Embrace Learning So You Don’t Fall Behind

By Thad Plumley

When I was asked last summer to deliver the keynote address at the Minnesota Water Well Association’s Convention and Trade Show, January 30–February 1, two things went through my mind.

The first was, “Oh wow, I have never done public speaking on that level before. That could be scary!”

The second was, “Holy $&%#, Minneapolis could be cold that time of year!”

So, imagine my surprise when I was wrong on both accounts.

Yes, both.

Minneapolis was unseasonably warm those three days with temperatures in the mid-20s. Now that is still coat and gloves weather for me, but the natives were thrilled. People were eating outdoors—including women in skirts! My legs shivered just looking at them.

And for the public speaking part? Well, I feel like I have added a new skill to my communications arsenal.

My talk was titled “Being in Business 100 Years from Now,” which was a play on this being the 100-year anniversary of the MWWA.

I told the attendees, “How you need to survive in this market is not the same as what you learned from your dad or your grandfather” and I highlighted four areas of importance: showing professionalism, constantly learning, possessing a network that can help you, and marketing your business online.

Early in my discussion about the importance of learning new skills, I said, “If you’re not learning, you’re falling behind.” It’s a phrase I have used often through the years as I truly value continuing education.

The phrase is also why I accepted the invitation to give the keynote address.

I didn’t know how to write a speech and present it. I didn’t know how to pace a presentation of nearly 40 minutes. I didn’t even know how close to stand to the microphone, or how many slides finally equals death by PowerPoint.

So, I said yes to the offer and began learning. After all, if I wasn’t learning, I was falling behind as a communicator, right?

I devised a plan for writing the speech and creating the slide presentation and stuck to it. It took approximately five months. It was tough at times with Water Well Journal deadlines, Groundwater Week 2021, family commitments, and the winter holidays sprinkled in between.

But by the time I was standing in the bathroom of my hotel room in Minnesota (note: bathroom counters are close to the same height as a podium), I was ready to go.

Why do I mention all of this? It’s simple—if you’re not learning as a groundwater professional, you’re falling behind. I encourage you to find a skill in the water well industry that would aid your business. Then, no matter how daunting it may seem, develop a plan for adding it to your arsenal and set about accomplishing it.

It will feel great when you’re finally able to use it to serve your customers. It will feel like a warm day when you expected ice and snow.


Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.