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Know Thyself

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This article and any comments that fellow seasoned inspectors may wish to contribute are intended for new inspectors.

Probably the most important factor in performing completely reliable building inspections is developing and practicing effective inspection methods. It's tempting to develop your methods based solely upon input from seasoned inspectors, but this will eventually prove to be inadequate. There is not, nor can there ever be, a standard "method" to inspecting a home. Variations of method will, most likely, be similar, but the very frame of YOUR methods must be YOUR personal strengths and limitations.

I use myself as an example. I'm ADD/HDD. That's not a suspicion - it's a fact. Just ask my poor mama. My mind is in constant overdrive dealing with an unceasing river of visual and audio input and random thoughts about everything from business, religion, politics and family all at once. I can drive down the road while conversing with a rider and pause to point out a hawk perched in a tree well off to the left, to the wonderment of my rider. I love writing, but remaining focused long enough to read anything with acceptable comprehension is a real struggle. So, I listen to books, by the 100s, on CD and watch educational videos. The moment I start my F150 a non-fiction book begins to play (American History, Biographies, Self-Help, College Lecture Series, Green Building Methods, The Scriptures, you name it.) While I can effectively glean technical writing, Home Inspector online forums are a far better way for me to learn. I need education to be entertaining and validated by both opposing and supporting opinions.

I even tried one of the popular ADD medications with astounding results. But, I quickly noticed that the genuine me was yielding to a focused, but rather boring and unimaginative shadow of myself. I concluded that accepting and managing my limitation was the way to go, and I've never regretted that decision.

ADD, is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is very little escapes my keen hyper-senses. The curse or critical challenge is getting an observation quickly documented before it gets submerged by that continuing onslaught of input.

The first thing I learned the hard way was to avoid multi-tasking. We ADDers are incurable multi-taskers - It's darn near inescapable. But, when one of the tasks is CRITICAL, like inspecting a building, it's best to minimize multi-tasking.

Early in my career, almost every time I received a complaint, I would realize that I not only saw the alleged overlooked condition, but the client and I had spoken about it! Of course the client would deny it, but in my mind it was a fact. What I finally figured out was that, between the moment I observed the condition and the moment I would have documented it, I was distracted by my client or the agent and the observation tumbled through the cracks. Some inspectors actually thrive on being entertaining and educational during the inspection. It just never worked for me.

Consequently, I abandoned the "dog and pony show" of entertaining my clients. In doing so, my complaints to inspections performed ratio dropped and remains at a handsome quarter of a percent per year for the last ten years running. Some years it's been zero. That exciting ratio isn't a testimony to me. It's a testimony to KNOWING and UNDERSTANDING me and modifying the way I inspect accordingly.

The fact is, a client's recollection that you weren't funny, entertaining or instructive will be fleeting, but if you miss something, you earn a hallowed spot among the immortal. I still spend time with my clients. I just do it at the end and when I tell them why, they are more than happy to leave me alone to do a good job for them.

As you receive complaints, it's paramount to ask yourself, "What happened?" and "What part of what happened has to do with me being who and what I am?" You MUST modify your methods around such realizations.

Make your strengths and weaknesses the foundation of your practice and then add the experience and wisdom of others to your ever evolving method. There is no other reliable way to develop a sound personal inspection routine. You must play the cards you're dealt and count on your strong suits.

It all sounds so easy and logical, but indicators to the contrary, such as an over fifty percent rate of divorce, clearly bear out the fact that knowing and understanding ourselves is a challenge. The fact is, we tend to put "the real final frontier" (self-awareness and understanding) in the back seat where it remains forever our stymied back seat driver.

Start on the right foot - know thyself...

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I too understand the struggle with distraction, but I have to say that labeling our propensities as a 'condition' implies that they need to be cured. The conventional cures are dangerous drugs that dull the mind, body and soul. The old stimulants don't work, antidepresants don't work, and the latest fad, psychotropics, won't work either. Trying to cure ADD is akin to trying to cure left-handedness.

Knowing your own limitations and how to work with them to reach your goals is sound advice for more than just HI work, it's a life lesson.


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As a fellow ADDer, never diagnosed, but I'd put my life on it. I can relate. My future wife gets so mad at me, when she's talking about something important, and I'll just bring up another subject.....[:-taped]

I've got that damn left-handedness too. Man, I'm in trouble.

As a new inspector, I thank you for that bit of advice.

You are a very good writer. I've gotta try that books on tape, though It will have to be on CD for me....[:P]

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Erik, Check out Fred Pryor Career-Track Seminars. They offer fabulous Seminars including "Business Writing for Results" and "Mistake Free Grammar and Proofreading" along with countless other invaluable business management skills, for the professional, which you can actually attend or watch on DVD or Webinars. They've been around since caveman days and train employees for the fortune 500 companies, like Dupont, Phillip Morris, IBM, etc.

I've attended probably eight of their seminars since 1985 and they're life changing and dirt cheap.

The two I've mentioned above are guaranteed to make you a more effective writer. I just attended Business Writing for Results last month for a second time (first attended in 1985) and treated my son to a seat. He loved it.

They also give seminars on Word, Excell, Taxes, human resource management and sales skills, and so much more. If you have a passion to improve yourself, this is the place to go. Here's a link to their web site.


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