Yoga for Drywallers. Meditation for Roofers.

Screen shot 2014-08-13 at 10.55.15 PM


My doctor is a small, geriatric Hispanic man.


He’s got a large toothy grin and 8-10 (at last count) ridiculously long individual hairs that protrude gloriously from the otherwise glassy complexion on his cheeks.


If these hairs belonged to your father you’d say, “Dad… hold on a second… Now don’t move.” before yanking one out.


I resist this urge.

This is all going on in my head when I realize he asked me a question.

“I said… Are you stressed? Are you feeling more pressure lately? At work or at home? Both?”


I hate this line of questioning.



Sure doc… I’m stressed, you’re stressed, we’re all stressed. Whatever.

“The reason I ask… you have high blood pressure. Have you considered any method of stress reduction?”


“If you are referring to alcohol… yes.” I reply, only half-joking.

(My little doctor did not find this humorous.)

I retreat quickly.


“No sir. I haven’t considered stress reduction. What do you recommend?”


“I recommend any sort of mindfulness practice. Focus on your breathing; truly living in the moment.

Be mindful. Take one thing at a time….”


This last comment brought me back to the jobsite.

One of my favorite lines for Hispanic painters and drywallers was this:


Una cosa a la vez.

(OOH-nah KOH-sah ah lah bays)

One thing at a time.


Una cosa a la vez was my mantra because if the paint & drywall looked good, we were in a great position to make the owner happy.


When drywallers and painters were sprinting from one place to the next, I knew we were in trouble.



I want Zen painters.

I want yoga drywallers.


(No, I don’t want them high.)

I want them mindful.


Especially at the end of the schedule – at the finishing stage – everyone is pressed for time.

Everything is compressed.

Speed trumps mindfulness.


Everyone is scurrying around, trying to speed through the current activity so they can race onto the next one.


It’s the Rework Feedback Loop (RFL).

When I hurry, I am not able to complete the activity 100%.

But I must hurry because I need to be somewhere else ASAP.

When I get to that ‘somewhere else,’ I hurry there too.

There’s always someplace I need to be.

So I hurry.

Soon I will hurry back to the original activity… to make that 100%.


There’s no time for mindfulness.

There’s no time for doing it right the first time.


Una cosa a la vez.

One thing at a time.



Screen shot 2014-08-12 at 10.36.28 PM


Images like this are comically – tragically – the opposite of mindfulness.

There are 31 holes to secure.

How many does the roofer fill with nails?

Look closely… 2.


Unless this roofer is Yen from Ocean’s Eleven, there’s no chance 2 nails will save a life.




Una cosa a la vez.

One thing at a time.


Yes, time is money.

Yes, the schedule is king.


But mindfulness enables things to be done right the first time.

Mindfulness is about focusing on the now – the present tense.


Not where you came from.

Not where you’re going next.


Una cosa a la vez.

One thing at a time.


Per the doc’s orders, I’ve been practicing mindfulness.

How successful has it been?


Let’s just say whenever I meditate, a single image emerges: 8-10 ridiculously long hairs on the face of a small, geriatric Hispanic doctor.


Yes, I know… I’ve got more work to do.


Una cosa a la vez.

One thing at a time.



Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.

Categories: Construction Spanish, Jobsite Leadership

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1 reply


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