For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Anyone Can Turn a Wrench...

It's true. Anyone can turn a wrench.

I can do it. I'm a hired wrench. I've been a professional mechanic my entire adult life. Since I was a kid, I've built things, fixed things, figured out things. It's all I know how to do.

Six years in the Army working helicopters. Nine years in so-called "civil" aviation. And the last two years and change in the paper cup business. Yeah...from flying high to making cups. I'll tell you what, though, it's still a friggin' challenge.

That's not my point. My point is that even though every Tom, Dick, and Harry can turn a wrench; not everyone can be a Mechanic. (I've worked with all three. Tom and Harry were HACKS! Dick was a good Mechanic)

Being a Mechanic is more than tightening bolts and nuts. It's more than sizing up a couple of parts and putting them together. Being a Mechanic takes imagination, it takes skill, it takes education. It takes a certain knowledge of basic principles. What ACTUALLY makes this thing work? If you know certain rules, you can figure out damned near anything.

I think the real difference comes down to troubleshooting.

Hell, once you know what's wrong, you're back to turning the wrench. How do you see what's wrong? How do you get from point A to point B in a logical manner? THAT is what separates the Mechanics from the wrench turners. Some folks are great at doing the same thing over and over again. They can complete "task A" within time and budget every time. What happens when they have to deviate from that plan? They freeze up. Or they fall back into a mode of immediate escalation. Instead of walking through the problem, they throw the biggest bomb they have at it and hope for the best. (I can't imagine living that way)

The troubleshooter, the Mechanic, steps back...assesses the situation...calls on lessons learned...pulls in skills from other disciplines, and attacks the situation. Stop. Look. Listen.

Am I always right? Not a chance. Sometimes I go in with the wrong premise. Sometimes I misinterpret information. Even worse, I get ahead of myself and skip an important step. However, I can always move back to an earlier state and recognize where I went wrong and adjust accordingly. Whereas the wrench turner just keeps following on. It's OK to backtrack and start again.

I've learned a lot over the years from various people. Some of those people were great Mechanics. Some of them, not so much. (though they thought they were pretty damned good!) Recognize what works and what doesn't. Recognize who is teaching you the right way and the not-so-right way. You can learn from bad mechanics...I have. Just start doing the opposite once you figure out they're not good at it!

That is the difference between turning wrenches and being a Mechanic.


  1. The same could be applied to woodworking or for that matter, just dealing with living. I always thought that you were ex military.

    1. There's a reason I don't call myself a woodworker! I dabble and try, but my woodwork leaves much to be desired. I've always been more interested in the tools anyway!
      The point I'm ultimately after is that folks who call themselves "mechanics" aren't always so.
      What I need to do is a write up on the basics of troubleshooting and truly "fixing".