Whether You Think You Can or Can’t, You’re RIGHT

Damian Lang

“There’s no way you’re going to make it.”

If you’ve ever been kicked in the gut by someone declaring the impossibility of you succeeding at something, then you know this feeling you get, how badly it hurts.

It hurts even more if you admire the person telling you that you don’t have what it takes. So why then even try?

It makes me wonder – who has the right to decide who are the winners and who are the losers in this game we call life? And what gives them the right to judge you? Or forecast (and then tell you) whether or not you’re going to make it?

In reality, only YOU know your full potential.

When I was a sophomore at Waterford High School in Waterford, Ohio, I had big ideas for my future. I wanted to learn the masonry trade, work in it and eventually start my own masonry contracting business.

Another local school, the- Washington County Career Center happened to have a masonry program. It was clear that this was where I needed to be to achieve my goals and dreams. Their program would give me a shot – a chance to gain the classroom instruction I needed to allow me to enter the workforce as prepared as possible in my chosen field. Therefore, I decided I wanted to go there my junior year and start learning the masonry trade.

There was just one problem…

In order to get accepted into the masonry class, I had to get recommendations from two teachers at Waterford High School. No biggie, right? I picked the teachers and gave them the applications, which contained sections for completing their recommendations.

The next day one of the teachers, one whom I admired a lot, asked me to remain after class that day to discuss my application. When the bell rang at the end of class, I had no reason for anxiety – at least as far as I knew – so I wasn’t worried.

Hindsight being 20/20, I guess I should have been, because he returned the application uncompleted! He said he could not “in good faith” recommend me for the masonry program and that’s why the application was not filled out.

I felt confused. I didn’t know where this was coming from, so I asked him about it. His response?

He didn’t think “I would amount to anything.”

“What makes you think that?” I questioned in my bewildered and disappointed state.

“Well, when there is trouble in my class, you are always the head of it. You are the first to the door when the bell rings, and the only reason you want to take the masonry class is because Robbie Tornes is taking it.”

He had the part about Tornes totally backwards. My recollection remembers him wanting to take the class because I was.

I was devastated (and a bit scared) as I took the recused application to my Vocational Agriculture teacher, who must have given me a good recommendation as I got accepted into the masonry program.

I was all of 16 years old at this time, mind you. And wonder how my life would have turned out had I listened to that teacher way back when. If I took to heart that, “I would never amount to anything.” Maybe I wouldn’t have.

Luckily, I had other people like my dad and mom encouraging me, telling me that I could accomplish anything I desired if I put my mind to it.

I wonder what that same teacher thinks today since my masonry contracting company has remained one of the biggest and strongest in the state of Ohio for many years, and continues to grow.

Did I amount to something? I think so.

I haven’t succeeded at everything. In fact, I’ve had my share of failures. However, I always come back swinging, focused on the lessons learned, and moving forward to make the next endeavor successful. This strategy works for me. I’ve had the successes I’ve wanted, I think, certainly enough to offset my failures.

And I’m glad I didn’t take my teacher’s prediction to heart. Or quit trying after failing the first, second, or even the 10th time.

There’s a quote I have hanging on my wall:

“I’ve been failing for, like, ten or eleven years. When it turns, it’ll turn. Right now, I’m just trying to squeeze through a very tight financial period, get the movie out, and put my thing in order.”

It’s a quote from Francis Ford Coppola just before the release of The Godfather. It worked out for him. And I think it’ll work out for you and I too.

During your career, it’s likely there will be dark periods that make you question whether you’re going to make it. During these times, look to positive forces in the industry. Seek the leading men and women who inspire you and learn from them.

Don’t surround yourself with negative people. They’ll bring you no positive benefit. They’ll serve no purpose. They’ll drag you down. They’ll get in the way. They’ll stifle your productivity.

And just remember, whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right!

Damian Lang owns and operates several companies in Ohio. He is the inventor of the Grout Hog-Grout Delivery System, Mud Hog mortar mixers, Hog Leg wall-bracing system, and several other labor-saving devices used in the construction industry. His latest venture is Malta Dynamics Safety Company that focuses on bringing quality safety products to construction customers at the best possible prices. He writes for Masonry Magazine each month and consults with many of the leading contractors in the country.