#1 Trait You Need to Be a Good Helper or Apprentice

Good evening, Brother Linemen. What do you think the most important attribute you need to have when you come out here and work on a line crew or for a utility? You think it's being strong? Do you think it's being talented at what you do? Because there is some people that have a real talent for this work, talent for climbing, talent for line work. You think you need to be smart to come out here? Do you have to have a superior brain to come out here and do line work?

In my book, the most important attribute you need to have is a good attitude. I talk about winning a lot. If you want to win in this business, you have to have a good attitude. Attitude controls your altitude. A good attitude, you're going to go places. A bad attitude, you're going to go places, but it might be some of the wrong places you don't want to go. I've seen a bad attitude ruin many careers over the years. I've got two in particular that I'm going to talk about. These are both apprentices.

Apprentice number one, he came into the company and from every outside appearance he was going to be a good guy. He looked like he could do the work. But right from the start, he had a couple issues. I used to work in South Carolina. On the coast in South Carolina, it's very hot and muggy in the summertime. It's 95 degrees, 90% humidity. I'll tell you, you'll literally melt out there. Many days I've come home and my shirt, pants, underwear, socks, all the way down, I have to put my boots out to dry out overnight. That's how hot and humid it is. But you get used to it and you just deal with it.

Well, this guy comes out there and he starts talking about how hot it is. "Man, it's hot out here." 10 minutes later, "Dude, it's hot out here." After a while I got tired of it. I was like, "Man, shut up. Nobody wants to hear that it's hot out here. We fricking know it's hot out here. Nobody wants to hear it, so just shut up about it." A couple weeks later, the guy comes to me, "Man, some of the linemen don't like me because I was a contractor before I came here. They just don't like me. It's just not right. They don't like me." I was like, "Man, seriously? Half the guys in this company were contractors before they came here. Nobody's judging you because you were a darn contractor. Nobody cares that you were a contractor. I don't really think that's what it is."

But what really sent me over the edge with this guy was, we had a big job. We had all the apprentices out there climbing poles and clipping in, which means that you climb a pole. You come down. You go to the next pole, on and on and on. You just leapfrog down this line, clipping in poles. Well, this guy starts complaining about he climbed more poles than this guy. It's not his turn to climb. I was like, oh man. You got to be kidding me. So I started talking to some of the other linemen and they kind of said the same thing, that this guy was a big complainer. He complains about everything, always had a bad attitude. I thought it was just me, but it wasn't just me. It was other people.

Unfortunately, or maybe it was fortunately for us, several months later this guy, for whatever reason, and I wasn't there so I don't know. I just heard the story. This guy was holding the hand line in his teeth. Somehow the hand line got some load on it. It actually jerked two of his front teeth out. We never saw him again after that accident. I guess they either fired him, he quit, I don't really know what happened to him. But never saw him again after that incident.

Different apprentice, many of you have heard my story about the three apprentices in the bar. Yeah, I know it sounds like a bad joke. Three apprentices walk into a bar. Well, three apprentices were in a bar. They were at the bar drinking. Evidently, there was a cute little waitress there. They were back and forth with her. They started telling her, "Oh yeah. We're linemen. We work for the power company. We're this and we're that." You know how we are, bragging a little bit. They must have had too much to drink because after a while she got tired of them and told them that was it. She was cutting them off, no more drinks for them, and you got to leave.

They didn't appreciate that. They told her, "We're going to go turn your lights off." She was like, "Yeah, right. Get out." So they threw them out. What did they do? They go to the back of the building. They find the disconnect for the bar. They open the disconnect, put the lights out in the bar. It was only out for, they said, about 10 to 15 seconds. But they did do it. Well, how long do you think it took for that to get back to the manager at the utility I work for? It wasn't very long. He calls them all into the office and he talked to them all individually one at a time to ask them what happened. Well, the manager already knew what had happened. He had already talked to the bartender. He'd already talked to the manager of the bar, so the manager already knew what had happened.

He calls them in there individually. "What happened? Did you do this?" Apprentice number one admits it. "Yeah, I did it. I'm sorry I did it. We were drunk. I'm sorry I did it." Apprentice number two, same story. "Yeah. I participated. I was drunk. I did it. I'm sorry that it happened." Apprentice number three, they call him in there. "I'm calling the union. I'm not admitting to anything." What do you think happened in this story? They kept the two apprentices that admitted their mistake and fessed up. The guy who had the bad attitude, that wouldn't admit anything, they fired him. It was a shame because the one that got fired was a son of a very prominent and well-respected lineman in my company. This was embarrassing for his dad when his son got fired. But for whatever reason, the son had a bad attitude.

