Tag Archives: Flexibility

The Mechanic

Trust Your Instinct

Once there was this guy that was a well-known mechanic. He was pretty well respected in his community, and people would come to him whenever they needed something fixed. He’d opened his shop many years before, and had slowly gotten a reputation as somebody that could look at pretty much any machine, and within just a few minutes, know exactly what was wrong with it.

He was one of those old school guys who firmly believed in the old adage “measure twice, cut once.” Often he would look at a piece of machinery or equipment, and depending on the size, listen intently to the owner describe the problems they were having, as he turned it over in his hands or walked around it depending on it’s size.

One thing people always found particularly intriguing about this guy was that he seemed to many questions, some that didn’t seem to have anything to do with the piece of equipment or the problems they were having with it.

For example, once this relatively young homeowner brought in a large gas operated lawn mower. The mechanic spent a good twenty minutes asking the homeowner various questions about when and how often he mowed his yard, as well as things like what kind of grass it was, weather it was there when the homeowner moved in or did he plant it himself, and even if he had any plants surrounding the grass, or was it just grass in his yard. The entire time he asked these questions, he examined the lawnmower intently, from several different angles.

Once somebody asked him why he asked so many questions, and he said it helped him to “get a feel” for the particular piece of equipment, that it helped him to “understand its personality.” People didn’t usually complain, because he almost always fixed it within a few minutes, and he usually didn’t charge very much. He wasn’t one of those “five dollars for tapping, and five hundred dollars for knowing where to tap,” kind of repairmen that always seem to figure out a way to convince people to give them a lot more money than they’d expected. This guy was smart, quick, and extremely affordable. He rarely needed to keep a piece of equipment overnight.

Another fascinating thing about this guy was that he had hundreds and hundreds of tools. He was the first to admit that he loved acquiring and using new tools. Some say his income that he generated from fixing things must be nearly completely spent on buying new tools. His workshop was huge, and had tools in every possible place imaginable. What’s even more, because most of the time he got the root of the problem relatively quickly (at least when he finished asking all his seemingly oddball questions) he would use a tool that most people had never seen before? Then with the tool, he would reach in and make a minor adjustment, and the machine would be running smoothly again.

But it wasn’t always that way. When he was younger, much younger, he was under the impression that only a few tools were required to get the job done. Once after he was finished fixing a vintage printing press (in under an hour) that had been inherited by yet another young homeowner, he was asked how he got all of his tools.

He explained that when he was younger, he knew he liked fixing things, but he was very poor. All he could afford was a basic tool kit. His dad would let him play with things in the garage, and before long he knew he had knack for taking things apart and putting them back together again. But whenever he bought tools, he would only buy them in sets. And because sets were so expensive, it took him quite a while to save up enough money.

He was very impressionable, and he would only buy tools that had a specific purpose. Screwdrivers were for driving screws. Hammers were for hammering nails. Saws were for sawing, and so on. In order to fix something, he had to have a tool that was designed to fix that particular problem. As a result, he could only solve problems that other people had already figured out how to solve, and had designed tools specifically for that purpose.

This, of course, limited him in his abilities to solve problems and fix things. Because he could only do things in a way that was already determined by somebody else, there was always somebody that was better than him, with more experience, that could usual get the job done quicker and cheaper. This was always a source of frustration. He didn’t know how those people got to where they were. He supposed it was just the natural course of life. You always learned from others, and then when you were older, others would learn the same things from you. He wasn’t quite sure who and how people came up with new ideas.

Until one day, this fellow brought in a small piece of equipment he’d never seen before. When he asked the fellow who brought it in, he seemed reluctant to explain it’s true purpose. Because the mechanic was so intrigued by the new machine, he kept asking various questions about it, some that were answered, and some that weren’t. After a while, despite not knowing the true purpose of the machine, he got a pretty good idea of what was wrong with it. But it wasn’t a problem that he’d ever seen before, and therefore he didn’t have any tools that were designed for specifically for that problem.

He was puzzled, and then had a thought. Since this was a machine that he’d never seen before, why not use a tool that he’d never used before. He suddenly had a flash of insight, of recognition. Not unlike Edison felt when he finally found a filament that didn’t burn out, or when Einstein imagined himself riding on a beam of light. He had what alcoholics refer to as a “moment of clarity.”

He rushed inside, and got a hole punch and a nail file. The hole punch he’d used only once before, as a gift he’d received. Something about making belts that he was completely uninterested in. The nail file, was a nail file. When he brought the two unrelated tools back into the workshop, the particular customer was immediatley intrigued. While he didn’t know exactly what the mechanic was going to do, he could tell by the look of his face that he did. And only five minutes later, this contraption, whatever it was, was working perfectly. The customer was astounded.

And ever since then, the mechanic refused to be constrained by mainstream logic and accepted methods of doing things. By asking questions, and trusting his instinct, he found that he never failed to fix any piece of equipment presented to him.


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Success with NLP

Success with NLP

Increase Your Learning Flexibility

I was talking to this guy the other day while I was waiting for the bus. I was going out to this local festival that being held in the next town over. In my local neck of the woods, all the little hamlets have their own local festivals, which they usually have around the fall, which is traditionally the harvest time.

