If You Know Why, You Can Always Learn How

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

Well, the repairs on the RV only took a few hours. Less time than it took me to drive it there and back, and let’s not mention the cost in gas. Warranty repairs aren’t always free. But it’s back, and ready to go. They fixed almost everything. What’s left requires $3 in parts and another six minutes of labor. In other words, they’ll bill the factory $712.

The one thing they didn’t fix is the satellite radio. I was right. The antenna wasn’t hooked up. Apparently, there’s no antenna TO hook up. That’s a factory option nobody told us about. Seriously? With the price tag on that thing, they couldn’t install a $50 antenna and tuner? I’m glad I asked about the steering wheel. I’d hate to pay extra for that.

I could cry and write a bunch of letters, but it won’t do any good. So, I’ll just fix it myself. I can install an antenna in less time that it would take to drive it back to the dealer, and for a fraction of the cost. They wanted $260 to give it a wash. I wish I was making that up.

Things usually cost more than we expect, and they’re never quite as simple as we think. That’s why, when we see something that’s really simple and doesn’t cost much at all, our first thought is, “There must be a catch. It can’t be that simple!”

When I replaced the front hub on my old truck, the instructions made it look easy. “Remove the three bolts shown and slide the old hub out.” Yeah. They forgot to mention a sledgehammer, jackhammer, gear puller, and other “special” tools required, plus all the colorful language that goes with it. It took four hours, and now I have to go to hell. But I saved $200.

It’s that way with most things. When I decided to remodel our bathroom, I convinced my wife it would be done in two days. Hey, it’s her fault for believing me. We’d been married 25 years, so she knew better. Well, it took eight days, and that didn’t include the trim. See, when the room is usable again, that’s when I stop. Trim is just for looks. That part took a year.

Which is why she stood so firmly when I said I wanted to build a house – you know, with my own two hands. I know how it’s done. My grandson and I built a shed from scratch, and it’s beautiful. Still missing some trim, but hey. And a house is nothing more than a big shed with electricity & plumbing, right? I can do that. I’ve got books that make it look really easy.

And I think that’s why we tend to doubt ourselves so much when we get ready to take on something new. Sure, it LOOKS easy. Any dummy can do it. But I’m not just any dummy. I’m a special kind of stupid! Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard people say that. Then you show them how it’s done, and they prove their original point. So, we hire an expert.

But not a one of those “experts” was a pro the first time out of the box. They made mistakes, broke things, installed them backward, and didn’t use the right words. I wondered about that as my brain surgeon told me goodnight. He said, “I just did the same surgery a half-hour ago!” Yeah, but are they still alive? Details, doc … I need details!

Well, even a brilliant brain surgeon had to learn somewhere. We tend to sell ourselves short sometimes and say things like, “That’s just not my strong suit. I’m a dummy when it comes to that!” No, you’re not. You just haven’t been taught how.

I talk to people all the time who want to start a business. When you ask what kind of business, some have a general idea, some can draw out details on a napkin, and some have no earthly clue. And years later, most of them are still talking about it. Why? Because they weren’t born with the required knowledge, and they’re not willing to learn as they go.

Colonel Sanders started his business with nothing more than a recipe and a dream. Sam Walton started with one small store in rural Arkansas, and Albert Einstein couldn’t speak fluently till the age of nine. Not a one of them was “destined” for success. But that didn’t stop them.

And it shouldn’t stop you. Find a mentor. Read some books. Learn as you go. If knowledge is all that’s standing in the way, get some. Develop your talents. You’ve got what it takes. All you have to do is put it to use.

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

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

You Really Don’t Have To Know It All

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is off to a great start.

For somebody who has spent his entire life working around computers and high-tech systems, and writing more than more than 20,000 pages of detailed text on how those systems work, I’m a complete moron when it comes to the systems I use at home. I know how to turn the TV on (most times), I can change a channel (I’m that good), and I can log onto the internet. That’s it.

If you thought I was making this up, my wife would quickly step in and set you straight. She uses features on her phone I didn’t even know mine has. She’s even better than the grandkids, and that’s saying a lot. They’re not allowed to play with my phone because, unless they take it back to the home screen, I might as well toss it in the trash. It’ll never work again – until they fix it.

