Measure twice, cut once
Right up front I am going to apologize to ESPN fans – I’m sorry but not really – you’ll see.
A few times recently I have been busy doing things and found myself listening from another room to sports other family members were watching on ESPN. A couple of impressions stuck with me.
First was the thought, “Were the sportscasters always this annoying and opinionated or have I just become unaccustomed to it from living outside the US for almost 20 years?”
They had something to say about every infinitesimal decision or act – they had a lot to say about nothing at all.
Another thing that got to me was that inordinate amount of time it took to finish a game – in this case an NBA playoff game. There were multiple time outs, breaks for television ads, stupid “smart” fouls that stopped the clock to allow for free throws, and the ridiculous amount of time spent analyzing, reanalyzing, and reviewing instant replay to determine who touched the ball last before it went out of bounds. All in all the last three minutes on the game clock took about forty minutes! Seriously?
I found it interesting that with all the decision making and commentary going on that no one seemed capable of making a good decision.
Yes, everyone could talk about other people’s decisions and what they thought they should have done, or rely on instant replay to help dissect the merest details of the game to help them make the “right call” but did these minor decisions really merit all the attention and commentary they got? Maybe if it was a bigger decision of greater importance, but who touched the ball last – make a call and move on – ultimately in the long run will it really matter? Who cares?
Years ago, when working as an accountant in my first job after graduating from university, I had a boss who at the time I did not value as much as I do now. Isn’t that always the way? He saw in me the impulsiveness of youth and the eagerness to prove myself that can so often cloud good judgment. Once when he and I were discussing an important decision, I gave my very decided opinion.
He looked at me for a moment and said something to the effect, “You know there is an old tailor’s saying that goes, ‘measure twice; cut once.’ I think we should think this through again before making our final decision.”
He went on to teach me that when we make important decisions it is like cutting the fabric. We need to make sure we have measured right. Taking time to think things through a second time will help us to make sure we have all the pieces laid out right and we are exactly sure of how and where we want to cut. It will make all the difference in our outcome. Once you’ve cut there’s no going back.
Another lesson learned from my former boss was that our relationships with others are what really matter. I confess this lesson was not quickly learned. I totally disagreed with him at the time and it took me a long time to truly appreciate what he taught me.
I thought he was weak when he did not enforce a policy to the full extent, and in my mind, “sided with the enemy.” In the line of our work we were required to recover old debts, follow-up on outstanding electricity bills, and ensure budgeting and expenditures followed policy. These tasks naturally seemed to put the people concerned at odds with the policy. I pushed to follow policy to the letter and he would always say to me that we needed to have the people’s interest at heart as we did our job because at the end of the day it’s our relationships with others that really matter.
I learned that if in my attempt to do what is “right” I am ready to burn bridges in my relationships with others I need to back up and try again. People are what matter most. Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”
I have thought a lot about these examples that seem to be on the opposite ends of the “good use of good sense” spectrum. In so many ways it seems we have mixed things up. In matters of great importance we can often be impulsive and even flippant, but for the minor, and often meaningless, decisions in life we tend to analyze and over analyze every aspect before finally making a decision.
Part of making a good choice is the amount of time and value we assign to the things of real importance. So what decisions in life are really important? Well I try to use this as a guide: if it involves God, our family, our relationships with others, or our education then it’s important. Other things not so much.
Our power to choose is of great value; let’s use it wisely to make good choices.