Waylon Hasty, owner and head instructor at the Elite Lineman Training Institute (ELTI), tells
each class that hand digging pole holes was “the best job he ever had.” After a full year of
digging holes I can confirm his assessment, and I’ll boldly state that he undersold how much
joy there is in digging holes.
I heard derogatory comments toward those that did physical labor while growing up.
Sometimes from teachers; often from the older friends of my parents or some aunts and
uncles. “Make sure you study hard so you don’t have to dig holes for a living,” was a
common refrain during my middle-class upbringing. Now, I’ve never been against physical
labor. Since my mom first voluntold me to move rocks and plants around the backyard as a
young child, I’ve found it simple to grit my teeth and get the job done. That skill morphed
into an ability to knock out whatever work was in front of me. Being grounded in physical
labor helped me stand apart in every job I’ve had.
All this flashes across my mind while using post hole diggers. I’m in a flow state where my
entire being is focused on the task at hand. Slam diggers into dirt, compact dirt, bend at the
knees, lift, deposit dirt on tarp, smash diggers on shovel, repeat. This continues for one to
four hours, depending on the size of the hole and if we run into any rocks. A flow state is
whenever you are fully immersed in an activity, and you tasted this state whenever you felt
time disappear. Perhaps during a football game, or while hunting. You’re utterly focused and
you just feel good. That’s what I wanted out of a career.
I quit my office job in the spring of 2020. I was successful. I was making great money. I had
the respect of my peers. None of this was enough. I wasn’t happy. I wanted work that meant
something more than just padding the bottom line of a company. After a summer of
research I landed on becoming an electrical lineman, and after little more research I found
the Elite Lineman Training Institute. Waylon and Randy told us that we’d spend more time
with a shovel and post hole diggers in our hands than we would doing any electrified work.
We would be groundmen, and the linemen and foreman on our crews wanted to see if we
were willing to dig and get dirty.
Since graduating in December of 2020 with Class 6, I’ve dug hundreds of holes all around
Atlanta, Rome, Savannah, Tifton, and Athens. I’m sure I’ll dig hundreds more, and I’m
certain I’ll still enjoy the critical process of digging a hole deep enough to set a pole. The
work is challenging and it can be exhausting. Yet, after your crew sets a new pole that was
knocked down in a storm and you reconnect their house to power, all that exhaustion and
frustration fades away in the gratitude of the homeowners.
Before Elite, my work was about improving a company’s bottom line. After Elite, I learned
the skills to be a part of restoring power to people without it. That is the feeling that has me
hooked, and makes me want to grab a shovel.