And the Wall Came Tumbling Down Last week, I helped my Dad put a hole in a wall of the house I grew up in. Dad is remodeling the house, and needed a new entry from the partial basement into the crawl space of part of the house. This is not a new home. While we don't know for sure, it is safe to say that the wall that we were going to work on is at least 100 years old.
Dad had been thinking about how to do this job for some time and decided to rent a machine that cuts concrete, using a diamond tipped blade. He felt that with that machine, and some work with a sledgehammer, in a couple of hours we could complete this task. So, on my visit, we rented the saw and began the job.
The saw is designed to cut up to about 4 inches deep. The wall is more like 7 inches thick. The saw is heavy, and would probably work marvelously on a floor. We were using it to cut into a wall, above our heads. The saw works great on concrete, but not so well on rock. We quickly learned that the wall had some large rocks in it - it wasn't just concrete as it appears from the exterior of the wall.
All in all, I hope this description is letting you see that after a couple of minutes, we realized this was going to be a tougher job than we had hoped or imagined.
After some initial cuts with the saw, and some pounding with a sledge hammer, we went for some more tools. Specifically, we got a small hammer and a chisel. We took turns in using the saw to make cuts, using the sledgehammer, and chipping away at the concrete around the now-revealed large stones with the small hammer and chisel.
We developed a strategy - switch the tools based on what you saw. Stay focused on one part of the wall at a time. All the while, we were reminding ourselves that once we get broken through, it will get easier.
Our observations were right. Once we got a small breakthrough, the hole was quickly completed. In fact, the part of the wall that had been our biggest obstacle, the large and very hard stones, became our ally. Once one of those was out, the concrete around them moved easily, which loosed the next large stone, until the hole was complete.
As I drove home from my Dad's I thought about our task, the process, and the lessons that were revealed. I realized that I learned about much more than just about breaking through concrete. I learned some keys to overcoming any obstacles in our lives - about breaking through the walls between where we are and our goals.
Have a plan. Dad had thought about the project and had a plan for completing the job. We need to have plans for achieving our goals - including breaking through the walls.
Have help. Part of Dad's plan was to have someone else there. The saw was heavy, and it was important that someone else was around. Having two people allowed us to spell each other, and make all of the effort at the wall come with "full strength." So too with our goals. We will be more successful more quickly when we collaborate and are willing to ask for help, guidance and support.
Have a wide array of tools. Each of the tools we ended up using was helpful. The small hammer could reach places in a more targeted way than the sledge. The chisel helped us focus even more. The saw, while it wasn't as helpful as we had hoped, did provide a valuable part of the solution. We need to collect a wide tool kit to help us get through our obstacles as well - the bigger our kits of ideas and skills and experiences, the more successful we will be.
The obstacle can be tougher than we think. Once we saw how hard the saw was to handle, and once we saw the big rocks, we realized the job might be tougher than we thought. When we see an obstacle in our path, we often think it will come down easily. When it doesn't, we can get discouraged. Just remember, that the discouragement is a temporary inconvenience. Get past it and keep working.
The wall seemed immovable. Do any of your obstacles ever feel that way? Have you noticed that often you keep working and working on something and you never seem to make any progress? There were lots of swings of the sledgehammer that didn't seem to do a thing. It took a lot of effort for very little apparent progress at the start. In the end though, it is easy to see that every blow against the wall played a part in our success. The same is true for our other walls.
The big rocks made it harder. The big rocks are hard! The saw didn't cut them well, they didn't give or move with a swing of the sledge. The chisel was useless against them, as it wouldn't chip them at all. We will encounter the big rocks in our walls. That's life. Move on. We worked on the softer concrete around them, rather than focusing on them directly. We can often do the same thing as we move through our obstacles.
The big rocks made it easier. Paradoxically, in the end the big rocks made our job easier. Why? Because once we had one of them out, other pieces, including other rocks came out easier than if it had been a wall of "just concrete." For us it is often true that the biggest challenge ends up being a blessing to us in the end, even while we might be cursing it at the time! (I won't comment on whether there was any cursing in the basement that day).
Once you have a small breakthrough you are almost there! Lots of effort for little progress, then with a small breakthrough, you are almost done. I've read that something like 90% of the energy used by the space shuttle for its entire mission is used in the first few seconds after liftoff. Invest the effort up front, and when the wall starts to come down, get ready, you are almost there!
Perhaps you've never swung a hammer to bust a piece of concrete. However I know you have faced an obstacle between you and your goals. I am also sure you will face another obstacle in the future. It is my hope that the lessons I learned can be valuable to you, the next time you are staring at your personal wall.
Yours in Learning,
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