A few months ago I received a letter in the mail from our water company. They were informing me the water tower across the street from my house would be undergoing significant maintenance. The project would take about 3 months and would involve major repairs. They advised me to prepare for the noises of trucks and equipment traffic as well as a lot of hammering and welding.
What they did not prepare me for was the fact that I would become completely fascinated watching the skill and bravery of the workers as they climbed the tower each day to complete their work. Water towers need to be tall in order to provide adequate water pressure to the communities they are serving. I am told that each foot of height provides .43 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi) and our municipality runs at about 75 psi. Our water tower is 175 feet high.
The men who climbed our water tower this summer had no fear. They looked like gravity-defying spiders as they scurried up the tall metal ladder and crawled across the massive tank at the top. One man in particular (A man I now call by the name Tom Cruise) did so without any ropes or harnesses. He was fearless. After watching him balance himself on top of a metal railing 150 feet up while securing a metal seam, I became determined to meet him.
It turns out, Tom was a hobbyist skydiver from Egypt. Because he had jumped from spaces as high as 25,000 feet, this water tower was nothing to him. I decided to ask him what dangerous work like this had taught him about life and he had some rather good answers. Here are some of them and I hope you find them as relevant as I did:
1. Always be prepared.
Preparedness is the key to a successful (and enjoyable) outcome.
2. Remember to breathe.
Nothing you are doing, nothing you are facing, and no amount of pressure you are under is more important than keeping your perspective.
3. Know your worth and live your pace.
I have never heard my boss complain about how long a project like this takes. I have also never seen him up here with me.
4. A little discomfort can be healthy.
No matter what I do, I come out ahead. I either win or I learn. A little temporary discomfort stretches me and makes me stronger. It’s always OK to take myself outside of my comfort zone. I grow by attempting what I think I can accomplish not by attempting what I already know I can accomplish.
5. Appreciate the beauty.
It is all too easy get caught up in the work. I never forget how beautiful the journey is and how lucky I am to be journeying together with my family, my friends, and my coworkers.
Dwayne Magee, CGCM serves as Past President on IPMA’s Board of Directors and Director of the Franklin Stamp and Ink Society. He is in his 15th year as director of College Press and Postal Services at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. His department was recipient of the 2018 IPMA Organizational Impact Award and the 2015 IPMA Innovation Award. Prior to joining Messiah, Dwayne worked for 17 years at AlphaGraphics as an assistant manager and ISO coordinator.