Always Defer to Expertise

baking bread

One of the things I’m fond of reminding people of is the quote from Pablo Picasso that everything “is either easy or impossible.” I can usually be counted on to suffix that by adding that the difference between the two often comes down to having the right tool for the job.

Just the other day while I was walking my dogs, I watched four landscaping guys struggling to push a ginormous roll of AstroTurf into their client’s backyard that was — and I am in no way exaggerating — the length and diameter of two Honda Civics end to end.

I’m not a landscaper, so I’m not familiar enough with AstroTurf to guesstimate what that roll must weigh, but judging by their efforts, it must be a lot — notwithstanding the added difficulty of the added friction of the AstroTurf’s backing on the paving stones.

I could only marvel at them. It’s like these guys had never heard of the Great Pyramids of Egypt, and how using rollers allows you to move large objects more easily. I know I’m coming across as judgmental, and I really shouldn’t. It’s not like my poor planning has never landed me in a difficult situation.

Years ago, working on one project, I ordered a motorized in-ceiling mount for a client’s 50-inch flat panel. It was the first time we’d ever specified a motorized drop-down mount for a project. A couple of weeks later it arrived on our loading dock at work. Even without the wood packing crate, the whole mount, enclosure and all, weighed around 500 pounds.

My first thought was “Oh no. How are going to get that into the client’s ceiling?” Followed shortly by “Never mind that, how are we going to get it to the client’s job site?”

The answer to the first question wasn’t hard: We’ll load it into the BIG truck. But having never been in this position before, I still didn’t have an answer to the first. Fortunately, there was a solution. As a boss and former mentor told me (more than once, as it happens) “Always defer to expertise.”

So, I called up someone I knew who was the general manager of an equipment rental company. I told him what my problem was. And just like that, he knew what to do. He told me the kind of manual lift apparatus I need and how much it would be to rent one.

And just like that, problem solved! We had the right tool for the job, all by knowing who to ask for help.

Someone else once used baking bread as an analogy for any skill or ability. The thing about baking bread is that if you don’t know how to do it, you don’t even know where to begin. But once you do know how to bake bread, it all seems so obvious in hindsight. Furthermore, once you’ve mastered the basics, then you can experiment with more advanced methods or artistic flourishes, leading to almost infinite variations on a theme.

That’s true of anything. Once you know, you know! And then you can take off from there. The lesson here is that if you don’t know what to do, find someone who does and ask them.

The day after I watched those landscapers struggling with their giant roll of AstroTurf I walked my dogs past the same place; now the AstroTurf was laid out in the backyard, just waiting for the edges to be trimmed. I don’t know how long it took them to get to that point, but maybe next time they’ll find an easier way.