, positively will get that job done. Even if it’s the dead of winter, in the dark, with 30 mile per hour wind gusts at your back.
Don’t take it from me, go out there and learn this lesson yourself. Start taking on the hard jobs in tough times. Then get those jobs done, rest a bit and look back on it. You will have learned a lot.
They say, in the military that you should never volunteer for anything. I didn’t get that memo.I volunteered for all of it: the extra duty, the specialized training, and assignment after assignment. Oh, I cleaned some floors and more than my share of bathrooms, but pretty soon I was getting good assignments and the guys who never raised their hands would get pointed at. You never get out of things in the long run.
Now I’m out here in the business world and I’m still volunteering.
If you wondered where I’ve been and why I haven’t written anything in a while, well friends, I guess I wasn’t busy enough, so I went and bought another business. Yup, I stepped up and volunteered, and now I’m the owner of a property management business.Expect some stories from that line of work to permeate my writing in the near future.
And since I’ve taken that responsibility on, I’ll approach it with the same attitude I’ve always had:
Doing What Has to be Done.
I’m here if you have questions.
- Rick Wren