hand drill

My father was a perfectionist.

A real, honest-to-goodness, old-school, perfectionist. He was an architect and also a keen DIY enthusiast – always a dangerous combination. Pop was the sort who would measure three times and cut once. So during my childhood, I spent a lot of time holding his surveyor’s tape as we measured buildings and sites or standing at the bottom of the ladder handing up tools to him.

Some people seem to labour under the misapprehension that you can fasten two pieces of timber together with nothing more than a few judiciously placed nails. These same people probably think it’s enough to measure twice … [Pah! Careless, slapdash workers no doubt. No craftsmanship. No artistry!] Not Pop. He was a screw-and-glue man.

And to achieve this, he had two drills. Not electric drills, but hand drills. He had two of them because it saved him time to not have to constantly switch out the drillheads. One was set up with a fine timber bit to provide a lead hole for a screw, lest he split the wood he was seeking to join. The second drill had a larger bit, which corresponded to the diameter of the screw head. He would drill his lead hole, pass me that drill and use the other to make a very shallow hole so that he could get the screw head perfectly flush without any risk of splitting the timber – a crude early countersinker bit if you will. Then he would take a piece of abrasive paper and sand the surface of the wood and the head of the screw and he would only be satisfied when the whole thing was impeccably smooth.

I thought this was normal.

Albert Einstein very perceptively said that common sense is the collection of prejudices we acquire by the age of 18. We now know that babies arrive with a great deal of their personality already hardwired in at birth. But don’t tell me that growing up in a household like the one I grew up in doesn’t have a ‘nurturing’ effect.

I didn’t have high standards when I came out into the world; I just had the standards that were ‘normal’ for the home I grew up in. It never occurred to me that you could use less than five coats of paint on metal railings in a coastal area. Of course you would sandpaper and strip a door back to bare wood before repainting it. And it went without question that you would countersink and sand all screw heads …

Difficulties between human beings occur at so many levels. I find it fascinating to watch the little Universes colliding when very small children are learning to socialise and to take turns in the schoolyard. I don’t see the world of work as being much different. When Mr Countersink-And-Sandpaper guy collides with Mr Bash-two-pieces-of-timber-together-with-any-old-nail-you-can-find, it’s not that either of them are wrong in their worldview, it’s just that they’ve been brought up so very, very differently.

When the world fails to meet our expectations, it causes us stress. Rarely does it cause us to re-evaluate those expectations and determine if they were reasonable in the first instance.

Therein lies the first step on the road to self knowledge.