I think my father had his doubts about how I’d turn out. He was always “encouraging” me to stop thinking so much and take direct action. But I was a slow learner in that area.
Most of us learn early that even with luck on our side, we’ve got to put some real effort into our goals if we want to reach them.
But even in the smaller, more routine activities of life, we’ve got to put some spine into it. Otherwise, we’ll fail, but not the big, dramatic failures where we KNOW we’ve run aground.
Worse, we often only half-fail. Then we’ll coast along, kidding ourselves that things aren’t really so bad… that things could be worse… and they MIGHT get better… mightn’t they?
Half-floundering like this can go on for decades, and we’ve all seen it squeeze the life from careers, businesses, marriages.
If you were lucky, you learned the lesson about gumption early on, but for many of us, that lesson didn’t come until we had our noses rubbed in it a number of times. Or maybe we’re still learning it.
Of course, it’s true that there’s a proper time for thinking, weighing and analyzing. And it should be done very thoroughly. But once that phase is past – if we’ve done it right – the analyzing should make way for action. Thinking too long can leave us waiting until-this or until-that happens.
These days my work is mostly on the Internet. But there’s one principle that I use nearly every day.
And I learned it from my dad almost 40 years ago in a very different line of work. How to Protect Yourself from Rip-off Artists,Con-men, Frauds, and Unethical Negotiators.
My father ran a plumbing shop in the competitive western Chicago suburbs. Now and then, when a man didn’t show up or called in sick, he’d ask me to fill in for one or another of his regular laborers. I wasn’t union, but apparently it was okay. He had friends.
One day he set me to work breaking a concrete floor. We had to chip out the cement around a drain, replace it, and trowel in new cement to seal it.
Now, you need to understand. My father was built like a tree stump, while I ran more along the lines of beanpole. I was not his favorite worker because I “thought too much and wasn’t very strong.”
This floor breaking job was not the kind of work I enjoyed. It involved holding a cold chisel and swinging a five-pound baby sledge hammer at it really hard. Often my aim was bad so the hammer missed the chisel and slammed into my wrist instead.
About ten minutes after he put me to work breaking the floor, dad came back, expecting to find the job completed. It wasn’t.
“Son, just what the heck have you been doing all this time?”
“Well, dad,” I told him proudly, “I figured out a good way to do this more safely. I just tap the chisel and move it, tap it and move it. I’m generating a circle of shock waves down into the concrete. That way, it’ll break along the lines and I won’t hurt my wrist again.”
Dad gave me a truly worried look. He said, “Aw son, just HIT the thing.”
Well, I did hit it then. And the job only took five more minutes to finish. Oddly enough, even though I managed to hammer my hand two or three times, I was proud that I’d just gone ahead and done it.
Of course, Dad did practice what he preached. He had a whole quart jar on his dresser at home filled with broken watches that he’d smashed doing exactly what he was advising me to do. He kept them as a reminder, he said, that if you’ll just go ahead and do the job, you can afford to buy all the watches you need.
But the lesson I learned that day has never left me.
And even today, nearly 40 years later, when I’m tapping tentatively away on the edges of some job or other, trying to launch a new website without making any mistakes, or trying to figure out which script I need to install but I’m reluctant to invest the time to just install one and see what it does, I still sometimes hear my father’s voice:
“Aw son, just HIT the thing.”
When I hear that, I have to grin because he’s still urging me to take action, be less cautious. Just go ahead and get the job done, never mind the bumps and bruises.
And that’s not a bad lesson to carry through life. Why Use Antivirus Software?