In the pursuit of proficiency it is important to distinguish between technical knowledge and practical skills. To achieve a high level of expertise, these two powers must be complimentary. I am thankful that when I started in this industry, almost 20 years ago, that I was sent out into the field to get some hands-on (practical) training prior to being sent to my first certification course (technical). How many of you have worked with the property restoration technician that was sent to a course on day one of their hire and then unleashed on the team? It’s like the college graduate who thinks their degree has prepared them for immediate impact in their profession. This combination of knowledge that has not been rounded out by experience is a common practice and frequently leads to frustration for all involved. Yet, many still do it. 

Proficiency = Technical + Practical 

As a general rule, when I seek out advice, I do so from people who I have observed to have both the knowledge and experience as well as the spark for enjoying some aspect of what they do. My friend Josh Zolin shares in his book and podcast, both by the same name, Blue is the New White, the saying, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life,” is BS. What we do in property restoration is rarely glamorous, but I have found that it has a lot of value for me, my family, my clients, and my community. I have been able to work my way up the mountain (not the ladder) to build a career and provide for my family. Equally rewarding, I have been able to help many people develop their journey in and through this industry. Every day in property restoration brings something new; that something new may be disgusting, but it’s also intriguing. As Josh and I discussed on his podcast, your personal and professional development are enhanced by your ability to find some value and see the joy in what you do. That’s the spark - when someone has been operating with proficiency for a while and still has a drive to push themselves as well as to help others discover their own path to success. 



The Will + The Skill + The Chill (to succeed) 

There are traps in putting too much trust or worth in the opinions of others. Even if they have BTDT (been there, done that), you still have to go there and do that for yourself. My hope with The DYOJO Podcast, and this column, is to help growth minded professionals, at all levels, to shorten their DANG learning curve. This should start with a commitment to intentionally develop your own opinions about anyone and anything. Unfortunately, our industry is not without its rabbit holes of drama - please understand this isn’t targeted at any one group and yet it applies to ALL of them, even the ones who claim they aren’t. I was recently faced with my own long held opinion that I allowed to form from the influence of someone I respect. 

When I first learned to shave, my uncle told me (it may have been a joke or in passing), “You don’t need shaving cream, it’s a waste of money and time.” We proceeded, I assume from his military experience of sh*t, shower, and shave in under x number of seconds, to shave with hot water and a dab of soap. I’ve done this for years and even recently taught my sons the same way. The other day I was in Winco (a local discount grocery store) - now you know what I’ve been doing with all that book writing money - and I passed the shaving cream. It called to me. The generic brand stuff was less than three dollars; the “extra moisturizing” was a few cents more. 

In that Winco grocery store, I argued with myself, “Why do you need this, you’ve been doing it the same way for YEARS and it’s been fine.” 

Myself responded, “Are we fine though? Your neck has been irritated lately and your son mentioned the same issue.” 

I responded quickly, “You don’t need it. It’s a waste of…”

“Three DANG dollars?” 

“A waste of…”

“What if it works?” 

“A waste of...well, it sure would be nice not to have the neck irritation.” 

So, we decided to bite the bullet. I even upgraded to the extra moisturizing because, you know that’s how we roll with all those Be Intentional dollars we are stacking large. A day later I was running my hand over my face and I noticed how soft it was. Myself wanted to chide me but I told him to shut the heck up. It struck me though, there are so many things that I hold onto just because someone, many of them successful and good hearted people, made an impression on me. 

  • Did my opinion make sense? No. 
  • Had I really questioned it then, when I was “impressionable”, or in the years prior, when I should be less susceptible? No. 
  • Did it come from a bad or misleading place? Probably not. I’m sure my uncle meant it at the time, but maybe he has even changed his position. 

Clarity + Consistency + Accountability 

I made an attempt with my book, Be Intentional: Estimating, to challenge anyone who wants to grow their career, or help others, through estimating property insurance claims, to develop the right mindset and habits. More than once, I encourage in the book, and in various writings, to form your own opinions about how you clarify your vision, consistently pursue it, and build accountability for yourself as you make progress. Recently, I have had some fun conversations about how these efforts are helping to bridge our rich restoration history with modern restorers as well as helping some individuals to realize, “I can do this,” as they pursue their goals. You have to be the hero of your story. Anyone you may listen to, read, or even hire to help you should be helping you develop into your own person in a position of leadership. Collaboration is a big part of helping you accelerate your journey up your mountain, but you have to take the steps. Build your technical knowledge, develop your practical skills, many good people can help you shorten your DANG learning curve, but you have to walk your path to proficiency. Challenge everything, even yourself; your neck will thank you. 

Supposing someone even cared what I thought, I want to make a few things clear:

  • No mentors needed? Nope. I believe we should connect, collaborate, and conquer our goals with the help of good people. I am grateful for my mentors, including my uncle. 
  • Criticism = critical? Nope. One of the worst things you can do is to surround yourself with “yes” people. You need people who know and encourage you but who also can call you out when you need it.
  • Enjoy the process. Ben Justesen recently invited me to participate in his course, Enlightened Restoration Solutions. One thing that stuck out, among so many gems, was his process. Several attendees asked to have a copy of his processes but Ben wisely shared that the process their team went through, and continues to go through, is as important as the product that they produced. Be intentional to develop yourself, your team, and your process; there are no shortcuts.