This month, we interview John Schmitt, our own venerated columnist. It may seem a little indulgent. He’s filled so many pages for us over the years, why more? Because John has a deep connection to well drilling. He has spent the vast majority of his 86 years serving the industry he grew up in and built a life around. He has stories to tell.

Read the interview, watch the video or both. In this case, the video features John and contributor Brock Yordy discussing cable-tool drill tools at John’s shop.

Talking to longtime veterans of anything — drilling, business, life — fascinates me. They deploy their lessons with a clarity and honesty you don’t typically hear from folks at the start of their careers. They’ve seen it all play out, maybe a few times.

I’ve talked often about the past recently. For me, it instructs the future. John shows you can strive, get an education, run a business, and build a life of service to the industry. You can change your contributions as your stages in life change: driller and pump professional, NGWA president, columnist. You take on challenges, survive changes and develop a long view about the ups and downs.

People get caught in those ups and downs, and fail sometimes to develop that long view. As 2021 draws to an end, we naturally start thinking about the next year. But what about the next 10 or 20? What does that long view look like to you?

I have a viewpoint someone with 10 years does not, yet I only scratch the surface of the perspective someone like John holds. Still, about 25 years into my working life, the long view looks to me like these few lessons.

Start at a personal level. First, the long view here answers the question, “Where do I drop the ball?” People hate admitting failings, but the longest view on the personal level means fessing up. Then, you can surround yourself with people who fill those gaps. Terrible with finances? The long view says hire a bookkeeper to safeguard your future financial success. You get the idea.

Answer the question, “Why?” Your why might involve tithing 10% or, in the case of John Foley elsewhere in this issue, starting a foundation to build water wells for underserved communities in Uganda. You might put family or faith first. You might just want to retire with something to show for it.

Having a clear, one or two sentence why helps bring the long view into focus, because you can return to it any time you make a major decision. When a new job or other opportunity calls, your why helps you make the right answer for you.

Decide, own and own your decisions. The long view for career and profession includes a mix of making more decisions and owning more things like businesses that generate wealth. I don’t have to tell contractors about the benefits of business ownership. For those folks just starting out, look 10 and 20 years ahead. Think of goals that result in owning more (businesses, property, other assets) and deciding more (managing ever-harder problems). Think about how you move along the spectrum, just as John did, through business ownership and industry leadership. Cultivate skills and contacts that help you along the way. Solve tough problems for clients, coworkers and yourself. Contribute.

Then tell your own story to help folks behind you do the same thing.

What’s your why? Do you have tips for folks just starting on their professional paths? Let us know. Send an email to

Stay safe out there, drillers.

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