Growing up and learning from our elders is a hard thing to do. I was not unlike other teenagers. I had a hard time listening to others teaching me how to do things the smart way and not the hard way. My mother was and is still a great inspiration and influence in my life but when I was a teen, she couldn’t teach me anything because I wouldn’t listen. Later in life, the lessons she tried to teach me finally took hold and I was able to use the wisdom she tried to pound into my head earlier in life.
One of the great teachings that this wise woman was always trying to get into my head was how to use common sense when doing anything. “Don’t look at the whole project at once, take it one step at a time”, she would say. The best example I can come up with for this was cleaning my room and mowing the lawn. My room was like any other teenager’s room. It was usually a big mess. When she would tell me to clean it up, my first thought was “There goes my weekend!” My mom would remind me of how she always taught me to clean my room, even when I was much younger. I would hear her voice in the back of my head, “Don’t look at the whole thing, just start with one corner and clean that first.”
This process always worked even though I would never give her credit for it. I wouldn’t look at the whole room, instead I would put my focus solely on one corner. After that corner was clean, I would simply start on the next corner. It was amazing how well this worked out for me and within an hour, my room would be spotless. If I were to focus on the whole room, it would take much longer because of being overwhelmed by all the things that needed to be put back in place. I would be running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.
This simple rule continued to help me in many things throughout my life. One saying says get the whole picture but using pieces instead, works better for me. Looking at the whole picture not only overwhelms me but creates a confusion that is hard to explain.
One of the places in Missouri that I grew up in was what I considered my childhood home. We lived in many different houses but this was the one that held and still holds my heart. It was in the countryside with a dirt road leading to it. The house my dad and mom had built was in a field that was once an alfalfa pasture sitting between to hillsides. They had decided to have the house built far off the dirt road, which gave us a huge front yard. We had ten acres and the front yard consisted of two of those acres. Guess who had to mow those two acres and the half acre in the back of the house which met up with the rest of the land used as a pasture for our animals? If you guessed me, you hit the nail on the head.
We did have a old riding lawn mower to mow this but it was still a hard job to accomplish. Starting early in the morning, it would take until nightfall to mow this hunk of land if I didn’t take too many breaks that is. This land was so fertil that this project would have to be done every other week except for winter when the snow would give me a break. Of course shoveling the driveway wasn’t fun either. The only way I could accomplish this great mowing job was to use my mom’s idea and take it one section at a time. If I were to look at the whole job all at once, I would’ve probably lost my mind. However, looking at one section at a time made the job alot easier. During the mowing, I could also look at what I had already done and see that I was making progress. The few times I tried to mow the whole thing in one shot seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere fast. Even though the same amount of grass was being chopped, the difference in how I seen it was amazing.
I continued through life using this simple method and it has helped me get though many things in my life. No matter how big of a project I came upon, I could break it down and make it a simple thing to do. Even when crazy things happened, like a main water line breaking, I didn’t go crazy over the nightmare I was facing. I just broke it down to steps that needed to be taken and then took it one step at a time.
There is a saying that many of you may have heard before. It’s called the ‘K.I.S.S’ method. This is short for “Keep it simple stupid”. Using the break down method my mom taught me or as I like to call it “One nightmare at a time”, seems to work well with the Kiss method. Any way you look at it, these two work hand in hand. They are both very good lessons to learn and will help you get through tough times as they have with me.
I remember going to boot camp with the Navy and keeping these terms in my mind. They helped me tremendously when it came to doing all that was required from me to make it without going crazy when so much was expected and it had to be exactly right to keep the Company Commander off my back. Even though I had a very smart mouth that caused me to do more push-ups then anybody else, when it came to my bunk and locker, mine was always perfect during inspections.
Once I graduated from boot camp and was stationed on my ship “USS Charleston LKA 113” I continued to use the lesson I had learned about looking at one piece of a job or problem at a time. Being that I was a Damage Control man on the ship and being trained in many different types of rescue, fire fighting, flood control and other such things, this simple lesson served me well. Even the times that we had actual damage happening, not just training for it, this lesson loomed large in the back of my mind just waiting for its grand appearance once again. It is true that training for such things to happen does help a great deal when the time comes. I just never knew how the training for such disasters actually was started back in my youth long before the dream of being a sailor had even crossed my mind. For those I served with, thank you for your service and thank you for all your help during the “Fork truck rodeo”. To others that were not there during this event, you missed one heck of a ride! I have said before that I would write about that event but the words are not there as of yet. Just to give you a taste of what that event was, it consisted of fire, flooding and loose fork trucks on board our ship during a hurricane all at the same time.
Once leaving the service, I became a over the road truck driver and seen things that screen writers for the movies would have a hard time coming up with. If they did write some of these things down, big movie stars would swear the public would never believe it unless it was written into a science fiction movie that is. To watch fifteen to twenty cars spinning out of control outside of Dallas Texas because someone lost a ladder out of the back of their pickup was absolutely crazy and terrifying, yet I drove through the middle of all them and watched the ladder stand on end next to me until I got passed it, then it went to bouncing around again. The only damage my rig received was a fine line towards the top part of my trailer from where the ladder barely touched it. The damage was almost like someone had taken a #2 pencil and drawn a perfect line down the side. It was so light that it would wipe off with a damp rag. Later that evening I seen a newscast of the big pileup of cars and big trucks alike this single ladder had caused. Once again, my training came back and I dodged one car at a time. Of course God was helping me steer at the time.
A few jobs in between and then my mining job began. Numerous times I thought for sure I would have a major accident driving a large haul truck out of control down a mud slide of a ramp. Time and time again my Mom’s voice would remind me in the back of my mind, “Remember son, one step at a time.” Time moves on but wisdom always wins out. No matter the situation you find yourself in, deal with the now and worry about later when it gets here. Don’t try to start a jigsaw puzzle with the last piece, work your way through the process and the final piece will fit in. Seeing the whole picture doesn’t count if you can’t see it one piece at a time. Thank you mom for sharing your wisdom with me and even when you thought I wasn’t listening, your words were building a picture in my mind. You have saved me from many failures by sharing your wisdom with me.
I hope reading this has meant as much to you as writing it has meant to me. God bless and as always; Remember, we are all in this together.
I want to dedicate this post to my Mom. I can’t thank you enough Mom for teaching me and sharing your wisdom with me. I know God will have a mansion waiting for you when you go to your Heavenly home.