How to Become a Plumber: Part 3, Personal Qualities

I touched on this in the last post, but I’ll elaborate a little more.

Plumbing is not the solution to your problems. If you become a plumber, you will trade your present problems for a new set, and the new problems will look a lot like your old ones because (1) people are the same everywhere and (2) you’re the same everywhere. Most of your problems are human. I opened my business and went solo for that very reason: I eliminated 90% of my problems. Now I’m the only idiot I have to put up with. Formerly there would be an entire shop full of them.

But if you don’t already know the craft, you can’t go solo. So you’re deciding whether or not to enter a trade that is full of humans. That means that you’re going to have problems.

As I indicated in the last post, plumbing will be frustrating until you learn it. It will also be frustrating after you learn it. You cannot become a plumber the easy way because the easy way doesn’t exist. You’re going to have to get in and stay with it and work through the frustrations.

I have a son who now works with computers and kids, but he was “between jobs” once and said “I don’t know, maybe I should just ride with you, learn the trade, and become a plumber.” I replied with some sadness, “It’s honorable work, but I hate the thought of you going through what I’ve had to go through to get where I am.” The price of success is high. If you’re not going to get in with both feet, don’t get in at all.

I also need to point out that honesty has carried me to my current level of success. If you’re dishonest, you can steal from a lot of people, but it will probably ruin you eventually. I’ve seen this played out in many cases: guys who were smart and healthy and sometimes even outstanding craftsmen, but who crashed and burned because their reputation for ripping people off drove away business.

Close to the topic of honesty is honor. Honor is a man’s gift to himself, where he holds himself to a high standard even when nobody sees his work except himself and God. A man of honor is committed to keeping his promises to his employer, so he shows up early, stays a little late, is the last one to break for lunch and the first one back to work. Don’t enter plumbing with the idea that you can make big money for doing next-to-nothing.

But as you consider plumbing as your career, the biggest question you need to answer is, “instead of what?” If you choose plumbing, it means that you turn your back on other careers. Are you smart enough to learn information technology (computers)? Are you compassionate enough and patient enough to teach school? If you crave excitement, become a narc. You can see the world if you go into the military and choose the right job. In other words, become a plumber because you want to, not because you have to.

Commitment, endurance, honesty, honor, and desire: if you can find these within yourself, you’re qualified.