Carbon Monoxide: Be Thankful for the Mentors in Your Life
By David Richardson
In September 2019, I found out that Jim Haney – director of the Bluegrass and Great Lakes HVAC Insider newspapers planned to retire. This caused me to reflect on the 12 years that I’ve been writing for him and the opportunity he first gave me.
This month I’m going to stray from my normal CO (carbon monoxide) and combustion topics to share the influence that Jim had on an HVAC guy who wanted to be a writer. As you read, see if you recognize similar experiences in your career.
Opportunity is Scary
In 2007, I had an idea to revive a monthly article series originally written by Jim Davis. It was called, “Carbon Monoxide: What Do You Know?” The idea was to share with other industry professionals how CO testing could benefit their companies and customers.
I was all excited and thought that everyone would jump at the chance to have an HVAC guy with no writing experience contribute articles to them. I emailed and called a lot of magazines asking for a spot to write for them. Most didn’t reply. Some said, ‘no thank you.’ But one responded with a yes. This came from Jim Haney, the man who originally published Jim Davis’ monthly series. He accepted a big risk and took a chance on me. Jim gave me a regional platform to share my knowledge with the HVAC industry.
That’s when fear, doubt, and procrastination appeared. They told me, “You aren’t good enough to write, you’re only an HVAC guy. You have no writing experience or formal schooling. You have plenty to do during the day, so forget about it.” Now I was afraid of what others might think and that I would fail.
Jim would have none of it. I promised him an article series and he reminded me that he allotted space in his paper for it. It was time to man up and deliver. I couldn’t let him down, he believed in me.
Failure Makes Us Stronger
So, I wrote my first article and sent it to Jim. I was anxious to see how the industry would respond to it. A few months went by with no comments. Then they started to trickle in after I wrote about drafthoods and common vented equipment.
Some of the comments and criticisms I got weren’t nice – some were downright angry. I had emails that told me I was wrong, that I had no clue what I was talking about. Some asked me who was I to try and replace Jim Davis?
Getting kicked in the face when you’re trying to contribute isn’t any fun. I ran across a quote around this time that summed up these types of responses perfectly.
“People rain on your parade because they don’t have one of their own.” – Jeffery Gitomer
That quote helped me keep the negative comments in context and to instead focus on the replies that were full of thanks and encouragement. I was working to become a writer, but it took constantly falling down and getting up to improve. Jim didn’t interfere in this process. He gave me a place to fail and learn from it.
We All Need Someone Like Jim
I share this little bit of history to lead up to a question for you to consider: “What do you contribute?”
Each of us is unique and has something to offer the industry. Find your strength and work hard to contribute to others’ growth. It might be something like providing technical help, mentoring, or aiding in communications, sales, or finances. Whatever it is, there’s someone in our industry who needs help with it.
If you already share your knowledge, seek out others to help you grow – mentors never go out of style. I’m thankful for men like Jim Davis, Rudy Leatherman, and Bill Spohn who offered me advice and encouragement in early CO articles. Be grateful if someone cares enough to help you up when you’re down but kicks you in the rear when you need it.
If someone believes in you, work your hardest to show them their faith is well founded. Don’t drift along and let fear, doubt, and procrastination control your future. Be intentional about where you’re going. Regret is your reward if you don’t seize opportunity when it presents itself.
Jim Haney gave me an opportunity that changed my life. I hope I’ve taken advantage of it to help improve the HVAC industry. Our industry needs more Jim Haney’s. Those who equip others to be their best and better serve the industry. May God bless you, my friend. You will be missed.
About the Author
David Richardson serves the HVAC industry as a curriculum developer and trainer at the National Comfort Institute, Inc. (NCI). NCI specializes in training focused on improving, measuring, and verifying HVAC and Building Performance.
If you’re an HVAC contractor or technician interested in learning more about adding carbon monoxide testing to your services, contact David at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. NCI’s website www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com is full of free technical articles and downloads to help you improve your professionalism and strengthen your company.