The president of a local community college asked me to speak at the 2020 commencement. Thinking of what I will tell the approximately 300 students, their parents, and guests have me wondering how these graduates will define success as they go out into the workforce. I hope sharing what success is to me will help them in their future endeavors.
I am the majority owner of thirteen companies that employ around 280 people. When people drive by our headquarters, they see brick pillars with a wrought iron fence between them lining the entrance to large buildings that house lots of offices and equipment. On weekdays, there are around forty cars in the parking lot owned by people who are part of our management team. I wonder if people driving by think I am successful.
When people drive by my residence and see a private five-hole golf course on thirty-five acres of mowed grass with ponds and fountains as props for a beautiful home that sits in the background, I wonder if they think I am successful.
While owning multiple companies and having a nice home can certainly be a successful result of many years of hard work, these things are not what defines success to me. Remember that in last month’s Contractor Tip, I said that my definition of success is not success itself. To me, success is being in the pursuit of a worthy goal. No matter what that goal may be, regardless of where you are on the path to success, if you are doing the best and you can do every day to achieve it, you are successful. In this tip, I would like to take that thought a step further.
I want to ask the students if any of them plan to drive a garbage truck for a living. If so, I will warn them that people will scream at you when you block their driveway while loading their neighbor’s trash. Don’t let that stop you from being the best you can be at your job.
If you stop the truck too far off the edge of the road and into someone’s grass, you will hear some unpleasant language from the resident. Don’t let that stop you from being the best you can be at your job.
When the noise of your garbage truck early in the morning wakes people up, people will holler at you. Again, don’t let that stop you from being the best you can be at your job.
At some point during your career, someone will say you are the worst garbage truck driver of all time. Don’t let that stop you from being the best garbage truck driver you can be.
Through all the noise and resistance, you must keep your garbage truck polished and keep everyone’s yard clean by picking up the trash. Even the pieces the dog or the wind spread over the yard, pick it up. Do this because success will not be when you retire from driving the garbage truck someday. Success is obtained daily in what you do while you pick up and deliver people’s trash.
Keep a positive attitude about your job and life. Some days when you are picking up people’s trash, it will be raining. Will you see clouds, or will you see the sunshine? Only you can make that choice. If you can see the sunshine even when it is raining, and you never give up on your goals, you will be successful.
This advice holds true whether you are a garbage collector or a Chief Executive Officer of a company. Regardless of what any of us decide to do now and in the future, there will be lots of obstacles, bumps, and bruises along the way. There will be other people who want your job. They will lie and tell stories about you that are not true to stop you from achieving your goals. The hard times won’t be as fun as the good times, but you can still learn to enjoy them and accept them as building blocks to bigger and brighter things. As long as you stay in the game and do the best you can do every day, you will be successful.
Guess what? I do feel somewhat successful, but not because of the things I talked about at the beginning of this article. I feel successful because I am still in the game, and I am happy I have not crossed the finish line yet. Where is the finish line? I guess that is the day I die, and I don’t know when that will be. I hope I live to be at least one hundred years old, so I have at least forty-five more years to get there. Therefore, I am still in the pursuit of a worthy goal. That is what I believe is the definition of success.
Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Malta Dynamics, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email:firstname.lastname@example.org or call 740-749-3512.