Things I've Learned: Starting The Next Chapter

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I was heading to one of my most favorite spots on the planet not too long ago and had a chance to reflect on a few things. I have made the normally 9 hour drive to my place on Lake Gogebic countless times and it never seems to get old. Sometimes it’s an 8 hour trip and sometimes it is a 12 hour trip depending on Mother Nature, but usually it is just a great time to set the cruise, sit back and think about things. As I am quickly approaching the end of a pretty important chapter in my life, my thoughts turned to a few things I have learned over my years in my career as a Surveyor and being a part of a company that has been an integral part of my life for almost 35 years.

I have had the same tag line on my emails for a long time that says, "If you want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse." I believe we have all been on both side of this.

A very successful developer client once tell me that anyone who proposes a project with a 1000 feet of entrance road without lots on each side doesn’t know what they are doing and will fail. I stayed away from working for a few who wanted a long winding solitary entrance road and I don’t regret it.

A sense of urgency is a very important trait to have when working with clients, but it is mandatory when working with the private sector.

I saw a sign above an office a long time ago where they collected rents for a trailer park. It said, "Keep your words soft and sweet…for some day, you may have to eat them." I have never forgotten those words; I just don’t always follow them and have eaten more than my fair share.

Do all you can to put yourself in others shoes before making a decision or a statement on just about anything. It may not change how you handle something, but then again, it might.

Understand that all of us have a saturation point on how hard we want to work and how much money we want to make. It just isn’t the same point for everyone and therefore the rewards should not be the same for everyone either. If you truly understand how much work goes into being a professional golfer, for example, you would understand why they make what they do.

Balancing work life and personal life can be a tough thing to do. Family certainly needs to be the number one priority, but I have also learned it is as much about quality time as it is about quantity time.

Stay as positive as you possibly can even in the worst situations. Having a defeatist attitude helps no one. You can be realistic, but it is a rare occasion that doesn’t have some positive in it.

Get to know your clients outside of their projects. I consider mine my friends. You may disagree with a friend, but you usually work with them to find a solution to an issue rather than find a new friend.

Don’t be afraid to take the lead on something. Sitting in the passenger seat can make for a nice ride, but you never truly know where you are going or the route you are taking.

Telling someone that you were wrong or made a mistake is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. Excuses usually are as transparent as a newspaper page in the sunlight.

Never stop learning. Every day is a new lesson in something and you never know who the teacher may be.

Don’t be afraid to help. Whether it is monetarily or by effort, it always pays you back a lot more than it cost you.

Make sure you have some type of activity outside of your profession to occupy some time. It may be chasing your kids in a park, reading a book or wetting a fishing line, but find something to keep your attention.

I used to travel past a small church regularly on the way to a project I was working on a number of years ago. It had a reader board out front and always had great sayings that would pop up about every week. My favorite was "He who wants by the yard, but gives by the inch, should be kicked by the foot". I think my father had that one put there so I wouldn’t miss it.

I mentioned early in this piece that I was reflecting because I am approaching the end of a chapter in my life that has been very important for a long time. I will be stepping down from the management of my firm in about a year and a half after spending my entire career here. It has been a great experience and I have few regrets. They are little in number and small in stature. I am proud of the work my firm does and the people who everyday take on the challenges faced by them. They will continue to do as well or better after I retire as they did before I got here.

So, what does that mean for me? I suspect it could mean more time to reflect, but as I mentioned earlier, I am not done learning yet. Between the outdoor activities I love to do and the time in my woodshop trying to grow a different type of business with just one employee (me), I plan to be just as busy. I may find a little more time to relax, though, but I doubt it. There are still so many things to get done…

John Matonich is the President and CEO of Rowe Professional Services Company, Inc. and is a licensed surveyor in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. He is Chairman of the Joint Gov’t Affairs Committee of ACSM, Past President of NSPS and currently an At-Large Director of the Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors.

A 462Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE