© Phil Groshong

When an elementary school father-daughter dance made Jacob Adams’ nerves skyrocket, he pushed them aside. While all but one other dad acted like a group of middle school wallflowers, Adams decided to break away from the crowd and joined his daughter on the dance floor as the DJ played Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

Being out of your comfort zone is a familiar situation for Adams, a turf and tree team leader at Oasis Turf & Tree in Loveland, Ohio. In fact, he tries his hardest to put himself there.

“I have learned what’s uncomfortable for most people is comfortable to me,” he says. “Most of me is like, ‘Yeah let’s do this. I’ll figure it out and jump in feet first.’”

Adams spent five years in the military, enlisting in the Army in 2005 as part of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

“(The military) gave me discipline, integrity, pride,” he says. “To really take pride in what you do and do a good job and to put your name on it.”

“He goes above and beyond what is expected from (him),” says Angie Bradley, director of operations for Oasis. “If there’s something else that needs to be done, he’ll jump in and do it. … You don’t find that too often in many people. You don’t find that character.”

Going full time.

Adams left the military in 2010 and struggled to find steady work. Trying a stint at a temp agency, he grew frustrated with bouncing between jobs and getting laid off repeatedly. He decided it was time to try something new.

His sister and her husband, who worked at Oasis, suggested the company hire him, and he was brought on in November as a seasonal aeration technician.

Since he’d only be working a half-season before being laid off for the winter, Adams was a little worried about paying bills and providing for his kids. Still, he decided to give it a shot, something he knew right away was the right decision.

“Coming in and working the half-season, I could tell right away this was something I wanted to be a part of,” he says, citing the up-to-date equipment and the family feel of the company.

The team at Oasis was equally impressed by him.

“Just something about him and his personality, and just how he presents himself, you could just tell immediately there was going to be something special about this man,” Bradley says.

No rest in the off season.

When the moment Adams worried about came, he knew he wanted to return the following season. During the winter, he studied to become a certified lawn technician, and was hired full time for 2013 in that role.

Bradley says when Adams came back as a lawn technician, he showed that hunger for learning.

“Out of my career, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone take to the industry that way, especially someone from outside the industry,” she says.

For Adams, the pushing not only feeds him, it also helps him get out of his comfort zone, something he learned from the military.

“You can go so much further than what your brain tells yourself and that was one of the best experiences I had in the military,” he says. “We, as people, are 10 times stronger than what we think of ourselves. I think that’s something that helps me excel at Oasis because I take pride in the tough jobs, the hard jobs, the uncomfortable ones.”

The learning path.

After trying his hand at lawn applications, Adams studied tree care.

When one of the company’s tree guys didn’t work out, Adams was offered the job as a part-time role.

“Unless you’ve had background in it, (tree care) intimidates a lot of people,” Bradley says.

When Bradley offered the job, she says Adams briefly looked like a deer in headlights before telling her he was interested.

“I was a little skeptical at first about doing the tree care,” Adams says. “She challenged me in a way by asking me (to do the job).”

Adams says he prefers tree care. Lawn care, he says, can be mastered in a year or two, but every day there’s something new about trees.

“Tree care, I’ve been doing it two years now and I probably know 30 percent,” he says. “To some people it’s scary, but to me it’s fun. The more I get to learn, the more I know. ”

The fear is what makes Adams the type of person to dive in.

“I tell myself I’ve seen and been through a lot overseas,” he says. “It’s just learning that when we feel scared and when we feel timid, some people back away and some people push forward.”

Above and beyond.

According to Rob Reindl, president and owner of the company, Adams’ achievements extend beyond the knowledge he’s gained.

“He’s someone we can send out to meet with customers,” Reindle says.

“It takes a certain demeanor to put up with a customer that’s screaming and yelling in your face and calmly explain to them the situation. Those types of things occur on a regular basis, and he’s been the person who will work with those customers in those situations.”

Bradley says one day she decided to secretly observe the technicians, and saw Adams dealing with a situation he didn’t have to.

“We had just recently had some storms come through and (the clients) were out trying to trim broken branches,” she says.

“It’s not what he was there to do but I saw him going in the garage, come out with some trimmers, and he was out there because they were struggling with these branches and he went out there, trimmed them down, took care of them and put them where they needed to go.” It’s that attitude that makes Adams valuable not only outside the office, but inside as well.

“At the end of the day, you’re usually tired,” Reindl says. “He walks through the office with a smile. He’s always engaging, he’s always saying hello to people. His enthusiasm is very contagious.”

Adams continues to push himself, and this year he’s hoping to become a National Association of Landscape Professionals Lawn Care Technician and an NALP Horticulture Technician.

“He just continuously, season after season, sets goals for himself and takes advantage of every opportunity,” Bradley says.

“You can go so much further than what your brain tells yourself, and that was one of the best experiences I had in the military. We, as people, are 10 times stronger than what we think of ourselves.” Jacob Adams, Oasis Turf & Tree