Way Leads Onto Way…

My mom has often remarked that nurses’ training was excellent preparation for raising seven children. Both jobs called for grace under pressure, organizational skills, an eye for details, and an ability to manage a critical path–also for a good knowledge of first cupcakeaid.

Similarly, in one of this week’s blog tour posts, I’ve tried to explain why so many romance writers are former or practicing attorneys. Both positions involve deadline writing ability, organization, precise and effective language skills, and an imagination that can pluck a happy ending from the jaws of chaos and improbability, among other things.

Before I was a lawyer, I was pretty serious about music, about the piano in particular. That endeavor taught me how to sit alone with my craft, hour after hour, day after day, and how to critically evaluate my work as I created it.

piano practiceAt one point in my illustrious career, I worked at a Creamery where I dipped ice cream cones by the hour. What did I learn from that–besides that I do not aspire to go through life with sticky knuckles, but smoked cheddar cheese can be ambrosial? I learned that the size of the smile with which you greet the public can matter a lot more than the size of the scoops on the cone. This was a useful lesson when I found myself at book signings, thirty years later.

winning briefI’m also a single mom, and the lessons learned there are many. One of them is that you do your best, but you are  not responsible for every detail of the outcome. Children have minds of their own, the reading public does as it pleases. The story might be about me, the book’s commercial fate for the most part is not about me.

I could go on, but the point is that I’ve been collecting good skills for a published author to have long before I even dreamed of writing my first book. I like that. I like the notion life had plans for me, and my job was to discover those plans. I like the possibility that I’m good at putting my skills to use in all manner of creative ways, and that I can reshape myself to thrive in the midst of several tartan_450-204x335different kinds of challenges.

I’ll bet you’ve done the same thing, haven’t you? Taken skills you learned off the job, and used them to succeed on the job, or applied what you learned in one situation to another that appeared unrelated. So leave a comment about some clever, resilient, resourceful skill transfer you’ve done or observed in another.

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of “Once Upon a Tartan.”





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32 comments on “Way Leads Onto Way…

  1. I just finished nursing school and during my precepting I learned from a patient that there is a certain place and way to give a insulin shot where it does not hurt them. All it took was one person to tell you and me to listen yo figure out that it worked. I told another nurse and she said I do not have time for all that I just give it to them. How sad. But I love what I do and try to make it easier on them as much as I can. The elderly can be very entertaining once they have gained your trust and they now that you care.

    • Kimmyl, there I was on my third DAY of induced labor, scared for my baby, alone, hurting more than a little, and one of the nurses I had had a couple days earlier came back on duty. She was all smiles and confidence, and could get the IV going without turning my wrist into a dartboard.
      The kid was safely born within 24 hours, but geesh, a little patient care, some basic skill, and I was much fortified. Thank goodness for nurses who aren’t too busy to listen to the people who are dealing with afflictions first hand!

      • Grace your statement about nurses who listen to patients in on the nose believe me. I’ve had some very bad experiences, both with shots I’ve been given, blood draws, and the insertion of an IV. If they would only pay attention to what the patient tells them it might speed up the way things went.

  2. My sister, at age 60, became an elementary school secretary. I had been in the education field for many years, she had not,and I told her it would be ‘different’ than other jobs she had had, but I was sure she would do well. She called, several months later, and said “I think everything I have ever learned in my LIFE is needed to do this job… but I love it. And she does, and she does it well, and I am SURE she needs every skill she ever learned, because the job of an elementary school secretary is a series of adventures.

    • Polly, what a nice story–and now that you point it out, I can guess it must be a challenging job. Everything from kids with serious problems at home, to teacher dramas, to endless paperwork, and the occasional cup cake. Hats off to her!

  3. I don’t know if I really have a good example for this question, but I do know I spent most of my life loving children and working with children. I started babysitting when I was 12 and didn’t stop until I was 23 and already married. Some of those jobs entailed taking the kids to their various activities and even watching them for days at a time while their mom was on business trips. When I was 14 I became a candy striper (or junior volunteer)at our local hospital and after a year I was allowed to work in the newborn nursery where I got to rock babies and sometimes feed babies. Of course I had other jobs as well. I did that for 6 years and was even promoted to training all new junior volunteers when they started regardless of where they were to work. I left with over 2,000 hours of service. My first “real” job was at a daycare where I worked in the infant room and legally could take care of 5 babies under the age of 1 by myself. I prided myself on getting them all to sleep at the same time and the director used to tease me about having multiples when I had kids of my own (thankfully I only had twins and not quints). I then had two jobs that had nothing to do with children. Two years at a jewelry store and 2 years at huge call center for a bank. I then went back to children as a teacher’s aide for my former first and second grade teacher was then teaching kindergarten and pre-k. During that year I became pregnant with the twins and finished out the school year and was promptly put on bed rest. The funny thing about all those life experiences is that nothing prepared me for having preemies or special needs kids. I used to say that God was pretty funny to give me preemie twins when I thought I knew all there was to know about taking care of babies. I guess there were a few things that I still needed to learn.

