Quiet morning here at the ranch. Very satisfying day Saturday, though. And all thanks to two simple concepts: Trust the science and multi-task your life.
Let’s start with the science part because it’s an area where people seem to have a lot of trouble. Whether you’re talking a mechanic’s project, the finery of HF radio installations, or even something as simple as planting a garden, or making a pottery stool of just the right height – there’s a science for just about everything.
Let’s start with the Garden. As you know, I have been “called” over the past couple of years to gardening. Now, on the surface, there was not reason for it. What, in their late 60’s anyone would be called to gardening is beyond me. But, there it was and now? Well, we’re not eating lush vegetable yet, but they’re coming along and with serial planting every couple of weeks, this should be a summer with plenty of fresh garden treats.
Here’s the key part: Used to be one of those people who held that they “Have no green thumb.” And that is when personally applying science stepped in to save me.
You see, there are certain natural requirements for things to grow. First, you need seeds that aren’t old and will have a decent germination rate. Then, you need to plant them in the correct manner. A few seeds like to be tossed on the surface of the ground, but for most, there is an “ideal” planting depth.
And you have to water them correctly. There are some seeds that have little “rituals” they like going through first. One of the To-Do items this morning is to begin soaking my bamboo tree seeds. They like at least 24-hours of full immersion or planning them can be an exercise in futility.
Sure, there are people who just seem to instinctively “know” about gardening, but for me it’s been an application of the Recipe Version of Learning, laid out in my book The Millennial’s Missing Manual.
My short-track to “OK” gardening was to look at the problem – first and foremost – as an information problem. What do I know about the “parts” of gardening: Began with a list of “parts” to study: Plant, soil, watering, light and temperatures, and how to harvest correctly. Seems obvious, to some.
But, it’s like a project in the wood shop. Some people who grew up “just doing” would decide “I want to build a pottery stool.” They would look for a seat first, and then try to find a leg. Oops, make that four legs… and on it goes. There was a time when I’d redneck a cobbled stool and call it good. But now, it has become an application of the Right Recipe to achieve an outstanding result. Round-overs, mortise and tenon joinery, and so forth.
This “learning to believe in science” and “collecting recipes that work” has been one of those slowly-evolving lessons in life. There have been two defining events that changed my world forever.
The first was process. I was younger then, but I got into Sales. And the shocker for me was the degree to which a person and “automate sales” by simply evolving a “customer script.” Especially in managing sales people and double-especially when managing telemarketing or tele-sales. I won’t say I have fired people for “getting off their scripts” but there’s a magic to it.
See, in sales, if something goes wrong and you’ve been religiously following a scripted sales approach, it’s really easy to trouble-shoot what a salesperson is doing wrong if they aren’t “hitting their numbers.” If they are “off script” all the time, everything becomes highly subjective…arguments follow…and people who are on the verge of success resist self-troubleshooting. Rather than “be told what to do” – they rebel and leave. Yet, even when the “magic of process” is explained, there are maybe half the people in the world who are convinced, even with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that they know more than the boss.
If this sounds a bit pedantic, it’s because there is a point to it. One of the greatest gifts in life is to “own process.”
There’s also the art of letting Time work for you instead of against.
Fixing the lawnmower was a great example: The “process map” was simple: Determine exactly and precisely what was wrong. Then order parts. When the parts arrived, install. And all these little processes could be optimized. Troubleshooting and parts ordering was less than a half hour. When the parts arrived, the old bolts were frozen in place. A coupe of shots of Kano Aerokroil Penetrating Oil were applied and I went off and tossed twigs in the electric chipper for an hour.
That’s because whenever I get to a “stuck” project – and literally so with frozen-on rusty bolts – there is another batch of processes that steps in: The how to break things loose recipes. For the problem at hand, dousing in Aerokroil, repeating in a half-hour, and then coming back, meant the bolts came off like butter. Then, putting the whole thing back together with the new idler pulleys took about 15-minutes.
This was a job that would have probably cost me in the region of $250 to take to a mower shop to get fixed. Two-bits worth of penetrating oil and $55 worth of parts and shipping…why, that pencils out to $194.75 an hour that I “saved” doing the job myself.
But the real key part is how I “used time” wisely. Analysis and order. (then wait 4-days for shipping) Remove old parts (using that time to do other chores). Finally, the repair itself. 15-minutes. My total time on task? Under an hour.
Same thing holds true for just about anything you want to accomplish in life. Like gardening, there may be many parts to it, but if you “do the steps” there will be the desired outcome on the far side.
In radio equipment, I was working on a very complicated problem one day, years ago. A particular radio wasn’t working right and the owner of the company came over to see what was taking me so long to get fixed.
“You’re looking at it all wrong,” he explained. “Radio is ruled by physics, and if the radio isn’t working it’s because your “physics aren’t right.” Then the lasting learning moment.
“There no magic here. The electrons obey the laws of physics 100% of the time. YOU aren’t looking at the problem right, if you don’t hold to that. And you’ll chase your tail all over the place until finally stumble on the science of it…”
We are, as a country, coming into some really tough times ahead. It’s possible the stock market could be priced at less than half its present number in six to eight months.
Again, there are processes you can find easily invoke now and begin to apply that will ensure you have a “happy future.”
Making up a To-Do list – while it’s a great start – isn’t where the magic is. Though you’ll be ahead of 75% of people if you do use one.
No, the real magic comes from realizing how short the Clock of Life is. In order not to waste a minute, even my To-Do list has become a streamlined set of steps (processes):
Step 1: What is my “list for the day?”
Step 2: Take each of the list items and figure out the best, fastest, and least-effort way to get ’em done.
Step 3: Work slower and more methodically. By learning this more step-wise orientation, I’ve seen the actual accomplishments around here go up. And that happens by spending more time on complicated projects focusing on the outcomes I’m after. The result is I’m not “over-engineering” solutions, as often. And I’m using time – especially in the garden – more effectively.
As we begin to rethink our global relationship with the world, one of the hardest addictions to let go of has been our innate “need for speed.” Gardening has taught me to recognize a simple Truth…and that gets back to Pareto’s Law:
“Pareto principle or law of the vital few, stating that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Pareto distribution, a power-law probability distribution used in description of many types of observable phenomena.”
I seem to have fallen in to getting 80 percent more done by doing 20% less. And that’s a real good lesson to learn, even later in life.
Write when you get done,