Best Practices, Columnists, Operations, Tyler Mahan, V7I3

Overcoming Fear

(Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

One of my favorite coworkers in all my years of building sheds was a young man named Trey. 

He came to work with us sometime around 2012 and is featured in my story, “For Want of an Air Conditioner,” a three-part series that ran from February to June 2017 in this magazine (parts 1, 2, and 3). 

Like many of the great people who have joined our team, he became a friend. 

When Trey first joined our crew, he had almost no experience building anything. He had just recently graduated high school. His only job had been at a fast-food place. However, he and a friend had been recommended to us by the gentleman who teaches the carpentry class at our local Vo-Tech. It seems that they had done well in their carpentry course there and were hoping to find a job in which to use their newfound skills. 

These two young men (the other one’s name was Caleb) came to work and immediately began to provide entertainment. I am sure that all of you other shed builders enjoy helping new guys learn the ropes. There are so many fun things to do to new guys! 

We did have a lot of fun, but that is not what I want to discuss today. I was assigned to train these young men how to build sheds. Since my day job is teaching, I have historically trained most of our new builders. That is why Billy is such a great builder! 

Trey did fine while learning how to build the floor and then the walls. He built the trusses. Then, it was time to stand on the scaffold and roll the trusses. I have trained quite a few people to do this. I have never had anyone react like he did that day. 

He had told me that he was afraid of heights. I climbed up first and told him to join me. I expected him to have a little trouble with the scaffold, but nothing had prepared me for what came next. 

He managed to climb up to the scaffold and perched there on his knees, clinging frantically to the top of the shed wall. I encouraged him to take a minute to get comfortable before trying to stand up. After a couple of long minutes, he shakily stood. He still clung tightly to the top of the wall and he was not looking down!

It took quite some time and a lot of coaxing to get him to walk down the board to join me. There were tears in his eyes as he stood there watching me prepare to stand the first truss. He was crying from fear! I told him that he could get down if he could not handle it. He refused. At our shop, our builders build sheds from start to finish. If he could not work on a scaffold, there was no way we could keep him as a builder. 

With gritted teeth, he watched me roll the trusses. I did not think he was quite ready to try to do it himself, so I just let him watch and learn. Then, we climbed off the scaffold and went around to the other side.

I generally climb up a ladder and walk the top plate to nail the second side of the trusses. Anytime I train a new guy, that is the way I train them. He watched me climb up the ladder, but there was no way I was getting him on that wall plate!

I allowed him to set up the scaffold to nail the trusses off and he did it that way for several months. Over time he became more comfortable with heights and developed into a passable builder. 

That fear I saw in him the first day was real, and he still dealt with it during that time. He told me, though, that someday he was going to walk the top plate to nail off the trusses. 

I’ll never forget the day that he called me over to watch him roll the trusses on his building. After securing the first side, he climbed up on the top plate of the second side and walked down the wall, nailing trusses as he went. I snapped a picture of him standing there and it was one of my proudest moments as a shed builder. 

The young man who cried from fear when I first began working with him had conquered his fear rather than allowing it to conquer him. I was glad that I had been patient with him!

It is easy to dismiss the fears of others, especially when we do not have the same fear ourselves. However, remember people really do deal with fear. Encourage them; everyone wins when they overcome! Let’s all make another shed builder’s day better today!

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