Growing up, I was fortunate to live next door to my maternal grandparents. As you can imagine, they were a significant influence on my life. Both of my parents worked, and I didn’t have cable TV or video games or cell phones. If I wasn’t out getting into trouble with my friends, I was at my grandparents’ house – often helping them in the garden or snapping peas on the porch.
My grandfather took up woodworking after he retired. My favorite days were when I’d exit the school bus and see the door to his workshop open. I knew that meant he was building something and I could earn some money sweeping up the sawdust he made. As we worked in the shop together, my grandad would share tips and tricks he’d learned while mastering his hobby.
One tidbit that has stuck with me through the years is this:
“Measure twice, cut once.”
You see, once you cut a board, you can’t fix a mistake. You might be able to glue a piece back on, but it won’t be the same. The grain won’t line up, the cutline will be obvious, and the whole piece will be just a little short of what it should have been. In other words, you can’t out things back the way they were. It’s better to check your measurement and make sure your marks are right before you cut. That bit of wisdom has saved me more times than I can count in my own workshop.
But even if you’re not a woodworker, I believe it stills makes sense to measure twice and cut once.
How many times have you said something that you instantly regret? How many times have you clicked Send on email only to immediately wish you hadn’t? How many times have you acted in haste and found yourself wishing you could turn back the clock?
Once the words are spoken, you can’t take them back. Once the email is sent, someone will read it. Once you act, there are unavoidable consequences.
I can’t tell you how many times I wish I’d measured twice and cut once. I’ve spent hours, even days, trying to repair damage I’ve done to relationships as a result of a hasty decision. But no matter how hard I try, the impact of my poor decisions is impossible to erase. I may have smoothed things over. I may have managed to get past the initial dustup, but the mistake is always there.
Fortunately, I’ve also saved myself on many occasions by listening to my grandfather’s advice. There have been so many interactions that could have gone badly had I not paused and thought about what I was about to say. I’ve written hundreds of emails that were deleted rather than sent simply because I thought twice about the implications of my actions.
There will always be times when you have to act quickly. There won’t always be a chance to measure twice. But those are the exception rather than the rule, aren’t they? And I’ve found that the act of pausing to think twice when I have the opportunity to helps me make better initial decisions when time becomes a significant factor.
I don’t know if my grandad knew he was feeding me life lessons as he shared his workshop wisdom. Maybe he was just reminding himself not to repeat a costly mistake. But I’m thankful for the impact his life has had on mine. And when my children join me in my workshop, I often share the lessons I’ve learned. It’s my hope that they will find value in my words as they build for the future.
What words of wisdom guide your path?