Living What We Learn

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A ritual happens every weekday in our home. My two daughters come home from school, and each calls me whether I’m in the office or on the road.

March 01, 2002

 

Heather McCune, Editor in Chief

 

A ritual happens every weekday in our home. My two daughters come home from school, and each calls me whether I’m in the office or on the road. Our conversation or their messages always contain the same information: the best new thing each learned at school that day, the hardest subject to master that day, the best moment of their day and what, if anything, made them unhappy during that day.

We initiated this simple routine for each kid when she started kindergarten. Now they are in sixth and second grades, and we all eagerly anticipate this daily communication. It grounds all of us in each other and connects our daily experiences.

My darling daughters recently turned the tables on me. After nine days away at the International Builders’ Show, I came home, not exactly in the mood for more talk, but there they were nonetheless with "You owe us a lot of days." Now mind you, this sharing behavior is a lot easier when it is learned at age 5 rather than in adulthood, but that didn’t really matter to them. All that mattered was that nine days had passed and they didn’t know what I had been up to. So I began the abbreviated story of my 2002 Builders’ Show:

Sunday, Feb. 3: The best part of the day: anticipation of the week ahead. After four years in the industry, conventions are more fun, not just for the opportunity to learn and meet new people, but also because they become occasions to see associates who have become friends. The worst moment was a late-night walk through the parking lot of the World Congress Center. The realization hit: People were counting on my labor to help complete the five Habitat for Humanity houses that were part of the Show Village sponsored by PB in cooperation with Habitat.

Monday, Feb. 4: The hardest task to master today (and every day that week) didn’t involve a hammer, saw, screwdriver, pry bar, nail or utility knife. Much harder to find was the tool to deal with my frustration. I suddenly sympathized with every foreman and superintendent who faces a crew of unskilled, poorly trained or uninspired workers. Worse, I was that unskilled crew, but what I lacked in skill I more than compensated for in attitude. Yes, it took me twice as long to pound a nail as it took some others, but I pounded with zeal and ripped nails out with the same level of joy. The happiest aspect of this and every day was the patience showed me by generous teachers such as John, Wilson, Ron, Scott, Frank, Karen and more.

Wednesday, Feb. 6: Driving rain was a victory. We all had listened to the weather report Tuesday as the forecasters called for ice and snow during the next 24 hours. All the volunteers prepared for the worst, so the nonstop stream of water that fell from sunup to sundown was nothing. The line of the day: "Water is for wimps." All expected worse, prepared for the same and rejoiced when it wasn’t realized.

Friday, Feb. 8: Fatigue and adrenaline warred all day, which made good and bad, hard and easy blur. The worst moments of the day were when one won out and I failed to deliver the support asso-ciates needed or the performance expected. As a manager it’s my job to moderate the highs and lows, and when they cannot be avoided, to exercise the care required to shepherd all through.

Saturday, Feb. 9: The best moment was waiting in the three-minute line to get on the escalator out of the exhibit hall as the show closed. How cool that this industry is the rocket the economy is riding out of recession. It’s even cooler that builders, architects, manufacturers and more care enough to invest time and money to learn with and from each other at a time when it’s easy to stay home.

Monday, Feb. 11: For me, it is always with regret and relief that the convention ends. The energy that fills a place as ideas and information are shared is addictive, and leaving behind that community of sharing that develops whenever our industry gathers together is difficult. Yet there is relief as well in going back to the office and acting on what was learned, and knowing that next year we will do it all over again.

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