Things Can’t Fall Off the Floor: Simple Lessons for Success in Maintenance and in Life

14th October 2013
14th October 2013

“Name one thing you’ve learned from a co-worker, boss, or client during your career that you’ll never forget and that you’ve also applied to your daily life.”

I saw this challenge posted on a LinkedIn discussion group the other day. It made me think back through my career for what my answer would be. Strangely, what first came to me was a simple lesson I learned from a co-worker at an auto repair shop where I was an entry-level mechanic, fresh out of school. My mentor’s name was Glen, and he left me a “pearl” I’ve held onto for many years, through my professional transition from auto mechanic to Maintenance Maven and software company CEO.

Glen was in his late 50s at the time. He’d been working at the same repair shop for over fifteen years. He’d been married for over 40 years, too, and was the “dean” of our group of Ford Registered Technicians. He had a take on just about every topic: “wrenching,” of course, but also on politics, world affairs, and sports. He shared his opinions and life lessons freely with anyone who would listen. As the newbie in the shop, I listened. Of course, some of Glen’s other observations aren’t publishable in this blog, but they were equally as instructive.

The lesson that stuck with me the most was, “Things can’t fall off the floor.”

I’d borrowed a 3/8” drive impact wrench from him. He later noticed it on my bench, with the air hose still attached. (This was way before all the battery powered wrenches available today.) He was concerned someone would bump the hose, which, in turn, would pull the wrench off the bench and cause it to break from the fall. Obviously, I didn’t have the money to buy him a replacement, or I’d have had my own in the first place. Glen was afraid we’d both be without a 3/8” drive impact wrench if I didn't right the wrong.

When Glen pointed this wisdom out, it seemed so obvious; and I was embarrassed he’d had to call me on it. “Things can’t fall off the floor,” didn’t seem like a lesson that would stick with someone for a lifetime, but it’s turned out to be one that’s stayed with me for 45 years. It’s also one I've shared with my sons, and with my students during my time as an auto mechanics instructor.

Glen’s lesson resonated with me at the time. The lesson morphed and grew as I became a little older and a little wiser. Here are five additional pearls from his simple guidance I’ve used my entire career:

  • Don’t leave loose ends dangling.
  • Be sure important things have a solid foundation.
  • Don’t borrow what you can’t afford to replace.
  • Listen to experience and learn from it.
  • Stay grounded. It’s safer.

Sometimes the greatest lessons come from unexpected sources. We just need to be open to receiving them. What lessons have you learned from an unexpected source? How have they helped you in your work and your life? Answer in the comments to share your “pearls” with others.

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