    • Yeah, but Sarah, imagine having to deal with preemie twins if you’d been like me–I’d NEVER held a baby until I gave birth to one. You were getting the compulsory classes out of the way so that when Advanced Parenting came up, you could ace that too!

  4. As a member of management, I was often called on to speak in front of people. I was pretty timid and somewhat of an introvert, so this was extremely hard for me. I started taking classes in speech at work and then college courses. Somewhere along the way I was ‘volunteered’ to teach classes at work (on the side). I learned the more I was in front of the classroom, the more relaxed I became. I also realized that I was no longer that shy, timid, introvert in my private life! Life was more fun and I was more relaxed.

    • Oh,what a nice tale! This is the theory behind the one room school house, “each one, teach one,” approach to sharing knowledge. You start off as a student, but adopt the skill so thoroughly over time, that you become the best person to help other introverts gain some confidence and ability. A professional in the field of public speaking would not have been as effective a teacher as you became, Betty, because you had genuinely walked to walk to learn those skills.

      Well done, Betty!

  5. Funny how we don’t think about one part of life applying to another. Being a stay at home mom I realized early on that things I learned when I was a grocery store manager applied to mothering. Keeping the kids busy so they didn’t get into trouble was like keeping all my cashiers busy so I didn’t get in trouble! HA! Really though, anything you learn can be applied elsewhere.

  6. As I read things and look at my life, I laugh because I think all my jobs prepared me for not only having 3 boys but prepping to keep me active and involved in their lives. When I was a teen I started as a bus person and worked my way through to hostess by the time I was in college. Working with those older farmers was like trying to keep a kindergarten class under control! Then, when I had my first son (during college) I started working as a trucking company dispatcher. They were more like first graders! I worked in retail as well as day care until I had 2 boys and the opportunity to stay home with them. During that time I was a cub scout leader, soccer coach, reader mom, homeroom coordinator, etc etc. As 2 turns to 3 and the economy changed I went to work as a school bus driver. Not only do I work but with a child at each level of school (grade school,middle school, high school) I’m in the buildings with them everyday, I know their teachers, friends, coaches and still get to spend tons of time with them! It’s an awesome experience!

    • Michelle, my godmother drove a rural school bus for a few years–the family could use the money, of course, but she also benefited from seeing a slice of what the kids put up with each day. Even if you graduated high school only ten years ago, high school has changed radically since then, and not always for the better.

      Hats off to you for staying involved, and for being willing to turn your hand to any honorable work that needs doing.

  7. I have never really thought about it that way. I have thought about how my experience as a child have affected me in a negative way, but not in a positive way. So I had to think about this for a while. I also have thought about different parts of my personality that I have applied to my job, but not things I learn on the job that I have applied to other parts of my life. One thing I came up with is that I have realized that I am a very determined person and when I set my mind to something, I do it and I do it well. I have never started a job where I had experience, but have always exceeded my employers expectations. That has given me confidence in other areas in my life. I was a very shy child and it was so hard for me to speak in front of people, but every job I have had, I have worked with the public. Now anyone that I meet has a hard time believing that I was so shy at one time in my like. I would say I am not shy at all anymore. So that has been very helpful to me. I am sure there are lots more, but these are the main things that come to mind.

    • Mary, you sound like an example of success begetting success. You master one job, knowing you tackled it with more determination than experience, and the next job approached from the same vantage point isn’t as daunting. Pretty soon, you’re unstoppable, and anybody would love to hire you.

      You have experience succeeding in multiple environments, and that’s worthy a lot more than twenty years behind the same desk.

  8. My dad has a business, so my earliest memories are helping in the store, dusting shelves, stocking shelves, waiting on customers, etc. When my sister could drive, we started making deliveries. I think all that taught me about dealing with people. I can trace my people skills back to that. I need to thank my dad!

  9. Interesting blog. I often refer to what I call my “former lives,” working for my father in his pharmacies, working in a small elementary school kitchen when my sons were young, working in retail, as an ESOL/ESL teacher at every level,pre-K to college. Each of these “lives” has given me skill sets for things I use in retirement. I’ve been a board member for my community association, am a volunteer library assistant (first gained at my son’s elementary school), and a volunteer at a non-profit food/clothing/rent&utility assistance organization. All my skills transferred, especially my teaching skills.

  10. I think the one thing I’ve learned is that no matter how hard you try you can’t always be what you want to be as there are many other things that factor into it. After not being able to find work in a library, even though I have an AAS in Library Technology, I went tried going back to school to become a legal assistant. That didn’t pan out either but I did learn my library skills actually helped me when I was going through the law books to look up cases we were required to write a brief on and I enjoyed doing it. Some of my classmates couldn’t understand how or why I could or would sit with the law dictionary and randomly flip through it until something caught my eye and then I’d read to my hearts content. I actually found the legal terms fascinating though I admit to not remember many of them. I admire those of you who can put together a book that will hold my interest for a great length of time. Grace I enjoy your books so much that I’ll actually read a little in one then lay it aside to come back to later thus stretching out the pleasure of reading such a wonderful story.

