Painting Talk

“Lookin’ good.” “Only four more sides to go.” “Hey, isn’t it Miller time?” The surest way to initiate a conversation with a neighbor, or stranger for that matter, is to paint something – a house, garage, shed. It doesn’t really matter as long as it involves ladders, buckets and an assortment of implements for people to pick up, examine and wave around for emphasis.

Painting invites conversation in ways that other activities do not. Unlike trimming trees with a chain saw or pulverizing concrete with a jackhammer, painting is blissfully quiet. Even when perched at the upper end of a 20-foot extension ladder, it’s easy to hear advice from someone at ground level.

Painters are approachable. No one ever worries about saying something foolish or stepping in over their head when the subject is painting. The same cannot be said about gutting a moose or rebuilding an engine.

Painting is something with which almost everyone has first-hand experience and sufficient knowledge to while away the minutes in idle small talk. Of course, even among amateurs, there are differences of opinion: “I see you’re using a quarter-inch nap. You’d get better coverage with three-eighths, but that’s just my opinion.” It’s also obligatory for passers-by to draw attention to the obvious: “That old paint would come off a lot faster with a sandblaster or pressure washer.” This particular observation is one several people have shared with me over the past couple weeks.

My choice to scrape, rather than blast, crumbling paint from the exterior of my office building is perplexing to those who stop to chat. When you consider all the time-saving gadgets sold today, removing paint with a scraper sounds like a form of medieval torture – something akin to the rack or iron maiden. Truth be told, I enjoy it. I enjoy the simplicity of a hand tool where the only moving part is me. The physical exertion required to do the job properly is even part of a strategic plan I’ve devised to rein in my expanding waistline. But the main reason I like scraping paint is because it is mentally liberating. In business, I rarely encounter projects that are purely linear in nature. Scrape a wall and there’s no need to consult a focus group, present alternative directions or make executive decisions. You simply start at point “A” and stop when you reach point “B.”

People seldom admit to finding pleasure in physical chores. It even seems we’ve been conditioned or trained to speak about manual labor in the same tone of disgust. Yet I suspect many relish the repetition of mowing grass, blowing snow or spreading gravel as much as I like scraping and painting. It’s nice to get away, but in complete honesty, simple physical work does more to clear my mind and rejuvenate my spirit than any recreational activity. I guess you could say it’s a great way to vacation on the cheap.

Have a profitable day,

Jeff Irish

On a personal note, the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk will take place in Mankato’s Sibley Park on September 15, 2009. This event is held to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research, care and support. Learn more or make a donation at

Jeff Irish

Jeff Irish

Founder and former publisher of Connect Business Magazine.

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