Sometimes the Well-Trodden Path is Still the Best

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

I’ve talked a lot this week about creativity and thinking outside the box. I guess it all goes back to the old adage that insanity is doing the same thing the same way every day and expecting different results. We all know that if we want things to change we have to try something different. But sometimes, things are working just fine and then we get creative and throw a wrench in the spokes.

When I got up this morning, the bathroom scale gave me an encouraging sign – my weight is finally starting to go back down. I didn’t really gain that much over this last stumble off the wagon, but I had been headed steadily in the right direction until I decided I was smart enough to tweak things a little. After all, will a cheeseburger and fries really make that much difference?

With most things in life, small changes can make a big difference. Sometimes we need to make those small changes to speed things up a bit. And other times, we need to just stick with what works. Anybody who’s ever started a small two-stroke engine, like that on a weed-eater, knows exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t hold your mouth just right, you’ll be there all day.

Some changes will make things better. Some don’t seem to make any difference at all, but they do. The impact just isn’t as readily apparent, but over time it’ll show. And other changes, like ditching the meal bars in favor of a cheeseburger, have exactly the result we’d expect. Granted, sometimes you need to indulge a little. But when “sometimes” becomes every day, we have a problem.

On your job, you were likely taught to do things a certain way. With many computer programs, you have to do things in a specific sequence to get the desired result. Mop the floor before you sweep it and you’ll end up with a muddy mess. And anybody who’s ever tried using vise-grips instead of a socket wrench knows the inevitable result of that mistake.

On the other hand, there was a point in history when somebody set down a hand saw, rubbed their arm, and thought, “There has to be a better way. What if the saw could move itself back and forth? But the mechanism required to do that would consume a lot of energy. So, what if we changed the shape of the saw? What if we made it a circle? Then all we’d have to do is spin it really fast.”

Granted, the saws of the day were pretty impressive. And so were the biceps of the people using them. It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. And all through history, ordinary people have dreamed up some of the things that make our lives so much simpler every single day. Cars, airplanes, computers, power tools, kitchen appliances … the list goes on and on.

My dad was an aircraft mechanic for nearly fifty years, and he taught me most of what I know about tools and how to fix things. Granted, there came a time when I had to try something he’d never shown me, like replacing disc brakes or rebuilding an engine. But the basics of what he’d taught me were the foundation for all those new learning experiences.

I made mistakes along the way, and I’m sure he did, too. That’s all part of it. But when we learn the basics from somebody with the skills and experience to teach us right, the results can be pretty impressive. It’s when we try to toss their advice aside and do things our own way that we get in trouble.

We all know the things we should be doing. And, even though there’s that part of our brain that really wants to come up with a better way, sometimes it’s best to shut that down for the time being and just follow the plan. When the team is ahead by forty points, the coach can afford to run new plays. But when the score is zero, you stick with what works.

There’s a time for creativity and a time to just follow directions. Success is all about knowing when to do what. And, more often than not, if we just follow the lead of those who have gone there before us, we’ll at least find ourselves on the right path. Once we reach our destination, we can think about better ways to get there.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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