  11. I think I was taught a work ethic very early on. My dad had his own business (hardware store) and he worked 6 days a week with very long hours. My mom helped out when she could and then got a job of her own later on. There were no sick days or vacations (maybe a couple of weekends). I got a part time job while in high school and after a 9 month business school I worked for the next 15 years. I did get vacations but I a sick day was rare even though they would have been paid for. I then worked part time for a short while after my kids were school age and now I do some part time work again. And as most moms know, there are no sick days either lol.

  12. I have always been a list-maker. How could any mother/homemake survive otherwise. The kids went to school/college and I went to work full-time–a litigation paralegal and what did I have to do, prepare lists of trial exhibits AND keep track of the physical exhibits. Thank heavens for knowing how to keep my eye(s) on the ball.

  13. I taught college at my alma mater, and I always taught at 8 am. The only way I could ever wake up for my classes that early was to listen to music, so I always played popular songs for my students before class started and they always woke up!

  14. I think just life experiences, including being a single mom, have taught me so much about getting along with people, doing my best in my job, offering to learn new things and help out whenever needed. Believe me, I didn’t always act like this when I was younger, and didn’t get the promotion, or other things I wanted. It has taken me time, but I’ve learned to behave myself and I’ve gotten a lot further that way. 😀

  15. I believe every job I have ever had has prepared me for this one. From dealing with all sorts of people in the retail world, one on one interactions with people and the detailed planning as travel agent, being a Culinary Student in the very program where I am working now, plus all the kitchen jobs I have had. Not to mention the skills I’ve learned as a single mom. Thinking fast on your feet, remaining calm when you really need to yell, trying to follow your own rules that you have put in place(having a time with that one!), managing money and time. It’s all come full circle, and it’s a wonderful validation that I am where I am supposed to be.

  16. I did not go to nursing school but my family prepared me to the task in every detail. I am the eldest of 7 children. At the age of 10, I was able to help mom taking care of our little ones. Mom was very emotional, caring, merciful, and practical at the same time. Dad was something else, he is very sensible with very strong personality. He knows what to do, where and when. In cases of emergency he is the one everyone runs to asking help or suggestions. He taught us how to make first aid and how to act in almost every life situation. In the meantime, he is very very openminded to other opinions and cultures. I cant, simply CANNOT, number what I learned from him. The best thing i can do now to repay him is to pass what i learned to my kids along with his fragrant name on top.

  17. I took my degree in Banking & Finance, left the industry that paid for the degree and translated it to running non-profits. Managing the money is necessary in all business, and many personal, aspects of life…which concept completely escaped while getting that degree.

  18. When I sold advertising, I made a conscientious decision to never mind it when people didn’t return my calls. I made it my problem to follow-up. So my sales were always higher. I never waited on someone else. Now, owning my own marketing agency, my follow up is better. And I’m much more immune to rejection . . . or really, perceived rejection, when someone doesn’t call me back.

  19. Hmmm… for me I think it has been the other way around. I brought my intense discipline that I learned from ballet classes and playing the flute as a child to my career as a reference librarian. Because of this, I am able to accomplish a lot in the course of a busy day, from virtual reference, to book ordering and collection maintenance, to writing for the newsletter and blogs, to working the busy public service desks. And it overflows in my personal life, too: in diligent daily exercise, a vegan diet, and writing for my blog.

  20. I was shy, but that also gave me great listening and observation skills. I was able to use both of these while working on a locked Psych unit as a nurse.

    Also handy was my sense of humor and explaining something before I did it in terms that individual would understand.

  21. I’ve always tried to look on everyone as a friend. I look for something we have in common or some item of clothing or some other interest to start a conversation. It has to be real, because people smell fake, but once you do, you have established a relationship. I work in a school library, and I have all of the kids. I’ve been in the inner city for 14 years and after the first couple of years, things got much easier. The kids know what to expect from me and their parents trust me. I think it all stems from that blind assumption that everyone is a friend I haven’t yet met.

  22. I studied Lit in university and have applied some of what I’ve learned in the reviews I write for my blog.

    I also taught grade school and I’ve tried (key word is “tried”) to apply management skills in handling my two kids. ^_^

    I’ve also learned a lot from the books I’ve read and have applied them to how I view my life: one lesson that has stuck with me is from Julie Garwood: how does one eat a bear? One bite at a time. ^_^

  23. Enj0yed this post. It’s so true because in my own life I’ve found that everything that has happened or I’ve learned from my own experiences comes in handy later on.I was a singe mom with 7 children and I truly believe working wit the public is a truly great experience, good or bad. 🙂 Thanks Grace for the post. I loved The Bridegroom Wore Plaid and can’t wait for Once Upon A Tartan.
    Carol L