I volunteer for a local nonprofit as part of their two-person maintenance crew. This Monday, armed with shovels, wheelbarrows, picks, a grinder, sawzall and a jackhammer, our job was to remove a large eyesore of a concrete fountain that sat in the middle and on top of a ‘platform’ that also had to be removed. The platform, a two-foot tall by 16-foot square masonry stub wall, contained a raised bed of dirt and decorative gravel surrounded by an eight-foot tall welded, wrought iron fence. No small feat for our team of three on a Monday morning.
The reason I bring up this story is not only to explain why this week’s blog is shorter than normal but also because it serves as yet another reminder of how, regardless of one’s perceived ability to plan and foresee events, the real world continually offers up surprises.
In this particular case, the big surprise was what turned out to be the hardest part of the job: removing the dirt from inside the masonry wall. Suffice it to say the dirt, which had been hardened into cement by 30 plus years of fountain use, required more than shovels to remove.
I see this sort of thing at work (and at home) all the time and I bet you do too.
One might spend weeks developing CNC machining processes around critical features only to find it’s the simplest of things that end up causing the most problems. We have an incredibly complex titanium part we’re working on right now and so far, the thing that has caused us the biggest problems are the non-critical weight reduction pockets.
Robust systems built around core processes can break down in the face of simple failures of the unexpected catastrophic kind. Since our son was a toddler, my wife has had to regularly travel out of state for her job. Because of this, I’ve had plenty of solo time with my son. To get to work on time I have put robust processes in place to get him ready in the morning. However, as those of you who are parents know, no plan survives contact with a three year old.
I can remember walking into the daycare with my son one morning when I noticed that his favorite stuffed animal (a manatee) wasn’t in his bag. I called my wife in desperation and whispered oh so quietly in the politest way I could muster:
Where is the [expletive] manatee?
Upon getting the news that it was in the back of my wife’s car which by now was hours away I could do nothing more than prepare myself for an epic system meltdown.
So what do you do when things don’t happen the way you thought they would? You do what the three of us did on Monday morning. You keep a stiff upper lip, do the best job you can at digging your way out, and remind yourself that things could always be worse.
Before tying off for the week, I wanted to add to last week’s article about the perfect notebook. Never wanting to be without a pen I always like to keep one in my pocket. Although I’ve tried a bunch over the years my favorite is the Zebra mini pen. Not a pen I’d want to write with for a long time but it’s easy to carry around and great to have in a pinch.
In the spirit of today’s theme – the importance of collaboration, I wanted to share with you a sublime collaboration between folk singer Amelia Meath (of Mountain Man) and electronic producer Nick Sanborn (of Megafaun). The duo is Sylvan Esso and the song is Coffee.
Until next week…in your service…xian
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