What I’ve learn in 13 years as a columnist

Oct. 1, 2011
On Oct. 1, 1998, I took a step of faith with the publication of my first column in CONTRACTOR, "The 7-1/2 Cardinal Myths of Project Management," and to say my path for the past 13 years since has been interesting would be an understatement

On Oct. 1, 1998, I took a step of faith with the publication of my first column in CONTRACTOR, "The 7-1/2 Cardinal Myths of Project Management," and to say my path for the past 13 years since has been interesting would be an understatement.

From the creation of mere words alone, I've been loved, hated, ignored, praised, cursed, blessed, threatened, protected, hired, not hired, sneered at, laughed at, back-patted, back-stabbed, hand-shook, head-shooked, had my sanity wondered about, had my professional competency questioned, been spit on, have been publicly dry-cleaned, and was praised for saying what needed to be said by some and have been damned to hell by others for saying those same exact words. I've made really great new friends because of my impassioned written treatises and lost other older existing dear friends along the way because they disagreed with some of my feelings they previously didn't know I had when included in a given column.

I've been called everything, from a blasphemer to a young fool, to an old-school genius and a prophet before my time, to a preacher past his prime and in time, guess what, none of the above matters because I know in my heart that I've always done my truest and best to enlighten, entertain, inform and educate with the lightest but most transparent touch possible. And in the end I know I've honored the trade we're all a part of and always respected our respective occupations of project manager and estimator. I've made most of you, my dear readers, laugh aloud at one or more times, sometimes almost cry and almost always made almost all of you deeply think about what it means to be a early-, mid-, later-career middle-management, pre-mid-post construction cycle, younger-, middle-, older-age professional within our self-chosen profession.

I've confounded most of you with my seat-of-the-pants usage of run-on sentences and tortured syntax and even more bizarre head scratching from some of the made-up words I've created just because no existing word fit what I was trying to say at the time. Most of all, I've saved myself thousands of dollars worth of therapy bills by having this national pulpit to speak my mind from and being able to get things off my chest.

A very public thanks to a great successive order of editors here at CONTRACTOR, starting with Bob Miodonski and then Bob Mader and now Candace Roulo and not to forget the sometimes pinch-hitting, equally-talented Steve Spaulding. By them taking my usual submitted mishmash of words for each month's column and polishing them up to where, and this is no exaggeration, said columns sometimes sound more like me than I myself actually do in real life. I've learned by comparing what I sent in to the edited versions published to become a better writer over time. Oh, I'm still wordy as hell and mangle the English language to where it needs to be in the lexicographic ICU sometimes, but that's OK because my editors keep me from straying too far. And the words I use are what are used in everyday conversation on the jobsite and off and usually ring of a certain authenticity.

These same editors from day one gave me absolute total freedom to pick and choose what topics I could write about, letting me say anything up to the logical point of libel. That point was legally crossed one time when a certain GC's project manager knew of my column here. Since we were together on a jobsite and worked side-by-side daily and I made no point of hiding my distaste for him and told him to his face he was a real son-of-a-bitch, that character actually asked me to write a column about our mutual jobsite soap opera and publicly call him an SOB in print, which I did after he signed a waiver that waived his right to sue me or the magazine for libel for my doing so. I still chuckle even today… He was so proud of that he actually had a copy of the column professionally framed and hung it in his job trailer's office to warn others that he really was a SOB.

Speaking of proud, one of the proudest moments of my life in general and not just my tenure here at CONTRACTOR in particular was when they choose my now-passed father to be featured as the poster child for the 50th Anniversary Edition of CONTRACTOR in July of 2004. I certainly didn't ask them to do it and was shocked when they suggested I sit down and interview pop about his 55 years in the business, all but his first four when he was an apprentice as the owner (along with my mother, his partner in life and business) of an always-successful small plumbing firm. I'm almost getting a tiny bit teary eyed right now thinking about him and remembering how eerie it was for me to interview him about the past and him using that opportunity to talk more to my son, his grandson, than to me about what he felt the future held for the broader aspects of the plumbing and mechanical trades. When he passed away, some years after that, I tucked a copy of that interview into the inside pocket of his funeral suit.

What have I learned from doing this monthly column for 13 years? I've learned to relax more, especially when dealing with my own as well as other's opinions. I've learned that everyone has a good column inside them if they'll just be themselves and communicate what they want to say in their own language. And the most important lesson I've learned is that the journey is never truly over, not even when the very last word about the journey is finally written.

Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. You may contact him via e-mail at: [email protected].

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