Life Lessons from Forklift Operation

Recently, I was given an opportunity most people like me wouldn’t want. But I savored it. Through a volunteer organization, I got to learn to operate a forklift. I still have many practice sessions to go, but even as I was wheeling and lifting and grooving, I saw some life lessons in the moment.

#1> Some things are so heavy it takes strong help to move them.

Just as the forklift can move huge piles of stuff, some people’s problems are so complex and complicated that the people living with them need help from friends or professionals.

#2> Up is down, down is up.

When you need to change the vertical height or the angle of tilt on the forks, you have to change the lever in the opposite direction to get the desired fork action. In life, you sometimes have to do the opposite of what comes naturally to you to initiate change.

#3> Waiting can be confusing.

When I was studying the spatial relationships of my equipment and the load I had to move, the machine went into a shut down mode and couldn’t function until I shifted the gear to neutral and back to the appropriate direction of motion. Sometimes, when you stop to study a situation instead of pushing through without thinking, those around you might get confused and react in ways you don’t anticipate.

#4> People learning new things need space.

When I was learning to operate and navigate, the volunteers gave me plenty of space (at least 12 feet). My mentor was especially careful to give me this space. And that’s wise given my occasional lack of coordination and spatial recognition. Sometimes, people learning new skills need emotional or intellectual space to progress and process what they’ve learned.

#5> Donuts might not be spinning in circles going nowhere.

We’ve all seen the gag videos of cars on ice spinning 360 degrees round and round repeatedly. The forklift also has the capability to go in donuts. But for the forklift, going in a donut can be handy for maneuvering into a new direction when space is extremely limited. People who appear to be spinning their wheels in life might really be doing a donut in preparation for their next season of life.

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