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Lou Manfredini imparts the importance of lifelong learning

Lou Manfredini

Lou Manfredini

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Updated: January 18, 2013 7:41AM

I do a lot of different things. I’ve spent more than 20 years renovating and building houses in Chicago, I host a radio show on Saturday mornings on WGN and a TV show called “HouseSmarts” on NBC, I’ve written a few books on home improvement and I own an Ace Hardware store with my wife on the northwest side of Chicago. And at my root, I consider myself an entrepreneur.

My father started his own business, so I was exposed to that world early in my life — I always knew I wanted to own a business someday, too. But there are a thousand ways to make a living. To find your own way, you need to figure out what you love to do, work hard — and ask a lot of questions.

Though I wasn’t a very good student (to say the least), I was that kid in school who wanted to know everything. Later on, I was accepted at a small college in central Illinois and set off on my quest for higher learning. I was a musical theater major (that’s an entirely different story), but I took an economics class that I loved — I harassed my professor with all kinds of questions and took part in these awesome, interesting discussions. But when I took my first test, I received an F. When I got the results, I sunk into my chair, completely disappointed. How had this happened? This was my favorite class! My instructor looked at me and said, “Mr. Manfredini — grades, at their very best, are an imperfect measurement of knowledge.”

At the time, his words meant nothing to me. All I could focus on was the grade. But I did bounce back — and I never forgot that line. My professor was right. I believe deep in my heart that education is the key to peace and prosperity for the world. But school is only part of the learning process. The way we really grow is by being aware of everything around us and by developing into thinkers.

No matter what your age, you should always take time to answer the questions in your head: “Why is the ocean salty?” “Why does hair turn grey?” “Why do we have an Electoral College in the U.S.?” Once you ask the questions, find the answers (hint: answers to those specific questions are on my Facebook page)! Answering the questions you are curious about will help you better prepare yourself for life.

You want to know how I got started on radio? I asked questions. I wrote letters to several radio stations, asking them if they’d let me host a home-improvement show, and one said yes. The TV show? I talked to different TV stations about the possibility of hosting a show, another said yes. The hardware store came about after I met storeowners across the country who I really liked — I wanted to be a part of what they were doing, so my wife and I invested in a store.

But for all of these times I’ve been told yes in my life, it’s the times I’ve been told no that stick out. That’s what motivates me, and it’s what should motivate you. When people told me no, I would ask myself — or even them — why. Once I heard the answer, I would attack the problem from another angle.

Remember, no one is smarter than you. Someone may have the answers to more questions, but you can find those answers too. Above all, keep trying, keep learning and work hard.

Lou Manfredini donated his fee for writing this column
to Misericordia Heart of Mercy in Chicago
( Lou serves as Ace Hardware’s resident “Home Expert” and media spokesperson.

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