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I’ve never had Wisconsin cheese before, but tomorrow I’m going to learn its humble beginnings when I wake up at 3:00 am to milk cows and tend to a dairy farm. After my day on Hinchley’s Farm, Alyssa and I will pile into the RV and spend Friday tossing deep dish Pizza up in Chicago. Honestly, I’m more excited about waking up insanely early and working on the farm.
I’m a pizza fanatic, but this trip is all about discovering new skills and meeting people who aren’t a part of my circles. I’ve never worked on a farm before, and am curious to find out what goes on at one. I know farming is hard work, people wake up early, and you have to get dirty, but other than that I’m in the grey area. As for pizza shops, I’ve been to a thousand of those. Maybe not deep dish pizzas, but pizzas none the less.
I’ve discovered that by “saying yes” to new roles and foreign opportunities, I can hone three particular skills that apply to nearly every part of my life.
The best part is, I’m 100% in control of developing all three skills: focus, humility, and courage.
Humility, focus and courage may at first appear to be characteristics of a person. You might say, “He is a really humble guy.” or, “She’s really courageous.” However, I’ve discovered there are practical applications on how anyone can develop these as skills and make them a part of who you are and how you work. Here’s how I apply the skills to working hourly jobs across America.
At the end of every work day, I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted because I’ve expounded every ounce of my energy in focusing on the present moment while working. I acknowledge the only way I will pick up new skills quickly is if I focus with every fiber of my being on what I’m being taught. If I catch my attention wavering and thinking about other things, I grab it and bring it back down to Earth.
I also have to focus on the conversation I have with fellow coworkers. I spend the day following them around and asking questions. A large part of the day I’m asking questions about the job itself, but I’m also asking questions about their life. When they answer, I have to concentrate intensely on what they are saying to me. I don’t waver. I gladly wear myself out because the more I listen, the more I learn, and therefore, the better my work experience is.
This is really the key ingredient of being a good worker. I learn to leave ego at the door whenever I start a new job. I don’t consider myself better than anyone, and it allows me to do any job with a smile. My most recent job was at a winery. I held several positions throughout the day. I cooked food, wiped down tables, poured wine, and greeted customers at the door.
I would smile, “Welcome to Carlos Creek Winery. Have you been here before?”
Some people would smile and start a conversation with me, others would walk on by and pretend they didn’t hear me. If I was full of arrogant pride, it would hurt me to have someone blatantly ignore my presence. After all, I am a human being and it feels good to be acknowledged. However, since I left my pride at the door, these subtle blows don’t bother me much any more. I let them roll off my back and instead I focus on helping the customers who care about talking with me.
Practicing humility also allows me to truly serve people. I can ask them if I can take their dirty trays or help them in anyway, and it feels good to do so. In fact, it’s rare that I tell customers I’m filming a documentary about hourly workers. I do my best to blend in, I want them to treat me like they would any other customer.
“Do you want to give it a try?”
“Jump in and pour some wine?”
These are the questions I get hit with on every single job. It’s the scary moment where my new boss asks me to “try something new”. Eek, I don’t want to. But I know this is what makes my experiences meaningful, to overcome the fear and gain the real experience of working 50 hourly jobs across America. I don’t want to simply be an apprentice, although some days I am. I want to be able to say that my skills truly do range from toilet cleaner, to wine maker, to documentary film maker.
I am not alone when it comes to these struggles. They are obstacles we all face when trying to do great work. We all have to make choices to humble ourselves, focus on the task at hand, and be courageous when the situation calls for it. When you face these dilemmas, it’s up to you whether or not you face them head on, or give in to the pressure. Will you play it safe? Or will you swallow your pride, and do the work you were born to do?
Will you be courageous enough to answer the hardest questions, or humble enough to serve the meanest customers? And most of all, when the situation calls for it will you focus with all your heart and energy at being the best damn cow milker you can be?
I’ll be back next week to answer this question. In the mean time, be awesome and remarkable at everything you do.
Yours in fighting crime and normalcy,