Painter’s Corner: MCAA Magazine

The Intangibles 

Jerry Painter  

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Masonry Showcase. It is an annual regional competition for high school masonry students. This competition is a warmup to the state Skills USA competition. I love to mingle with the students before and after they build their project.  

It doesn’t take much conversation to determine their level of excitement and goals. I normally follow the rules and stay out of the competition area but one student rubbed on a tender nerve. I was raised to believe that your tools were very important to you almost to the point of being sacred.  

You do not mistreat, misuse or allow them to be mistreated. They are an extension of your body. You don’t want to lose a finger or break an arm because it will impede your ability to perform your work. This particular student left their modular rule unfolded four links and laid it across his tool bag. That was like the last cookie on the plate. I could not help myself. After a quiet and brief onesided discussion, he smiled and folded his rule and put it in his pocket. 

As the students were working on their projects, everyone was watching as their talent level became obvious. When the judging was completed, we learned who was graded the highest for the quality of their work. This was a measurement of their TALENT. You can watch as they work and see their talent to spread mortar, to butter the masonry units, manipulate the units and keep them level and plumb.  

That is their talent being developed. If they choose, their level of talent will increase as they progress in their training and career. But as you watch or sit at the lunch table with them, you begin to find out things that are not part of their developing talent. Some people call that the ‘intangibles.’  

I began thinking about some of those intangibles. Since I was born into a masonry family, life and worked sort of blended together. This concept was in all things, “one time and one time only.” That was whether you were telling, being told or doing.  

The simple truth is that it wastes time and effort to have to repeat instructions or repeat the work. Another one is to not put conditions on good deeds or favors. If my Dad was giving a ride to anyone, including us kids, you got one blow of the horn. If he had to go to the door and knock on it was only to tell you that you no longer had a job and sometimes, he wouldn’t waste that time.  

There are things about people that you can pick up on that enhance their talent. Some people call them intangibles and some might call it character. Some of these things are learned early on in life and some may never gain that knowledge. 

One of the best descriptions of these things I saw in a masonry training area. Over the door to the classroom and the tool room was a small poster that stated the obvious. It was titled: 10 THINGS THAT REQUIRE ZERO TALENT. This was the list. 

  1. Being on time
  2. Work ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Body language
  5. Energy
  6. Attitude
  7. Passion
  8. Being coachable
  9. Doing extra
  10. Being prepared

Here is hoping all of your employees and future employees have these nontalent attributes. Raise the Line and come on around the corner and we will talk about some of these. 

Jerry