I have a little bit of advice on how to fit in out here, how to have a good attitude when you're working on the crew. This is not only just for apprentices. This could be for linemen also, because there's plenty of linemen out there that got bad attitudes. Remember, this is my advice. I'm an expert on my advice. Number one, come to work on time and be ready to go when the green flag drops. What I mean by that is when it's time to go to work, you got to jump up out of your chair and go outside and begin to get things done. It's not time to eat your breakfast. It's not time to get on your damn phone. It's not time to go take a crap. By the way, does everybody have that guy at their base yard that has to take a crap every morning? Everybody's got one. Every base yard I ever worked at had that guy. He's known for it. He's famous for it. "Where's so and so?" "He's in the head taking a crap."

Every morning, this guy got to go in there and take a 15 or 20-minute crap. If you're an apprentice or you're a helper, get all that stuff done before you get to work. Number two, if you don't know what to do, ask your foreman what you can help with. Don't just walk out there like a dummy, walk around. If you really don't know what to do, ask your foreman for instructions. He'll be glad to tell you whether you need to load material, check the truck out, or whatever he wants you to do. Ask him what he wants you to do. Show some initiative. This kind of goes along with that one. Number three, don't wait to be told what to do if you already know. If you already know your job is going to be ice the trucks down every morning, you check the truck out. You load material. If that's what you do every morning, they've already told you that's what you do, get off your ass, and when it's time to go out there, go to work, and start doing your job.

Number four, and this is a biggie. This happens all the time to all different levels of apprentices. If you're given a task and you really don't know how to do it, ask for instructions. Don't just stand there and go through the motions and act like you know what it is, you're embarrassed because you don't know. Then you get out there and you do something and it takes twice as long to undo the screw-up that you did. If you don't know what to do, ask somebody for instructions. Ask somebody to show you what to do. They will be glad to show you exactly what to do. Pay attention because when somebody shows you, they don't want to have to show you every damn morning. Once they show you once or twice, you pretty much ought to have it mastered of how to do these tasks.

Number five, be a little humble. If those two apprentices that got fired had been anywhere near a little bit humble, they would still be here today. But being humble and a good attitude have a lot in common. Just like not being humble and a bad attitude have a lot in common. People with bad attitudes are mostly selfish. They think about their self. Be a little humble if you're out there. Number five, don't complain about anything. In my book, complainers are weak. I always knew when I was apprentice if I heard another apprentice out there that complained a lot, I knew I had him because people don't like complainers. If I kept my mouth shut and did my job, then people would want me on their crew. Nobody wants a complainer on their crew, nobody. So don't complain.

We don't need another complainer out here. We got plenty enough complainers out here right now. This job sometimes, it kind of sucks to be a lineman. It's hot. It's cold. We're working in the middle of the night. We don't need people piling on and complaining about what we have to do out here. So change your attitude. Suck it up, and just do it. Number six, realize your place on the crew. Remember, if you're an apprentice or a helper, you are the low man. Your job is to help the guys above you. Nobody out here wants a slave or a robot. That's not what we want. We want people who are going to listen to what we got to say and help us get these jobs done. That's all we're looking for.

You always won't be the low guy on the totem pole. One day you'll be near the top and you'll have guys below you. That's just the way it is in this business. So you got to realize your place, man. Number seven, and this is the last one, don't expect sympathy from other linemen. This is a man's game out here. This is not high school. People got families. People got bills. People depend on their jobs out here. We don't have to get out here and listen to a bunch of complaining and feeling sorry for people, because chances are they're not going to feel sorry for you. If you do something wrong or something goes wrong, dust yourself off and get back in the game. Don't expect sympathy. You're really not going to get it out here. We're out here to work. That's what we're out here to do. That's our main function. Work and make money for our families.

Remember, attitude controls your altitude. A shitty attitude, you're not going to go anywhere. Or you might go somewhere, but it's probably not going to be a place you want to go. Good attitude is going to take you places. A good attitude, people are going to want to work with you. A good attitude, people are going to want you on their crew to work with them. It doesn't take much to have a good attitude. We got enough complainers out here already, don't need any more. If you're a complainer or have a bad attitude, we don't really need you.

That wraps it up for this evening. Appreciate all the support you guys give me. Appreciate you listening to my YouTube channel and my podcast. Head over to my website, thelineman.life. There you can see all my podcast episodes. I'm up to about 25, I think. I've got a couple free resources on there. You can get my Lineman Slang Dictionary, over 300 terms, lineman slang terms from what we call material to what we call different people, all different kind of ... There's some funny ones in there, some really comical terms in there. You got one you don't see in there that you know about, send it to me by email and I'll be glad to add it to the list.

So again, appreciate it, keep safe, and you are your brother's keeper. Aloha.

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"Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not express the views or opinions of my employer."