I am not especially handy. Sure, I can mow grass and whack weeds, but when it comes to really serious projects like clearing an acre of thick brush or running thirty feet of PVC pipe for a sump pump drain, I begin to doubt whether I can do it. Procrastination follows. I would rather read a book, or even write one.
But at the tender age of 70-something, I am seeing a small breakthrough on the level of doing handyman projects for the “world’s greatest wife.” I didn’t realize this was happening but now with the perspective of a few months of working alongside a fearless and relentless human machine, who is my brother-in-law, I do see a difference in my attitude.
It all started when Ben and I decided to trade days of work to help each other with some of our manual labor projects. We agreed that I would spend a day at his farm and he would spend a day at mine. We did this about five times at each place over the past five months for a total of ten days of work.
Here are three lessons from the experience:
I need an example. Fear of failure stopped me from pressing ahead on projects. As I analyze this, I realize that I am afraid my efforts will not be successful, so I put off starting. Ben’s energy inspired me to get started on large difficult jobs, like clearing the jungle we affectionately call Soggy Bottom. Attitudes are more often caught than taught, and I caught a lot from him.
I need a partner. As a people-person, I find work far more enjoyable by teaming up with someone. Ben kept me plodding for five days while we cleared more than half an acre of thick brush and fallen trees with his walk-behind bush hog and a couple of chain saws. We piled and burned brush and carried away five pick up loads of firewood.
I need to embrace delay. Time limitations made me hesitant to tackle jobs that I had never done before. We’ve all had the experience of starting a job we thought would take an hour and, with setbacks and complications, it became a two day project. There were multiple trips to the hardware store and a redesign of the whole plan in the middle.
When I started the sump pump drain project, I had a vague idea of how to do it. I talked to an employee at Lowe’s who gave me some ideas as I gathered the pipe and fittings on my shopping list. But I decided not to rush the project. I let it take a few days. Each day I got fresh ideas of how to make it better. I looked at some You Tube videos. It didn’t take many hours altogether but I let time be my friend while my brain wrestled with how to do it best. Five days later it was done with grass planted on the rich topsoil that fills the ditch and covers the drain pipe. Now we just have to wait for the grass to grow in.
You can ask me about it, but give me a few more days. I am learning to overcome procrastination. How about you? © 2016 by John Carroll