Nov 18

Give Yourself the Right Tools for the Job

toolsThis is a really, really, REALLY important lesson.  Anytime you decide to take on a challenge, you should spend some time up front identifying the tools you need in order to succeed.

I’m not going to lie to you.  If you fail to take this step upfront, you may very well still succeed.  The problem is, you’ll be so exhausted and annoyed by the time you reach it, you may not care anymore that you made it.

Heed my warning, for I know of what I speak.

I am writing this post at 10:00 PM on Tuesday night, furiously pounding the keyboard to create something useful, insightful, and witty for you to read when you wake up in the morning.

I’ve got a big smile on my face because I love writing, but damn it, I’m grumpy.  I’m grumpy because I decided to install a new dishwasher in our house on Saturday. By install, I mean rip the old one out and then wander around town looking for a new one.  When I finally found the right one for us, it wasn’t available until Monday.

“Oh, that’s fine,” I told the salesman as I clenched my teeth.  That was a lie.  While pulling the old dishwasher out, I damaged the water line, making it impossible for me to reconnect it while I waited for the new one.  The shut off valve is old and wouldn’t close all the way so my girlfriend, Jessie, and I spent the weekend bailing water out of the kitchen with a well placed plastic tub.

I picked up the new machine Monday night only to find that the fitting was different than what I had existing.  A 10:00 PM trip to Home Depot fixed that.  What it didn’t fix, though, was the fact that all of my tools are currently at a friend’s house, 50 miles from home.  Glad I remembered that before I got started.

Refusing to be deterred, I completed this daunting task thanks to a pair of pliers, a kitchen knife, a wrench I found in my driveway, and several youthful summers spent watching reruns of MacGyver.  If I had taken a second in the beginning to compile a budget and a schedule, I can assure you I would be well over on both.

So, you see, the task is complete – a success.  But is it really?  Jessie and I are irritable because it took a long time to finish, I cut my finger pretty well, and you have to listen to me ramble on about a dishwasher because I didn’t give myself the time to write the post I really wanted to (next week, of course).

Do you have an urge to change something about your life right now?

Maybe you want to build a compost tumbler. I’m all for jumping right in and getting dirty, but don’t forget to think for at least a few seconds before smashing your thumb with a hammer about why you’re going to smash it and what you’re going to need to smash it with.

Want to save $10,000?  Sure, you can do it without much planning, but with an average 3% rate of inflation, how much is it going to be worth when you finally get there at retirement age?

We green frugalistas are always looking for another project to complete that will boost us to the next level of enlightenment. Well, we can do any damn thing we want without much thought, but doing it well and doing it happily are more difficult results to come by.

I’m no rocket doctor, but even I could have taken five minutes to get out a note card and jot down the tools I would have needed and the order of operations to follow to make this project a happy success.

No doubt about it, my dishes are now impeccably clean.  My language over the last few days was not.

Have you ever found yourself in over your head due to poor planning?  How do you make sure you’ve given yourself the right tools for the job you want to complete?  What’s your favorite swear word when everything goes wrong?


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Image of woodworking tools by Robert S. Donovan


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  1. Kevin M

    I feel your pain, Tyler. I installed a dishwasher in our new house from scratch – no previous dishwasher existed there before. I had to move cabinets, run electrical and plumbing. I did one previously, but there are always new challenges based on the project.

    You’re lucky your HD is open until 10pm, I had to run out at 7:45 b/c I was short about 1.5-2 ft of wire to run from the disposal to the switch and needing a different fitting for the water supply. They closed at 8 and I barely made it. I finished about 11:30 on Sunday night, the next day at work wasn’t too fun.

  2. Michael Thomas

    Kevin, Glad you persevered. There are always unforeseen conditions to be expected in any project you take on. My problem is that sometimes I don’t allow myself the time upfront to account for the things that shouldn’t get missed in the first place!

  3. Smitherines

    That’s why I’m always saying, “we need a plan” before we start something like that. Women are always right, see.

  4. Michael Thomas

    That’s Jessie. Always the voice of reason.

  5. Alison Wiley

    Love this post. I can so relate (along with my husband). You didn’t ramble . . . . don’t know what post you “really wanted to write”, but this is the one I really wanted to read.

    My favorite part: “Well, we can do any damn thing we want without much thought, but doing it well and doing it happily are more difficult results to come by.”

    Have to say I am liking Jessie, too.

  6. Michael Thomas

    Glad you enjoyed it Alison. If I didn’t have Jessie around, I might not have a good reminder that I’ve got lessons to learn. :)

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