Be Willing to be Useful

We hear the scrutiny all the time in the trades. “That apprentice ain’t worth a damn,” or “He ain’t worth sh*t on the tools.” For those of us actually trying our best, fear sometimes sets in and we might question ourselves. “Am I worth a damn? What value have I got? Are my skills good enough?”

Let’s clear some things up, first. Would you care about the opinion of a banker who couldn’t pay his own bills? Or how about a mechanic whose car didn’t run? Many journeyman are worthy of respect, there’s a lot to learn from them. That’s doesn’t mean that the title of journeyman makes every one of them high caliber and well suited for their jobs. Not all journeymen are created equal. Stop pretending that their opinion is the benchmark for quality work.

If you’re on this journey with me you know it’s about doing the next best thing you can. One by one. You’re here to learn and become skilled, not please every poor lonely bastard along the way. You’ve got improvements to make in every direction, not just at work. Find ways to eat better, sleep better, study better, treat others better, contribute more. While at work, focus on work. Ask questions that help you understand systems better. Admit you don’t know everything and that you’re looking to improve. Let your intentions be known, that you’re not just here for the paycheck and breakfast burritos, you want to achieve your goals and learn as a skilled worker.

Showing willingness to learn can come in a lot of different forms. We all know the guy that constantly has a broom in his hands but wouldn’t dare pick up a wrench. He ain’t willing. He doesn’t participate in the real work. To show your willingness you’ve got to actually ask for guidance. Once you know what the goal of the task is, ask, “how would you like this done?” Or “I’m sure you’ve done this before, any tips?”

Think about something you’re knowledgeable and passionate about. A hobby, an interest, or a talent. Now recall the last time someone asked you about it. Chances are you smiled a lot more than normal, couldn’t stop talking, and even told them a couple things that no one else knows just to impress them. Could you imagine a journeyman giving you that attention? That kind of interaction literally makes your apprenticeship a dedicated, one-on-one course with a professor in your subject. Take advantage.

Who Dares Wins. Your work relationships and your reputation for being a bad-ass apprentice won’t happen by accident. All of these things don’t just fall into your lap, they are only accomplished with effort. Effort, by the way, which may not always succeed. You can’t please everyone, that’s not even your goal. The ideal is to make progress in each effort towards learning. Towards becoming better than you were yesterday. Towards piecing together a better you in all the ways in which you can. This apprenticeship is just one focus point in the grand scheme, but it’s the strongest place to form all the right habits and relationships. Simply try putting ego and bravado aside and take advantage of those who are there to teach you and actually help in that overarching goal of yours. Dominance and improvement in life.