There’s no classroom in the world that is going to teach you how to spin a hammer so that you use the momentum you created to carry it through an arc for the next blow. I learned out on the track driving railroad spikes. Surveyors learned in the field staking out a job.

We do our jobs using the knowledge we gained from the classroom, from life and from our mentors. One of my college English professors told me, “We’re not here to teach you about Milton, we’re here to teach you how to learn.” Make no mistake, we still had to pass the test on “Paradise Lost,” but I have carried those words with me from the moment he said them, and he was right.

On my first military assignment, I sat at a console connected to 60 positions. The guy who was training me told me that if things were slow enough, don’t use the intercom, take the information out to the operator personally. That personal connection made all the difference in gaining credibility and respect quickly.

Whether it’s physical work, interpersonal relations, shortcuts at the desk or on the computer, we all learn from others and from our own experiences. Once we find that shortcut or simplified approach to a problem, we remember it and we use it over and over until it becomes second nature. We get better. We get faster. We develop our problem-solving skills each time we encounter an obstacle.

Back out on the track one day, one of the senior guys on the crew (he was, in fact, 60 years old) pointed to a newer guy and said, “Look at him killing himself over there. I tried to show him an easier way, but he wouldn’t listen, so I’m done helping him.” Most people are willing to share what they’ve learned if we are open. The knowledge is passed on and new contributions are added.

Most people are also willing to accept advice and guidance if there is someone there who is willing to share. But, as John Abruzzo, LS, noted in this month’s Career Notes, there is a gap created now that technology allows more field work to be done by a solo surveyor. That doesn’t mean we should drop or slow the adoption of new technology. It means we have to become more proactive and creative in how we share the real lessons we’ve learned.

I’d like to invite readers to share their personal stories. You can start with the “comment” section that appears below this column online and we can carry the dialogue to POB’s social media and other platforms – the RPLS forum, Facebook, LinkedIn, even Twitter. What’s in your field notes for the next generation? 

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