This is for the younger readers of Walls & Ceilings. You could have a long career in this great industry and how it develops for you will primarily be the result of the choices you make. You will meet and deal with all kinds of people in your career. You will meet both good and bad people. The trick is that they do not wear a label to clearly identify themselves as such. You have to learn who to trust. Bad individuals will enjoy putting you in an uncompromising position. My advice is to be wary of everyone at first but to also listen to what everyone has to say.  

Positive and Negative Comments

The comments people make about you should be considered and evaluated. Not all advice is sound or even honest—it is up to you to decide which is which. You will have to digest these comments about your character and abilities. These will likely range from undue praise to nasty comments. Undue praise is often from family and friends who tend to tell you what you want to hear because they like you.

On the flip side, foul comments can be made as an attempt to just belittle you. I was only fired once in my life and it was a painful experience. I learned to grow from it, improve some things and make myself stronger. In that moment, a young man who simply inherited his business was pleased to tell me that I was lucky to even have a job. Ironically, I knew before he told me that he was only a step away from Chapter 11. He survived only because he was bailed out. 

In order to grow, you need to learn to assess the comments, criticisms and actions of others with your eyes, ears, and mind wide open. Remember, all people have agendas, and you need to discover and understand what those agendas are. 

A leader will say, “All I cared about was leaving the company in better shape than I found it.” If you want to succeed, you will have to navigate people, as well as your loyal friends. Understand you will find yourself in soul-searching moments where you will wonder, “Am I as good or as bad as they say?” But only you can—and should—decide that. 

Life-changing Conversations

I have known and dealt with many people in my 40-plus years in this great industry. Some are memorable for what they do or say. I recently met a man in Texas. I had only spoken to him once before and that was more than 30 years ago. But something he said made an impact on me as a young man; it actually changed my life, and I know he has no idea that he did. 

Knowing who to trust is almost as critical as knowing what to do with different opportunities. Opportunities will appear and you will have to decide on an action to take—but be cautious about the quick money option, think long term. This industry is fickle, cyclical and unforgiving on reputations. I would advise any young person to look down the road and be honest with themselves. Money tends to follow you when it is the right fit. If you are in your career for a quick buck or a fat payday, then you will likely find out that you will be selling yourself, your integrity, and your future. This is a smaller industry than you think, and your integrity should be priceless.

Do the Right Thing

Be honest about your ability and skills. If you have a desire to start your own business, that is great. However, you should know that many fail and all of them thought they would make it big. This is where being up front with yourself will pay off. Are you willing to work long hours or put your personal finances on the line? Do you have a vision and are relentless to succeed? If you are, then take that step. If, however, you have any reservations or think being the owner is a cushy job, you might want to re-evaluate your motives. There is money to be made but it is not easy nor does it come without risk. 

Making the right choices means gathering data—good and bad—and then honestly evaluating the opportunities presented and your own abilities. Remember, it is long career and falling from high places hurts. Be smart and honest, true to yourself and the values that made you. If they are good, then you will be fine.