The below from one of my favorite 9gs readers/positive forces on the Internet, Sunnie1SoTrue.
It was sent to me via email, but I asked Sunnie if I could add it as an update to the blog, because, frankly, it’s better than the blog post, and shines the correct light on what I wanted to say/should have said, but am not yet evolved enough to do so.
Oh, but dear @gah650 you are yet to see the “code” you encoded into your lovely wife and fun-der-ful children. That perhaps being – though you much prefer to do other things and are in reality much more suited for other tasks and above all like the other tasks better – you did it for them. Maybe the very time you took to build bunk beds was a greater investment in them than you realize. Just think of the stories that will live in their minds plus the “new words” – the day dad built our bunk beds. Anyway, even if it didn’t register in their minds, it did in their hearts and spirits.
And if anyone ever wonders why any of us who blog do so, it’s because of moments of connection like these.
Thank you, Sunnie.
At the risk at coming across like some sort of second-rate Gladwell/Godin (both of whom I admire greatly), I want to relate a quick anecdote (see how “Gladwell-ian” I’m getting already) brought to the fore after a typically awesome conversation with Lauren Markow (that would be @sambarouge to many of you).
On Father’s day I was tasked with putting together the kids’ new bunk beds. I suppose this falls under my domain because I have testicles. I can promise, there is no other reasonable explanation for why my wife would consider me the appropriate person (or more appropriate than she) for this job. My “tool box” consists of one of those $3 screwdrivers that you can reverse from Phillips head to flat head and some of those left over Allen wrenches that come with things that must be assembled.
In any case, after much grumbling and the recruitment of my neighbor Charlie, who has such exotic (and required for this job) tools as a ratchet, off we went.
It took quite some time, during most of which I re-enacted precisely the “job” I had when my Dad would fix the car when I was a kid: handing him the wrong tool, trying to get out of the way, and dropping things. (My Dad, whenever I asked if I could help with these types of projects, used to tell my 9-year old self that I could “supervise.”)
We eventually finished, I offered to buy Charlie dinner, and we drank a beer.
I then headed to my laptop to try desperately to catch up on all of the things that I didn’t do while I was instead doing a miserable job at something I should never do.
You see where I’m going.
Building bunk beds is for me a terrible waste of time. It has what economists call high “opportunity cost” for me: while putting together bunk beds I couldn’t do any of the things that I am actually fairly capable of; things where I can add value.
In an era where we’re conditioned to think we can do anything, it’s important to remember what I tell people outside of Burgundy who are thinking about getting into the Vineyard business, “Just because you can make wine, doesn’t mean you should make wine.”
I usually can get out of the bunk bed building tasks around the house, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t build the metaphorical bunk bed too often.
For instance, two or three times a year I get so fed up with some technical issue that I decide â€” right then and there â€” I’m going to learn how to code.
The rub here is that while I’ll never be a great or even good coder, those weekends weren’t a loss. I’m now far more able to communicate with those who are great coders, and thus add value to projects by simply being a good point-person when coding is involved (I still wish I could just do it myself).
Another example: I had a real pivotal moment about five years ago when working on a project. We had hit sort of a wall, and – as per usual – the default answer to get us over this hump was to hire a publicist to help us generate more awareness. I disagreed vehemently with this approach, and it was not-gently suggested that I might want to consider offering an alternative rather than vitriol.
My alternative was to let me get an intern and explore the then-nascent social marketing techniques for three months. It changed the companies fortune…and my life.
Diving into social channels or coding isn’t exactly the same as building bunk beds; though it could appear that way at the time.
Learning to code a little (or at lease communicate more efficiently with coders) and understanding new ways to connect with constituents with technology relates directly to my core competency.
The key is trying to find those things that can expand our core competencies but aren’t adverse to them. Not easy. Building a bunk bed, literally, is never going to relate to any of my core competencies (unless something really radical, and, frankly, horrible, happens in my life).
Growing capability without falling into a trap of random acts of improvement is a tricky balance.