Most times, it’s not an issue. Unless I want to change the TV from Roku back to cable or watch a movie on the Blu-Ray player. We have four remotes for the TV and associated gadgets, and they work like the combination lock at Fort Knox. Everything has to be done in just the right order, or the TV screen goes blank with a flashing message that says, “Let the kids give it a try.”

I’m trying to get mobile internet in the RV, and I would learn just as much by reading the page in Mandarin. Basically, here’s what I’ve been able to figure out:

  1. It’ll cost more than my house and RV payment combined.
  2. I can use high-speed internet for 16 minutes.
  3. After 16 minutes, it switches to smoke-signals.
  4. If I want an additional 16 minutes, the price quadruples.
  5. The equipment won’t be available until sometime next year.
  6. I’ll get kicked off the internet every time it rains.
  7. If we watch TV, we’ll run out of data on the first commercial.

Exaggeration, you say? Then we’re not reading the same contract. And I know if I walk into the Mobile Internet for Dummies Store, they’ll take one look at me and start planning their vacation to Tahiti. There’s a reason I don’t talk to automotive mechanics. Anything I say can and will be used against me in the final repair estimate. I didn’t even know my car had a fragistat.

We all like to think we’re pretty knowledgeable, and I believe most of us know a little more than we think. Except my oldest grandson. He still needs to come down a notch or two, but that goes with the territory. I always said technical writing is about knowing what you don’t know. Seems to me a few other people could take a page out of that book as well.

You see it in business a lot. Walls go up the moment you start talking to some people. They’re one step ahead of you. They know exactly where you’re headed, and it’s not anyplace they want to go. They’ve never tried what you’re suggesting, but they have a dozen reasons it won’t work. Why? Because they didn’t think of it first.

There is a story about a truck that got stuck under a bridge. A dozen people tried everything imaginable, and it wouldn’t budge. If only they could raise the bridge one inch. A little boy kept trying to make a suggestion, but nobody would listen. Finally, just to shut him up, the driver asked, “What’s your brilliant idea, genius?” He replied, “Let some air out of the tires.”

Sometimes we need to trust our knowledge and know that it’s enough. Other times we need to state an opinion and listen to the responses. And sometimes, we need to just be quiet and listen. If I want to learn to fly, I’m not going in there to tell the instructor how it’s done. He’s done this hundreds of times. He may know just a little more about it than I do.

If there’s something you want to teach, speak. But if there’s something you need to learn, listen. Learn from those who are have done the things you want to do. Listen to those who have gone before you. And hold your opinion until you know enough to speak. Remember these words – tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

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

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Failure Is the First Part of Success

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

Mom always said three things in life are certain – death, taxes, and my grandson asking me to make him some eggs. Okay, that last one is a recent twist on an old saying, but you get the picture. We have the grandkids twice a week, and the little guy loves his eggs. Or he loves getting Grandpa off his butt to cook. I’m not really sure which takes precedence.

My granddaughter leans toward getting me into the kitchen so she can curl up in my spot on the couch. I always offer her breakfast, but she passes. The nap is more important. Except last week when she waited until I turned the stove off and then came in and said, “I changed my mind.” Girls are allowed to do that. I don’t tell her that, but those are the rules. My wife says so.

I was born to be a grandpa. I saw a tee shirt once that said, “If I’d known grandchildren would be so much fun, I’d have had them first.” That pretty well sums it up. They really are more fun. That probably has something to do with the fact that we can send them home. That and the fact we’re too tired to supervise every single move they make. That’s their mother’s job.

Also, I’ve got 20 years of experience in this role. With your own kids, you learn as you go. Kinda like an airline pilot making his first landing in a Cessna. It’s usually not pretty. I took flying lessons, and I’ll never forget the landing that set my feet permanently on the ground. And to this day, that plane blames me for every problem it’s ever had.

But with grandkids, we’ve already made a lot of the mistakes. We’ve had time to look back and realize that what we once thought was a big deal isn’t worth the tears. Maybe that’s because we’ve been through the teenage years, so we have a little more perspective on just how bad it can get. Either way, we mellow with age. “Oh, so he took the car for a spin. He didn’t hurt it.”

Okay, that last one was just for fun, because I have a strict rule about preschoolers driving my cars. I taught their mother to drive, so I know the stupid things they can do. They’re not even allowed in the front of the RV when it’s parked, because they think it’s a playground. You don’t even want to turn the key after they’ve been up there.

