Friday, September 03, 2004

All I Really Need to Know I Learned at Home Depot

If you are paying attention, it is amazing how much you can learn about life and human nature while working for the World's Number One Home Improvement Retailer (I still own stock so I have to talk 'em up). I know, you don't normally hold those wide (but often blocked) concrete aisles in the same esteem as some revered halls of higher learning, but nonetheless, I learned more working at Home Depot for 13 years than I ever learned in 7 years of college.

For instance, the first thing I learned was if you want to be the boss, you need to act like the boss.

Sounds simple, I know. But it always amazed me the transformation a person made when he was promoted to any supervisory position. I often found myself at some point saying to myself, "Hey, that person was just a regular employee a few weeks ago and now they seem so different." It was as if I couldn't even remember that they were someone else, and all of a sudden I had a flashback, but still couldn't fathom the change.

Well, I finally figured out how people make that jump from worker bee, to wanna be to queen bee: ACTING.

Yes, acting. One of the essential differences between someone who "is not" and some one who "is" (whatever is is), well, turns out it's just acting. Now this is not to demean Home Depot training or any kind of training or anybody's qualifications, it's just that before we come into our own we have to pretend that we have already arrived and just fake it.

That's right, there is no magic that happens to someone after they pass the pee test and sign their new wage sheet--they are exactly the same person! They already had the required knowledge and ability, but until they got the title they didn't assume the requisite attitude. Taking the opportunity you are given means taking the role and embracing it.

I tell my students this and I tell my own kids this when they try to tell me, "I can't." One might not be a good student, but one of the steps toward becoming one is acting like one. (Reminds me of those old commercials, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV.")

I guess a popular corollary to this principle is the ever-present mantra, "Attitude is Everything." It is certainly not everything, but it is a great deal of things that you can't do without. If someone is not good at talking in front of class, I might tell them to pretend that they are. When I began teaching, I was terrified to actually get up and teach real students, but I wasn't a "teacher" until I did it and I certainly couldn't "do it" until I first did my best imitation!

Ever since I realized at Home Depot University that a good acting job was the difference between an old worker and a new supervisor, I have accomplished a lot of things that I would not even have tried. Now I am trying to impart the same plan for success to my students and my offspring.


KeyLargo said...

I often gaze at my belly and ponder this eternal truth, "University don't prepare us for nothing" I know never double negative! I do believe your on to something here, whether it is ill preparation by the Universities, or that what matters is what is inside. I value my education, but what has mattered most in my life is how I have acted, when I got a chance to do.
Be careful blogging is dangerous to your mental health.
Good Luck this new semester.

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