2017-10-26 / Columns

‘Don’t Quit Just Because It Isn’t Easy’

Think Outside, No Box Needed
By Jim Plouffe

The other day my paper shredder broke. I shred everything. The first thing I said to Margaret was, “Looks like we are going to have to go out and buy a new shredder.”

Her first reaction was, “Why don’t you try and fix it before you throw this one out and buy a new one.”

I hate trying to fix things that I don’t understand. I am not very mechanically minded, and I don’t have any urge to be. I have subscribed to the theory that I should work at the things I am good at, and pay other people to do the things that I am not very good at. Following that theory causes me to realize how interdependent we all are on each other’s skills and talents.

But this was a case of throw it away and buy a new one, so I used the old Bob Dylan line: “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” and headed toward the garage to get my tools. (Don’t tell anyone that I have tools; it is not a secret that I want to get out.)

The first thing I did was to unplug the machine (safety first!), and then I started to remove the screws that held the cover in place. After about an hour of work on the shredder, I thought that I had discovered what the problem was and fixed it. I put everything back together and turned it on, and it was running just like it was brand new. I started to shred my first piece of test paper (I was very proud of my accomplishment), when halfway through, the paper just quit moving through the shredder. I could tell that a gear was disengaging or slipping. But I knew from just having the entire shredder apart, that the gear that wasn’t working was completely enclosed and that there was no way for me to access it. So I was right back where I started, only by this time I had wasted about two hours.

Maybe the Bob Dylan line isn’t true, or maybe I should have just stuck with my original plan and thrown out the shredder and bought a new one. The round trip of going to the store to purchase a new shredder was going to take a couple of hours at a minimum. What would you have done?

I recently read an article by Scott Manutz. It was an article about failing. Maybe this is why I tried to fix the shredder in the first place. Scott Manutz said, “Try; don’t be so daunted that you don’t try at all.” Just because you are not very good at something, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. Everyone who is an expert at one time wasn’t very good at what they are an expert at now. I don’t think I will ever be very good at fixing broken mechanical things, but if I think there is a chance that I might be able to fix it, like the shredder, I should at least try. Maybe the task will be too daunting, but maybe it won’t. You and I will never know unless we try.

Scott also said, “Once you do try, don’t quit.”

I am not so sure that I believe in the never-give-up mantra without some qualifiers like: Have you exhausted every angle? Have you asked for help? Is it going to cost more in time than it’s worth in money? Will it lead to a discovery? Common sense has to be applied to “don’t quit” and “never give up.”

The last thing that Scott Manuta emphasized was, “At a minimum, learn from your mistakes.”

To do that, you first have to admit you made a mistake and you have to be looking for the lesson to be learned. So what can you learn from my broken shredder that you can apply to your life? My first thoughts are not much; after all, I failed in every aspect. But look at the three simple guidelines you should apply to all challenges. Try, even though you think you will fail. No one was ever great at anything without practice. Don’t quit just because it isn’t easy, and lastly, if you do fail, look for what can be done differently next time you try.

The next time my new shredder breaks, I am going to take it apart and try to fix it. Maybe I’ll succeed, and maybe I won’t, but I am going to try. How about you?

If you are unhappy with the status quo of your business or personal achievement, meet with Jim one-onone. The first meeting is free. Jim is also available for speeches and training to your organization. jim@ThinkOutsideNoBoxNeeded.co m.

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