My wife, Ellie, is a very efficient, detail-oriented person who completes projects in a timely and effective manner. For that reason, she is continually confused by my methodology of completing projects, which is completely the opposite.
She watches in horror as I wander about the house with various tools, hammering, sawing, and painting with seemingly no plan in mind whatsoever. She simply does not understand one of the key principles a man must follow when completing a project: He must always make the project as difficult as possible.
Making a project as difficult as possible is a specialized skill that takes years to develop. It is a skill that is passed from father to son and is perfected from generation to generation. Anyone can work efficiently and effectively, but where is the artistry in that? By making a task more difficult, a man can show off his superior tool knowledge and handyman skills, demonstrate the poor quality of store-bought materials, and most importantly, end up with a good story.
For example, say you have a broken bolt on your lawn mower. You could easily fix the problem by buying a replacement bolt from Home Depot. But that’s not what a “real man” does.
A “real man” first complains about the pathetic decline in craftsmanship in the modern, mass-produced era and states that if the bolt had been made right the first time, it wouldn’t have broken.
A “real man” complains about the inflated prices in today’s economy and states (multiple times, for effect) that it is highway robbery to pay $2.50 for a single bolt (not to mention 18 cents in sales tax).
In order to avoid such price gouging, the first step is to spend half a day searching through every drawer in the house to see if you have a spare bolt that would fit. Even after your lovely wife assures you that she has organized all the loose bolts into one container on the work bench and that if you can’t find the right size there, we definitely don’t have it. Like I said, she is very efficient.
When that doesn’t work, the next step is to forge a new bolt out of iron. After buying $500 worth of iron working tools and spending a month learning how to use them, the “real man” finally has a new bolt and fixes the problem. Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t successfully complete this step. Just as I was about to press the order button on Amazon for my $500 of supplies, Ellie yanked the computer from my hands, confiscated my wallet, and marched over to Home Depot to buy a replacement bolt for $2.68. She was home within an hour, and our lawn mower was working 10 minutes later.
The principle of making a project as difficult as possible was on full display when my dad, my brother Wayne, and I repaired a privacy fence in my brother’s backyard. Three of the support posts had rotted out, causing the fence to lean over into the driveway. “Why don’t we just put in three new posts and keep the fence otherwise as is?” asked my brother. My dad and I gasped in horror at this simple, straightforward plan. Wayne is a novice at house projects. My dad cleared his throat and said, “Son, to do it right, you have to redo the entire stretch of fence.”
“Well that would work, if you were trying to just get by cheap and easy,” I scoffed. “But to do this job correctly, you need to completely redo the fence, dig the new posts at least 4 feet into the ground for extra stability, and move it over two feet. That way you can enlarge the parking area behind the fence with a new load of gravel.”
Wayne, realizing the stupidity of his initial idea, responded saying, “You know I guess you’re right, but why would I stop with a load of gravel? I really ought to just pour a new concrete slab and add a row of street lights so people can see my new fence.” Having finally come up with a reasonable plan, we began construction.
During the process, we followed several common sense protocols, such as digging all the holes by hand (who would spend $20 to rent a post hole digger?), buying prefabricated fence panels only to disassemble and reassemble them “the right way,” working exclusively during the heat of the 90 degree day because that’s what a “real man” does, and building a custom gate because all the stock gates were just not aesthetically pleasing. After two months of work, we finished the project, and it looked great. But most importantly, it was completed in “the most difficult way possible.”