Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip #78:

“Fish are, of course, indispensable to the angler.  They give him an excuse for fishing and justify the fly rod without which he would be a mere vagrant.”

Sparse Grey Hackle (Alfred Miller), 1972

Speaking for men, I would say, that while there are exceptions, as a general rule we tend to love to buy tools and various gadgets, even if we don’t quite know what that tool/gadget does, or is supposed to do. I recently replaced my old, beat up skill saw with a brand new one that has a laser beam for cutting straight lines and it is awesome! I’d love to show it to you. Come by any time.

The now famous PBS show, This Old House, has a special feature called: Ask This Old House, in which the regular guys from This Old House have to figure out what some strange looking device or tool or contraption is used for. It is a very popular segment that holds many a man spellbound. Some of us even run right out and get one of those thingamajigs from the show!  

When my wife and I first purchased our now over one-hundred-year-old center hall colonial house I took on the occupation of “unofficial resident handyman.” With each project I tackled I would factor in the cost of at least one new tool into each project. Now, after these many years I have built up, I must say, quite a nice tool collection. I’d be happy to show you my tool collection, as well. Also I’ve managed to pick up a few skills along the way. Our home has benefited by having me as the unpaid, maintenance guy/general contractor.

Older homes like ours are a lot like old ships – old wood vessels requiring plenty of attention so as to keep them from sinking. It doesn’t take long for an old wooden structure to start lisping. At a certain point I know I have limited time to shore her up before a much larger – and more costly – problem arises.

I am nowhere near that of a professional caliber when it comes to fixing and doing general home repairs, but I tend to do pretty well for much of it, thank you very much. It may take me a bit longer than the expert who does these various things every day. But, well, with patience and the right tools, I manage. I probably now have the necessary tools to do just about any job that comes up.

Of course having the right tools for life sure helps, but that’s never going to be enough either. One needs to know how to use the tools well – be it communication skills, conflict resolution, team building, etc. – and also when to do so.

There’s a great story of about a factory owner who kept having repeated problems with the factory’s archaic boiler. He called in one plumber after another but none could ever manage to fix it.

Finally he called in an old timer. When the old man arrived he walked around the boiler and then continued by surveying all the various pipes and connectors throughout the building. As he did this he carried along a small canvas tool bag. Finally he came to a particular bend in the piping and stopped. Next he reached into his canvas bag and pulled out a five pound ball-peen hammer. He got up on a short ladder and with his hammer, he wacked the elbow that was just above him. He hit the elbow dead center – an elbow that connected to an otherwise very long run of heating pipes.

He pounded the elbow once. Then twice. Then a third time. Each time he hit the elbow with all of his strength. As he did so the boiler immediately began to groan, then cough, then sputter, and within a short time the entire heating system was purring like a finely tuned machine. Within a few minutes heat began rising throughout the entire factory – something that had not occurred for quite a while.

Two days later in the mail the factory owner received the old plumber’s bill for repair of the boiler. The bill came to $500.00. The owner was immediately appalled by this expensive charge as he reasoned the plumber was only there at the factory for less than one hour, and had not installed any new parts. So he told his secretary to ask the plumber for an itemized bill.

Two days later a revised bill arrived:

                Use of ball-peen hammer:                                   $ 50.00

                Knowing where to use ball-peen hammer:  $450.00

                Total:                                                                           $500.00

The factory owner paid the plumber’s bill without any further comments.

As already stated, having the right tools can make a huge difference, plus knowing how to use those tools is important. He/she needs to know what tools to use and when to use them. Such knowing requires knowing how to think and problem solve.

This may even mean getting some technical advice, or some professional guidance. This week I asked an electrician what size gage wire I needed to use to replace the one on our furnace for the new thermostat I was installing. He was a guy in the same aisle I was in at Home Depot – the electrical supplies aisle. He graciously helped me out.

I’ve also managed to fix our clothes dryer by first watching a YouTube video; I’ve assembled IKEA cabinets by first reading the instructions, much to my wife’s amazement, prior to attempting to assemble some new item.   

But there is even a much more essential thing needed to repair or solve things. Without it nothing will likely work: Remain Calm. Panic and upset never helps. If need be, walk away for a while. Go for a coffee break or take a hike just to clear out your head. It also won’t hurt to laugh a little at this thing that isn’t quite working out as you had hoped. So what if you cut the board too short? It’s not the end of the world. There are bigger mistakes than this one particular one presently confronting you.

Sometimes there is nothing like a good night’s sleep to help facilitate a more optimal approach.  Fresh eyes the following morning may be all that was needed. A good attitude for resolving some particular repair or fixing something will go a long way toward a successful conclusion. There is nothing wrong with trying again tomorrow. Knowing when to stop is crucial, and knowing when to get some help is also important. I hope you do realize I am not just talking about home repairs here.

In aviation right attitude is a double entendre. Here it means maintaining the plane parallel to the Earth. Did you know that with a single prop airplane even with the loss of power, one can land it safely if you maintain right attitude? Eventually the plane will come to a landing at a relatively fast speed but one that is sustainable. With calm and a bit of luck you can survive.

Whereas if the pilot attempts to lift the plane in a false hope of reaching, say an intended but distant air strip, or does this for some other reason, the plane will stall; and then will go into a tail spin. When this happens the plane will dive perpendicularly toward the ground and will accelerate to an unsustainable crash speed, inadvertently causing a deadly impact. This could have been averted by keeping the right attitude. Landing the plane while maintaining right attitude makes a huge difference.

Right attitude is also absolutely essential in life. It is especially so in addressing our life situations given the various stresses and uncertainties constantly thrown at us during these times. So many folks are maxed out today like never before. Reflection, study, a sense of humor, and some occasional sound advice are all good and viable practices for whatever we are up to and facing.

If one only learns the so-called tricks of the trade, this doesn’t mean one knows the trade. People can take all kinds of courses or get training about leadership skills. But if they are anxious or afraid they will most likely misuse these very skills.

Right attitude counts immensely. It is critical for good leadership, successful parenting, and healthy partnerships. It is crucial for surviving and even thriving pandemics, recessions, social upheaval, as well as, our ever-rising infodemic crisis. Right attitude means, we, the pilots of our lives, need to remain calm even – especially – when we are in the midst of crashing. We need to make it safely through a controlled crash; one that is therefore, sustainable.

This will allow us to live for another day and with also with greater confidence that comes from new found wisdom only possible via what we’ve just experienced. 2020 may be seen as our societal controlled crash. Let’s keep breathing and do the smart, non-anxious things we need to do – and keep doing them. If we do then 2021 will be a much better year due to our increasing capacity to not only survive, but to thrive.