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Diary of a Drywaller: Chapter 14

Many times while I was in the process of losing everything, I told myself, “If I lose everything, I’ll just rebuild it. I did it the first time, I’ll just do it again.” I had no idea how wrong I was and how long rebuilding would take. I was in for a rude awakening.


The second time required working out of a hole, which took years to get out of. I wasn’t just starting from scratch. I was buried in an endless pile of debris made up of the results of a series of poor choices that made any effort to rebuild nearly impossible. Looking back, I’m going to say it took five years just to get back to my original starting position. Then again, truth be told, maybe 10.


As I said, when I started working for Alta, I started at the bottom. I was just another new hire who had no idea where time would take me. In the short term, I found myself faced with things I had never experienced before. My reputation was ruined. I was working for a competitor. The foreman I was working under didn’t seem to like me. Every time things slowed down, I was the first to go. I couldn’t figure it out. I knew I was a good tradesman and that my work was being done exceptionally well. Nevertheless, every time—and I do mean every time—things slowed down, I was gone.


So then, how did I ever end up becoming president of Alta Drywall? That’s a long story and the telling of that story will take time. Are you up for that? If so, hang in there and bear with me while I meander through the decades. There were many lessons learned, and I do believe you too will learn through my experiences.


Each time I came back to work after a slowdown, I tried even harder to impress this particular foreman. However, my reputation preceded me. Everybody had a general idea of my past history. So I knew that he knew about me, but I had no idea how that translated into his behavior toward me. He used me when needed, but it was clear that he didn’t want me around.


So, in spite of the fact that I continued to do everything I could to improve my work and produce an exceptional product, sure enough, as soon as things slowed down, I was gone again and again and again. That’s hard on a person’s ego and self-esteem. I was already a failure, and now in spite of my best efforts, I was failing to stay employed. Times were exceedingly difficult, and every paycheck was hand to mouth. I was paying $200 a month for campground where we pitched our borrowed tent. I had to be driven back and forth to work because my license was suspended. I had failures to appear, repeated failures that risked my being put in jail. They weren’t serious issues, but the fact that I had stood the court up repeatedly was serious.


Since it didn’t seem that it was working for me to continue working for this foreman, I asked the owner if I could run a job for him. But due to my past failure, he was reluctant to entrust me with any responsibility. It was as though I had hit a wall. I was stuck and couldn’t get through.


Meanwhile, my wife was driving me to the job where I stayed all day until I could get picked up that evening. This was a far cry from life as I had known it. Being stranded on the job site was hard to take. She would faithfully arrive as agreed, but even still, I just didn’t like the idea that I had no means of transportation. I felt so handicapped. My wings had been clearly clipped. I was stuck in the middle of my own mess. This kind of stuff was also extremely embarrassing. It all required some kind of explanation. Then when she pulled up in the junker that we were driving, that too was very humiliating. Be that as it may, it was the result of my past and an inescapable destiny. I felt trapped.


Then, one day I was carpooling with another employee and had just been laid off for the umpteenth time. I was lamenting and doing so loud and clear. I said to myself and anyone who would listen, “I don’t understand why I’m being continuously laid off! I’m doing the very best work possible and I’m still the first to go.” Then the fellow employee looked over at me with a sheepish grin and said, “You know why it’s happening don’t you?” I replied, “No, I have absolutely no idea.” Then he proceeded to tell me something that I had never imagined. But as it turned out, he hit the nail on the head.

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Contact him at

Join Doug during AWCI’s Convention on April 26 at 8 a.m. in Maryland when he presents the education session, “The Appetite for Information.” This session will help you develop world-class communication skills by adopting a mindset that recognizes the importance of this simple understanding and proactive approach. Learn more at

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