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Cognition

Be a better painter

The past weekend I found myself in middle of the suburban maelstrom that is Saturdays at Home Depot™. If you’ve ever been to Home Depot on a summer weekend in New Jersey you know what I’m talking about. The entire universe of suburban dads swarm to Home Depot on Saturday to get supplies for the weekend’s chore list. It’s a controlled mayhem. Myself, I was in the market for some paint to freshen up our bathroom. I spent some time picking colors with my wife, settled on one, then sent her and the kids home while I waited in line for a gallon.

Choosing a color should be the hard part of choosing paint, but there’s so much more. There’s the finish of the paint, the brand of the paint, the quality of the paint, etc. In the end, I selected a more premium offering because it was going to be used in the kids bathroom and needed to stand up to water and dirt on the walls for years to come. This particular brand also claimed that it only required a single coat over most colors. How could I go wrong?

I got the paint home, the room prepared, my paint clothes on and got up on the ladder with my trusty edging brush. That’s when everything fell apart. This premium paint was truly premium. It went on like super glue and started sagging and dripping before I even finished a single brush stroke.

I’ve painted before. I’m no expert, but I can use a paint brush and have several rooms of experience. In all my time, I’ve never had an experience with paint like this. I returned it immediately or, at least, tried to.

When I got back to the paint aisle I found an associate and began describing my problem, starting with the fact that the paint was drying before I even finished a brush stroke. I wasn’t sure how I was expected to edge a room when each stroke looked like it had been applied weeks apart with clear breaks and lines between the strokes. The associates response:

“Be a better painter.”

Well then…

The associate had two options. He could have helped me become a better painter or he could have passed the buck and shooed me away. He chose the latter. His comment did little to help me become a better painter. It didn’t teach me anything and it certainly didn’t make me want to learn anything.

There are a lot of people who think they know the web. They know how to use Facebook. They know how to embed YouTube videos. They know how to change their Tumblr and Twitter themes using hex codes. How are their skills any different than my skills painting. We all have a variety of basic knowledge but lack the experience to pull that together into a complete vision. We may be novice painters or we may be new clients. Either way, we’re trying to get better.

So, next time you get what you perceive to be a boneheaded question, take a second and think if you can use this moment to teach because at the end of the day that will be infinitely more valuable.

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