September 2008: For The Record

Words: Dan KamysSeptember 2008 For The Record

Laying the Last Brick

JenniferJennifer Morrell Editor

In August, we published a story about a Florida mason, Jim Doane. As a token of appreciation, he sent me a book, "The Hod Carrier: Leadership Lessons Learned on a Ladder" by Mark Kimbell. In the book, Kimbell talks about the principles he learned during his days of carrying a heavy hod of bricks up a ladder.

He writes, "Hard, physical work has a clarifying effect. It forces you to be focused, efficient and relentless. That's why I find myself reverting back so often to the principles of productivity, commitment, teamwork and accomplishment that I learned in the simple role of hod carrier."

Kimbell also writes that he wouldn't want his own sons to be hod carriers because of the grueling nature of the work. "We want to learn all the right lessons, but not the hard way," he writes, adding that the book is his way of passing along the lessons he learned in that extreme environment.

I think Kimbell makes a great point. Wouldn't it be terrific if we could learn life's toughest lessons just by listening to others? If we weren't stubborn and would borrow from the wisdom of people who've already made our future mistakes, we could save ourselves a lot of grief.

I've thought further about Kimbell's lessons learned from the excruciating work of repeatedly carrying a loaded hod up a ladder. And, I've concluded that masons are special for many reasons, not the least of which is their ability to see the big picture and persevere until the end — until the last brick, block or stone has been laid. Applying these philosophies to all aspects of life can only be a good thing.

Here are a few lessons and suggestions from Kimbell's book. I suggest you pick up a copy; it's a quick and easy read that leaves a smile on your face.

  • Stop walking around the brick pile.
  • Bricks are twice as heavy when you're behind.
  • You only get paid when bricks are being laid.
  • Don't make bad mortar men out of good brick men.
  • There's nothing like laying the last brick.
  • You can't forget whose brick you're laying
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