When I was a kid, my dad owned a powder coating business. For those not familiar, powder coating is where you spray electrostatically charged colored powder onto metal and bake it in a large 450-degree oven that is about the size of a kitchen. During the 30 minutes of baking, the powder bonds to the metal, resulting in a much better finish than traditional paint provides. It’s an exciting process, and there is some neat equipment involved, but it’s arduous work.
In the summertime, I’d have to carry metal furniture in and out of the oven on metal hooks (you can’t touch the chair going in, or it will mess up the powder, and you can’t touch it coming out because you’ll get burned.) It was so hot in the oven that the sweat behind your ears would singe as you walked in the oven to retrieve your items. Brutal!
All of this for minimum wage (paid cash at the end of the week like everyone else) while my friends were off playing video games, sleeping in, and vacationing all summer.
This was the worst job I ever had, by far. However, the lessons I learned during these summers have paid enormous dividends:
- I decided early on that I was not cut out for manual labor and decided to go to college.
- I have a strong work ethic. An air-conditioned desk job seems easy compared to toiling away in the heat.
- I can make decisions quickly, I’m not sure if this is actually correlated, but when stuff hits the fan in the oven, you had to act, or people would get hurt.
At the time, I really hated working at my dad’s shop. Looking back, I wouldn’t give up the experience. The hard-earned lessons of manual labor have benefited me immeasurably in my life and would be difficult to reproduce any other way.
Unfortunately, these lessons were learned unintentionally. They happened by accident without any kind of deliberate thought put into the process. As a result, I could have easily gone through all of that work with no benefit to my life.
When you find yourself in a suboptimal situation, at work or life, you might as well get something out of it for your troubles. Usually, these situations offer up a level of growth, learning, or wisdom that you would be unable to achieve any other way.
I'll leave you with a quote from The Obstacle is the Way an excellent book for learning how to thrive in the face of adversity:
“In life, it doesn’t matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you’ve been given. And the only way you’ll do something spectacular is by using it all to your advantage.” - Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way