So, we make rules, but some of those rules are a lot more lenient than they were with our own kids. I think that’s normal. Part of it is realizing the kids really aren’t hurting anything, and part is realizing you never really liked that vase to begin with. In less time than you’d spend polishing it just once, you can sweep up the broken pieces and be done with it.

Don’t get me wrong. Rules are important, and kids need some boundaries. But, where our own kids got stuck with a set of rookie parents, our grandkids get the benefit of age and experience. And that’s okay. Our own parents were first timers as well and look at how we turned out. Okay, maybe that’s a bad analogy. I was the guy my high school class voted “Most likely to serve time.” Ha! Fooled them!

The thing is, we learn from our mistakes. We learn that feelings are more important than spilled milk, and that we’re going to replace that new sofa at some point anyway. Sure, teach them to be careful, but don’t expect miracles. They will make mistakes. They will have accidents. And they will talk back. It’s all part of growing up. And so is eating soap, in case you were wondering.

And here’s the thing – you’re still growing, too. You may think you’ve reached full maturity, but as long as you’re still breathing, you’re still learning. And that means you’re still making mistakes, spilling milk, and talking back. Hopefully you don’t make yourself eat soap, but most of us are pretty hard on ourselves when we fall short of perfection. And that happens a lot.

So, ask yourself the same questions you’d ask your kid. Did you mean to mess up? Did you at least try to do it right? Do you know what you did wrong? If so, you know how to make it better the next time. And that’s the key to getting through life – try your best now and get it right the next time.

Give yourself the same chance you’d give your kids (or your grandkids). Give yourself a little compassion. And most of all, give yourself permission to fail. Because it’s in failing that we learn to succeed.

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

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

It’s Hard To Improve What You Won’t Take Time to Learn

Good morning! I hope your day (and your week) is off to a great start.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a training session with somebody who had just begun a new venture. It’s always fun to see the excitement in somebody’s eyes as they think of the many things they hope to accomplish and, maybe for the first time in their life, actually feel like they can do some of those things. Doubt is replaced by confidence and imagination takes place of fear.

I’ve been there, sitting in that seat, and thinking of all the things I wanted to accomplish, with somebody offering their time to show me how to do it. And I have to be honest. The whole time, my brain was moving faster than my ears, filtering out the parts I didn’t want to hear. Just tell me the fun stuff. I like fun. All that other stuff is for the people who really need it. I’m different.

If that sounds familiar, welcome to the club. It’s a lot more common than we’d like to think. The first day on a new job, we’re listening and learning, and just as quickly as we’re learning, we’re trying to think of a more efficient way to get the job done better and faster. Okay, maybe not the first day. But it usually doesn’t take long.

And the truth is, there may be a better way. Managers love it when an employee can come up with a new suggestion that saves money and gets things done more efficiently. But sometimes you have to stumble through a lot of messes to come up with something that’s truly better. And unless you’ve been around long enough to get away with that, creativity may not be your best bet.

Sometimes, it’s best to just go with the tried and true formula. There’s a reason they call it that – it’s because it’s been tried a bunch of times, and it works. And sometimes, with all the other ways that something can be done, the first approach was truly the best. I’m sure a lot of people have tried to improve on the basic concept of the wheel, but so far, a perfectly round shape seems to work best.

Many of you are too young to remember when Coca Cola tried to boost sales by “improving” their flagship product. The company spent $40 million in research and taste-tests to find a formula that would put an end to the long-running “cola war” with Pepsi and others. The result was deemed one of the largest marketing blunders in history. Three months later, with $300 million in unwanted product on hand, the company went back to their original formula.

The Ford Motor Company learned a similar lesson years earlier when they attempted to take the automotive market by storm with a car that was so far ahead of its time, nobody wanted it. There were other factors in the Edsel’s failure, but it’s a classic example of how a drastic deviation from the tried and true can sometimes result in complete failure. All told, it cost the company the equivalent of $4.8 billion in today’s dollars.

When we start something new, we want it to be our own. That’s the creative spirit that lies within each of us. It’s the creative spirit that allows us to imagine something beyond our current reality, to dream of something better. And it’s that same creative spirit that often gets in the way when we begin chasing that dream, because we don’t want to do it somebody else’s way – even if it works.

