Let the tools do what they are made to do

sawMany years ago I was doing some construction work in Barbados with an elderly carpenter from Trinidad by the name of Sumai.

I was using a handsaw to cut some wood, but just could not get a straight cut, no matter how hard I tried and no matter how much muscle I put behind the saw. Sumai, who was a small man, took the saw out of my hand and, with what appeared to be no effort at all, cut the wood in a straight line faster than I could say “mahogany”.

He said that because I was a big fella, I probably figured I could use brute force to cut the wood. “Big mistake” he teased. “The saw is designed to do a particular job. Your role is simply to guide the saw along the line with a gentle rocking motion”. I tried it and was amazed. I realised that I had been fighting with the handsaw, preventing it from doing its job.

It was a valuable lesson and not just for woodwork, but all aspects of life. Instead of making use of situations and challenges, we often fight with ourselves and get in the way of our own progress. Sometimes we try so hard to stay on track that we cause a derailment.

Life provides many tools for building the pathways and bridges to all sorts of destinations; the challenge is in learning to use those tools as a craftsman would.