Never Touch a Painting when it’s Wet – A Story About Constant Care…



This article is about constant care and the maturing process. When I started working in shipping I wanted to work in operational execution.  I applied so many times and never got the opportunity.  I overheard a manager make a comment about me once: “He doesn’t have the required emotional intelligence to work in operations”.  That did not make me feel very happy.  Then I experienced the greatest motivational drive for me, that stubborn feeling when someone tells me that I cannot do something.  It took me years and several applications to finally get to where I wanted to be.  I was offered the wonderful opportunity of leading a team overseas.

When I started, I soon realized that that manager’s comment about me years ago, couldn’t have been more right.  Everyday was a struggle and I got the impression that I had made a wrong decision.  However, I am stubborn. I sat down and started thinking about how I could deal with this challenge and come out at the end with the emotional toughness that I was lacking.

The Operations Challenge and a Great Lesson of Coaching

There I was sitting in the conference room in our daily meeting. The tension that I felt at that moment cannot be compared to anything I have experienced before.  I was working on a new continent; all the terms were strange to me.  People were talking very fast and they seemed to be experts on what they were talking about.  I said to myself “tomorrow will be better” and it wasn’t.  As the days and months passed I was exposed to more and more information and I started thinking that I would never be able to learn it all.  However, my boss was always observing calmly and I just couldn’t understand why he was so calm.  Every mistake I made did not surprised him, but he didn’t say anything either.  I was waiting for him to come with that secret formula that will make everything easier for me and he never came with that formula.  He was always watching from a distance and I continued to make mistakes.  I started thinking, when am I going to get some real coaching?  The “coaching” never came.  But over time I realized that just like a painting, the maturing process takes time and you cannot touch it when it is still wet.  It is a process that the painting must endure on its own.  Just like I was enduring.  Watching paint dry can be an uncomfortable process. You need to be patient & trust the process.  My boss approached me after many months of struggle and said “Don’t try to fix everything at once, it takes time”.  Short and straight to the point and walked away to continue watching paint dry from a distance.

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Experience

After struggling everyday with my maturing process, I needed to join an after-work activity that would help to “reset” my mind after a hard day.  I visited a nearby Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy and fell in love with the vibe and intensity of the training that I experienced over a couple of days.  I took the decision to start training everyday after work to find that balance in my life.  I have done martial arts before and thought it was going to be pretty much the same.  To my surprise, it was almost the same as work.  Everyday I was exposed to a frustrating environment that challenged me continuously and I felt that I would never become good at it.  Our coach’s approach was distant.  He kept a vigilant eye on all of us but offered no encouraging words.  And the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu path is long. To become a black belt it takes approximately 15 years, like watching paint dry.  There will be hard days and not so hard days.  There will be days that I would feel great with my progress and the next day I realized that I knew nothing.  But our coach knows exactly where each of us are in the process, just like my boss.  He knows that the maturing process in this martial art is long but rewarding; just like operational execution.  The day I realized the similarities between both, is the day I understood my boss’ distant approach.  He was giving me the opportunity to experience the ride as a driver and not a passenger.

Today, I am still far from being an expert in my job.  I still make mistakes constantly.  Now I am convinced that this path will make me stronger emotionally and fitter to adapt to the challenges I find along the way.  The most important similarity between my boss and my coach is that both have fun at what they do and make sure we also have fun.  Cheers!


Author: Ricardo Mock

Africa 24/7 Marine Manager at Maersk Line, Cape Town. Psychologist, Certified Crossfit Trainer, Health Coach and Motivator. Experience working in Project Management (Operations, Human Resources and Sales), innovation driving change. Specialties: Project Management, Sales, General Operations, Lean Six Sigma (LSS GB Certified), ERP´s implementation and Change Management. MBTI Profile: ENFP-T

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