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Stubborn, headstrong and determined not to stink

I am a stubborn, headstrong person. But I also love to learn things.

If you try to teach me “the best way” to do something, but I know you’ve never done it or aren’t good at it, I’m not going to be listening as intently as I probably should.

Just being honest.

But if I know you’ve been doing it a long time and are good at what you do, I’m going to be paying close attention.

I’ve done a fair amount of DIY projects, home repairs and handyman stuff over the years. I’ve learned from professionals with lots of experience and from people who were never paid to make these repairs but were nevertheless really good at it.

I’ve learned all kinds of techniques and pointers, and forgotten more than I ever learned.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the people who are the best at something rarely go around bragging that they are — unless they’re advertising their business or something. Nor do they disparage themselves, trying to convince others and possibly themselves that they aren’t really good at what they do, at all.

The good ones want to stay good and also are ready and willing to learn anything that will help them do their jobs better. They are also usually ready and willing to help  others when help is needed.

A few years ago, we remodeled the office where I worked in a retail store. My sales partner and I did all the work ourselves, with the exception of some of the demolition cleanup. We rebuilt walls, built new counters/desks and repainted.

As I was painting trim one day, I noticed a couple of professional painters who’d been shopping in the store were standing behind me watching me work. I was suddenly very nervous about work I had just a moment before been pretty confident in doing.

I nodded at them and said, “Hello,” and returned to painting. After returning the greeting, one said, “That’s really good trim painting. You’re doing a really good job.”

“Thank you!” I said and couldn’t stop grinning the rest of the day. My sales partner joked about me quitting and going to work for those guys. I casually brought it up to my wife when I got home. She was less than impressed, but that’s OK. I got a compliment from professionals about work they were doing all the time and thought I could do well.

It was a great confidence booster.

But I’ve also had feedback that wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for at the time. I’ve had questions like, “Why are you cutting this like that?” and “Is that the tool you’re going to use for this?” I’ve had comments such as, “I think we might could find a more efficient way to do this,” and “Maybe if you did this instead.”

Every time I’ve gotten a comment like that I’ve had to pause and rethink what I was doing and why. Had I chosen the right tool, the correct materials, the best method? Did these people have suggestions that would make the job easier and turn out better if I just listened?

Usually, they did. And when I implemented their suggestions, things went better and the project turned out better.

And I enjoyed it more.

I don’t always enjoy fixing something that’s broken, of course, or diving into a new project that I didn’t come up with myself, but I am always glad when things turn out well in the end.

But if I stop listening, stop trying to learn and do things better, be better, then I have essentially declared myself to be the best I can be at something and I will stagnate. Stagnant water eventually stinks, and so does the attitude of someone who is stagnant about learning.

I am stubborn. But that also makes me determined — to carry through, to push on, to learn. I may do it at a different speed or with a different amount of caution or along a different route than someone else, but I refuse to be stagnant.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.