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What I Learned About Goals From Building a Toy Wagon


I am the youngest of 4 siblings so most of my childhood was spent trying to prove to my sister and two brothers that I can do things on my own. I had the fortune of growing up with middle-class parents in which my Dad had his own service business and my stay-at-home mom worked at her fine craft of sewing window coverings for her customers. My Dad and Papa taught me how to work a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, etc., so in most cases I am a pretty good handyman. I enjoy working with my hands but at times I don’t read instructions well and tend to go about building or assembling things on my own.

Read the instructions.
As a kid, I was great at tearing stuff apart but not so great at putting it all back together, which in turn required me to ask for help. This great skill and art of “handyman-ship” progressed right into fatherhood. I remember my first son getting a Radio Flyer wagon. This classic unit came with the typical “some assembly required” printed on the box. So this great handyman headed off with his 12 drawer toolbox to build a simple toy vehicle. To me it was a no-brainer, 10 minutes…15 minutes tops, to get the job done. I mean how hard was it to assemble 2 axles, 2 sets of wheels, carriage and a pull handle. Instructions…are you kidding me?  I’m pretty good at visualizing how things should be put together. So this baby was done in no time flat and ready to ride.
Now came the time to test the fine looking machine out. My son was pumped, he hopped in and off we went down the street. Things were rolling along nicely. It was easy to pull with its nice big wheels but as we headed down the street all of a sudden it began riding a little rough and my son soon became worried that this ultimate street machine was not as stable as he had thought. As I looked back I saw that the wheels had some wobble in them. WHAT!? How could this be? This thing was brand new! I mean this fine handyman put it together — how can there be anything wrong? So off we went back to the shop to see what was wrong.
Test and you might wobble but adjust accordingly.
As we began to inspect the wagon I realized that the wheel caps were making the wheels wobble. Maybe I needed to take a quick glance at the instructions. I reviewed the step-by-step instructions and realized that the 4 washers, that for some reason were unused and leftover, and the requirements of using a flat surface and piece of wood to install the wheels must be followed to ensure the wheels were installed on straight. Great, now I had to take the wheel caps off and re-assemble. Pulling the wheel caps off was not an easy job because once in place they tended to be clamped there for good. I made an attempt to remove them but 3 out of 4 became unsalvageable. So now what? I am somewhat of a perfectionist so I needed to get new wheel caps. Off I went to the store and explained to one of the store clerks my dilemma, in which he chuckled and said, “Didn’t you read the instructions?” Embarrassingly I admitted that, no, I had not, and he took me to the backroom of the store where they assemble bikes and toys. He looked at me, smiled, handed me 3 new wheel caps and said, “Here, now go back and read the instructions step-by-step”. I smile (red-faced) and said, “Yes of course”.

Reaching you goals might take longer than you think BUT
don’t give up!
So what turned out to be a 10-15 minute job was now close to 2-hours. Lesson learned… well for this project anyway.  From then on my other two sons had great Radio Flyer wagons done and assembled in 15 minutes flat. No problem.
As I reflect on 2012 and what was accomplished, there were some goals that got “assembled” well and there were others that wobbled and required some additional instruction and reassembly. At times this is just the way I think and learn or some would call it “learning the hard way”.  As I plan my goals for 2013, I really try to visualize what the end result will look like. How I am going to get there? What instructions and help will be required?  Setting goals are great but what’s most important to be successful is assembling the proper instructions. I tend not to over analyze things. In fact, I like to look at ways to make them simpler. As mentioned in my previous blog, our goals in life require a process, a series of steps. How we get there requires instruction and some assembly to get it done.

Don’t over analyze, keep it simple, reward yourself for the experience knowing the next time will be much easier.
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Don’t go it alone.