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The Obstacle of Progress (Part 4)

The classic Western blockbuster movie “How the West Was Won” was released in 1962. It begins with the accidental discovery of gold in a streambed winding its way through the undeveloped California countryside and ends with a bird’s eye view of a complex modern highway system woven beneath upon the Golden State’s landscape. With its star studded cast of such Hollywood greats as Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Gregory Peck, it depicts the westward migration and expansion, motivated early on by the gold rush during the mid to latter 19th century.

Meanwhile, legions of wagon trains and mule teams forged their way west as pioneers chased the opportunity into the unknown wilderness. Without being specific, let me simply say that they bravely faced the unimaginable challenges that such progress presented. As the advance was made, it included such events as the Civil War, development of the Pony Express and eventual installation the telegraph lines and railroad construction. Not everyone involved won, much less lived survived, to realize their goal and succeeded at such a quest. Anyone who set on one such venture must surely have doubted the wisdom of their decision at times. It’s impossible to avoid discouragement and defeat, sometimes outright failure, when you pursue such a path. And yes, many naysayers stayed behind, stuck in the comfort and certainty of the east, feeling completely justified, criticizing what they considered a fool-hearted notion. Nevertheless, that is how the West was won.

Forge Ahead

Nowadays, as we jet our way through the U.S. airspace in a few hours and travel distances that took months for those early adventurers, we must pause and consider the price they paid. They purchased for us the rite of passage, establishing an infrastructure (though primitive, as it was) for us today. They caused themselves problems that someone less adventurous, with a more reasonable temperament, considered it wise, to avoid. Imagine with me for a moment the multitudes that chose comfort over courage, personal safety over risk and contentment with the status quo as opposed to a personal determination to drag themselves and anyone willing forward.

And so it is with all those who dare to pursue progress. This path is not for the faint of heart, nor those who insist on being typical. These individuals, with a penchant for progress, are leaders in the truest sense of the word. They set out intentionally putting themselves at a disadvantage, creating an atmosphere of difficulty by insisting on progress in spite of its cost. They know full well that the path they have chosen is not paved but rather carved by a relentlessness clawing and visionary gaze toward a better tomorrow. They make everyone around them who dares to be associated or even companions, stretch, reach into the future, and divorce themselves from the past. Progress is not defined as something everyone is doing, more likely it may well be the very thing that no one is doing. Both then and now, past and present, it is unexplored, uncharted, unknown and probably, at the time, unappreciated.

It does not matter what century, year, month, day or moment, the dynamics are the same. The advances of mankind have been led by the few who chose to make the necessary sacrifice to obtain another inch, foot, yard or mile, forward. Progress is, by sheer definition, on the move, in transition. It interferes with the norms and creates constant friction by requiring an ever-changing environment. It is, in and of itself, an unreasonable state of being, a little crazy and definitely abnormal. But when one considers the facts, coupled with what little one knows about the future and the certainty of success when it comes to their own aspirations, how else could it be? After all, it is the obstacle of progress.

The Moral of the Story

I have intended to show you the interference that progress itself will inevitably generate, how it complicates things and frustrates the majority. I am seeking to prove that such is quite simply a necessary evil, the obstacle of progress. I have argued that it is a path of persistence and perseverance in spite of resistance, difficulty and even failure at times.

So then, are you encouraged or discouraged? Pick your poison. Everyone persists in something, either past, present or future behavior. You can either lean into change and embrace it, or cling to the present—or worse yet, ultimately get stuck in the past.

I have promised all along to make this relevant. So then, as contractors, what is our frontier? For example, when the world and society in general, particularly in America, is becoming so advanced technologically, what are we to do? When the available workforce and the industry remain somewhat primitive, how do we get them and ourselves un-stuck? How is it that we lead, and where do we go? What’s next? Where are the opportunities? What does construction look like in the future? Will we just keep on keeping on doing drywall? There was a day when there were no spray rigs, and taping, texturing and mud was mixed by hand. There was no such thing as automatic taping tools, and the only orange peel texture was the stipple left by the painter’s roller.

Then along came two brothers, Robert and Stan Ames, who had a vision of a line of taping tools. They were pioneers of our industry if ever there were pioneers. And there were. You can Google their names and read their story. They eventually sold their line of tools for more than $5 million, which at the time was an incredible fortune. Did they meet with resistance? Were there naysayers? Indeed, lots of them. The Ames brothers were no exception to the obstacle of progress.

Oops, out of time … more to come.

Doug Bellamy is president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is known for his original thought innovative approach and the personal development of unique processes, systems and procedures. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at

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