The butcher would place a stone equivalent to the weight of the meat you wanted to buy on the scale. Then he cut off a chunk of meat and put it on the plate. It was usually almost right, and with one little addition he perfected it. Sometimes he got it right in one go. Sometimes he added a little too much and the scale tilted in favour of the meat. Once in a while he needed to add two or three little pieces before he got it right. Always, however, he gave you the weight that you asked for, the weight you paid for.
I like this image of a scale, and the actions of the butcher as he tries to get the balance right. After a long time in the business her has a knack for it, and knows just how much to cut off to get close to the desired weight. He only needs to tweak a little to get the balance right.
Much of our lives are like that. We know the what needs doing, and with a little adjusting here and there we can and do get it right. It can become problematic if we are not flexible to make the required adjustments as we go along. If we expect ourselves to get it right first time all the time, we place a lot of stress on ourselves. If we are unwilling to make changes in order to get it right we fail more than we succeed.
The circumstances we find ourselves in determine the size of that first chunk that goes onto the weighing scale. Some situations call for bigger inputs to start with. If you cut back on that effort you have to cut up more little pieces in order make the required ‘weight’. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you get the balance right. The point is, the better you get at sizing up the effort required upfront, the less shuffling and tweaking it will take to get you there. This releases resources for you to do something else.
How do you get better at sizing up the effort?
- Do your research. Taking time upstream to understand what is required will save you rework and duplicated effort downstream. It may mean starting later than you wanted, but it improves your chances of finishing well.
- Know yourself . Be aware of your strengths, and bring them to bear, as well as your weaknesses, which you can mitigate. Once you have done your research it is easy to see what gaps in your knowledge, skills, attitude or values you need to address in order to succeed at whatever you are pursuing
- Learn . It is never too late to learn. You don’t know everything. Sooner or later you come across something that you need to do for the first time. Even older, experienced people have firsts. Opening yourself up for learning expands your comfort zone and gives you confidence to tackle new challenges.
The butcher doesn’t use stones and plates anymore. He has a digital scale, but the need to get the balance right is just as relevant today as it was back when.
Old fashioned weighing scales