Don Shomette

People are the Prize

The Same Year For 20 Years

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When I was a young man I worked construction during my summer breaks from school.  As a teenager, the work was hard but the money was good.  I can remember once witnessing an argument take place between two men who were leaders on the site.

We were building a house and for those who are not familiar with such a demanding and complicated task, many things must happen all at once and in a specific order.  The carpenter must first frame in the walls so the electrician can then run the wires so the plumber can then rough in the pipes so the stone mason can then…you get the idea.

The argument took place after the lead carpenter called everyone to lay out the next steps.  While that argument may be thirty years old, it is still very relevant even today—especially since the New Year is still young.

It started with the lead carpenter and went something like this (of course minus the terrible language that is common on a construction site but unfit for polite society):

“The drywall needs to be hung first and no later than 9:30 so the plumber can…”
“No, that’s the wrong order,” interrupted the stone mason who then went on to lay out a different order of events.
The lead carpenter disagreed sharply and stated, “I’ve been doing this for twenty years and this is how it gets done.”
The stone mason shot back, “No, I’m telling you how it gets done.”

The rest of us circled around and watched as the two men escalated quickly from a discussion to a full blown argument bursting with technical details of why each was right. While I can honestly say I had no idea which way may be better, I was just happy for the break.

The one constant in the exchange, was that the lead carpenter started off each reply with, “I’ve been doing this for twenty years.”
After hearing this no fewer than eight times, the stone mason snapped, “Just because you’ve been doing this for twenty years doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it right!”

Everyone went quiet, including the lead carpenter who looked as if he had just been slapped.  The man muttered, “Whatever—do it your way,” and stormed off.

With the ‘discussion’ apparently settled, everyone went back to work after the stone mason explained the new order of tasks. Me, I stood there staring, trying to understand what had happened.

The stone mason saw me staring and asked, “What?”
“Shouldn’t we do what the lead carpenter said?  He’s been doing it for twenty…”

The stone mason cut me off and said, “He hasn’t been doing this for twenty years.  He’s just been repeating the same year for twenty years and that doesn’t make him automatically right.  In fact, it’s what makes him wrong.”

The moral behind the stone mason’s reply to me was that the lead carpenter had stopped growing and had come to believe the fatal mistake that experience automatically equals knowledge. It doesn’t—especially if that experience is the same experience every year.


What a great point and one that is important for us to remember as we start this new year.

Last year, good or bad, was last year.  If we repeat it, good or bad, it’s still only last year. It’s not a new year, it’s not a new chance to grow, it’s not a new year to learn, it’s not a new year of experience—it’s just last year repeated.  If we are not careful, and take concrete steps to ensure it doesn’t happen, we may find ourselves repeating each year over and over and over again…

Here is one way to ensure that last year is not repeated.

Invest at least thirty minutes each day in personal growth.

While it may not sound like a lot, if you do this every day for one year it will equal out to one full month that you have spent on improving yourself.  Imagine if for 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for an entire month you did nothing but read, learn, grow.

Don’t allow the conversation to take place in your head in which you say that you’re too tired or you’re too busy.  That’s the wrong conversation.

Just do it.

Get up a little earlier or stay up a little later, find a quiet space where you can focus, time it on your phone or watch—and just do it.  The more you do, the more you’ll want to do it, and the more time you’ll find yourself giving to yourself.  Soon, instead of thirty minutes it will be forty-five or sixty minutes and longer.

It’s not too late, the year has only just started and the only right order to having a new year is growing or ‘building’ a new you.

Author: Don Shomette

Don Shomette is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and owner of People are the Prize, a violence prevention company that helps people to prevent and survive a school attack. He has spent a lifetime working with police officers and principals and is consistently evaluated by those who attend his trainings as one of the best instructors ever. Don challenges, entertains, and helps school personnel to think of preventing violence in a new and positive way.

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