It’s natural to want to come up with great ideas on our own. Every technological advance in history was the result of somebody thinking, “there has to be a better way.” But before you can invent a better way, you must first understand and apply the tried and true method to find out what works and what doesn’t. Or, as Mom always used to say, you have to crawl before you can walk.

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, you can usually find somebody who’s willing to show you how to do it. And their way may not be the best way – but until you learn what works, it’s hard to improve upon it. Sometimes, we have to be satisfied with steady progress instead of a jump to the end. We have to take time to learn and apply the principles that have been proven over time.

There’s nothing wrong with creativity. The trick is knowing when to apply that creativity, and when to be quiet and listen to somebody who’s been where you are and at least knows how to get you headed in the right direction. Emulate those who have proven what works before you try to improve upon it. Your journey to success may not be immediate, but once you’re on the right path, you can always go a little faster.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Success Lies Just Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

When was the last time you tried something completely new? Maybe it was something creative, like knitting or woodworking. It could have been something as complex as learning to write software code, or as simple as using a new cell phone. Okay, that last one isn’t always so simple. But you get the idea. We try new things all the time. And rarely are we as good at the outset as we’d like to be.

I remember learning to drive. It’s one of the simplest things we do – in fact, judging by some people on the road, it takes no brains at all. But in the beginning, it wasn’t so easy. And for those like me who had to learn in a car with a manual transmission, just getting the car to go uphill from a dead stop was nothing short of a miracle. But we learned. And all these years later, it’s second nature.

I talk a lot about goals and dreams. There’s a reason why. Unless you’ve already accomplished everything you want in life, you have goals. They may not be in writing, and they may not even be all that well defined. But to accomplish anything new means to set a goal and work toward it.

To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. Those of you who have been with me a while have heard that before. It’s one of my favorite quotes, originally attributed to Thomas Jefferson. And if you think about it, there are really no exceptions to that rule. You can’t move ahead without breaking new ground.

The problem with breaking new ground, much like learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission, is that the first few times out can pretty well suck. You dump the clutch and stall the engine. You let it out too slow and roll backward. You hit the brakes in a panic and stall the engine. You miss gears, grind gears, and at least once you accidentally try to shift into reverse.

It’s all part of the learning process. And getting the car rolling is the hardest part, because once you have momentum on your side, it’s easy to shift into the next gear. Eventually I got good. Good enough, in fact, that I learned to drive a 13-speed semi. I could even parallel park that rig between two other trucks. There’s another driving lesson we’d like to forget.

What stops us from moving toward our goals usually isn’t a reluctance to actually do the work. We know the reward is worth the effort. It’s the realization that we have to try something new. Maybe we’ve done something similar, but that hasn’t led us to our goal on its own. So, we have to do something we’ve never done before. And that can be scary.

Back in the 1980s, I wanted to learn woodworking. I picked up a little saw and a piece of pine and made a paper towel rack. That came out pretty decent, so I made a spice rack. That one was a little more complicated but came out a lot better. And with each successive attempt, I got better. Finally, I learned to build clocks and furniture. Was it worth the effort? Absolutely.

That’s not to say I didn’t have to throw some pieces in the trash and start over. And there’s nothing like finishing what you think is a masterpiece, only to watch the joints separate the first time the weather changes. You make mistakes, and you learn not to repeat them. Eventually, I got a job building furnishings for world-class yachts. It just took time, practice, and a lot of patience.

In any worthwhile pursuit, you’ll have to try new things. Because the fact is, if what you’ve been doing all along hasn’t led you to your goal, it’s never going to. We all know the old saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If we want things to change, we have to do something different. We have to be willing to learn. And we have to be willing to make a few mistakes.

Sometimes, that “something different” is so different you can’t even imagine yourself doing it. It’s never been your thing, and it would stretch your comfort zone beyond anything you’ve ever experienced. Good. That’s what it takes. Your comfort zone has led you right to where you are today, and it’ll never take you any further. But if you give it a little tug, it’ll stretch. Trust me.

Even Beethoven once struggled to play Chopsticks. If there’s something you want to accomplish, all that’s standing in your way is that comfort zone. Set it aside and be willing to fail. Each time you do, you’ll get better and better until success is simply a matter of making the decision to try.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved