The very first wood floor I installed was in a log cabin in Appling, GA. It was in May of 2002. I had a total of 7 months of construction experience, owned few tools and barely knew how to read a tape measure. My previous experience had been as a general laborer for a remodeling contractor and most of that consisted of picking up construction debris and loading and unloading materials.
When I arrived at that job site, my new boss brought me inside the home, showed me where the flooring was to be installed, and left. His instructions consisted of, “You do this, this, and this. You’ll figure it out.”
Eventually, I did figure it out—many floors later, and that job, well, I survived it!
His attitude, though, has had the greatest impact on me personally and professionally because it forced me to pose two questions to myself.
- Am I doing it right?
- How can I do it better?
Those are two questions I ask myself daily, and the answers aren’t always the easiest to stomach. These questions demand that I’m always trying to improve myself and that I cannot rest on past accomplishments. And when I recognize something that can be improved, I work to implement this change. Am I always right? No. Failure, however, can be acceptable if I can learn from it. This is what I call The Passionate Pursuit of Perfection. I know that achieving true perfection in this world is impossible, but as Robert Browning said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what’s a heaven for?”
Therefore, I turned to outside sources of education to avoid learning through trial and error on my client’s floors. I didn’t want to be the floor mechanic that said, “I’ve been doing it for X years!” –implying that experience gave me authority. Because, if I had been doing it wrong for X years, then I would be really experienced at doing it wrong.
This reminds me of a conversation I had while in college with the artist, Henry Wingate. He had just completed studies at an art school in Boston, and he was going to Florence to study under another artist. Fed up with my own studies at this time, I asked him why he needed to go to another art school if he had just completed one. He responded something to this effect, “If you only study under one master, you can only be as good as that master. If you study under multiple masters, you can take the best of what they offer and become a master in your own right.” This thought drives me to continue to pursue educational opportunities as they arise.
The first wood flooring class I attended was in 2009, and it was offered by the National Wood Flooring Association. Since then, I have attended many other classes–some classes offered by product manufacturers and some offered by the NWFA. Through the NWFA, I have been licensed as a Certified Installer and as a Certified Sand and Finisher. I have also completed the testing and am a Bona Certified Craftsman. Recently, I have had the privilege to assist with teaching a class for the NWFA and am currently working on attaining Master Craftsman certification.
Education is important for my own professional growth, my employees’ professional development, and our ability to provide exceptional floors for our clients.
If we could promise you a perfect floor, we would. Instead, we will strive for perfection and settle for extraordinary.