Usually the local festivals have some sort of tradition which centers around the local Shinto shrine, which in turn is based on whatever gods they worship in the area. I’m not sure how it works out, but it seems to be a little bit similar, at least in structure to the patron saint system of the Catholic Church.

The Church has different patron saints for different vocations, or travelers, or people that are sick. Pretty much anything you can think of, you can safely assume that you’ll find a waiting patron saint to hand deliver your prayers to the Big Guy (Or Gal) upstairs.

One of the frequent complaints about Catholics from non-catholic Christians is that they pray to saints, or pray to Mary. What is really going on is they are literally asking Mary or the saint in question to put in a good word for them up the chain of command.

I don’t think whatever org chart they have in the Shinto tradition compares as far as levels of authority and command. I think maybe that each particular deity is pretty much a free agent. But I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.

So this guy was telling me about his daughter, who is taking entrance exams for high school. Private high schools are plentiful here, and there is a great deal of status on getting into the right high school. So the poor kids in junior high school have to start studying and hitting the books if they ever have a chance. Or at least that’s the way it seems.

It’s amazing when you can step outside of something you are familiar with, like your own culture and see how many similarities there are when you are looking from the outside in. I guess it all depends on how you sort things.

There is a meta-program called similarities-differences. This says there is one important filter that people carry around with them, and they are either looking for similarities, or looking for differences. Like when you see somebody preparing for something important, you can find similarities in their methods. Even if the thing they are preparing for is something completely different than anything they’ve ever experienced, you can look at their strategy and learn from it.

It’s always interesting when you look at things with a curiosity to find ways you can apply whatever you see to your own life. I heard a myth/rumor/urband legend about the origins of Kung fu. Some soldier was watching a preying mantic, and developed a whole new fighting style from it. Not likely true, but it’s a great example from being extremely flexible in who you can learn from.

So when this girl gets into the high school she wants to get into, her dad told me that she wants to get good enough grades to get into a good engineering school in Tokyo.

And I’m not sure how many deities they had at that festival, but the food sure was tasty. That’s probably my favorite part about going to local festivals, is they have some really good locally grown, and locally prepared food that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Transfer of Resources

Last week I had dinner with a friend of mine. He was telling me about a problem that he was having at work. Not really a “problem” per se, more like an issue that had come up that he was wondering how he was going to resolve it. Even then it was really only an issue to him, and nobody else. He was a part time worker at an independent bookstore, and had been for several months. He reported directly to the owner of the bookstore, as it was a small store, and only had a few employees. It wasn’t like one of those huge chains that have about eighteen levels of middle management, with each manager only concerned with pleasing the person above them. Since this was her first store, my friends’ boss, the owner, was acutely aware of the day-to-day operations. It’s a tough gig these days to open up and run your own shop, as I’m sure you know.

The problem my friend was having was with an issue that had come up with stocking the shelves. He used to be an assistant manager at a grocery store, and was well aware of the strategies employed by large supermarkets to trick you into buying way more stuff that you’d originally intended. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of going to the supermarket to pick out one or two items, and then ending up with a basket of stuff that disqualified you from the nine items or less line. I don’t even want to start on what happens when you go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

But my friend was worried about talking to her. He didn’t want to approach her, because she had spent a lot more time in a book-selling environment than she did. But he was sure that if he applied his expertise learned from the supermarket, he could easily increase her sales, her profit, and likely her happiness. All it required was arranging the books that would allow people the opportunity to browse through more of the store, then just grabbing the recent best seller and then making a beeline for the register. Her store had many treasures that people would love to find, if only they had the opportunity. My friend was absolutely certain of this.

It’s interesting when you think about it. Somebody from a grocery store applying marketing techniques to a bookstore. People buy food and buy books for completely different reasons. You’d never think that a strategy in one environment would translate well into another environment. Some people have the mistaken belief that if you learn a skill in one area, that it can’t apply to many other areas of your life. Others have realized that you can take something that works, and apply it in other places. One of the great things about being human is your inherent ability to find all kinds of resources that you already have and apply them in other areas of your life.

Which is finally what my friend did. He finally got up the courage to go and talk to her, and express his desires and convince her to let him help her. Because he was able to speak with confidence, and that he had her best interests in mind, she was able to accept his ideas. When I spoke with him last night, he said that they had spent the last two days rearranging the bookstore per his experience. And they were both much happier for it. He for being able to express himself and his ideas, and she for being able to discover a new way to increase her business.


He with the Most Choice—WINS

One of the greatest things about being a human is flexibility. It affords you to easily discover the strategy to apply to any particular problem that you may encounter in life. I’m sure you’ve heard the adage “In every problem lies the seed of the solution.” What that presupposes is that you have the flexibility of thought to find the solution. And you can use flexibility to think of new ways around problems, or you can use flexibility to solve new problems in old ways. Either choice will give you fantastic results.

Many evolutionary biologists agree that humans arrived on top of the evolutionary ladder not due to any single advantage. We became the kings of the jungle not because we have the sharpest teeth or the brightest feathers or the boldest silver stripe down our backs. We became rulers of the earth because we were flexible enough to live in any environment, under any circumstances, and could thrive with any set of resources. Humans have lived in trees, caves, grasslands, forests, deserts, and frozen tundras. This would not have been possible had we not the flexibility to adapt to the ever changing landscape of life.

Just as our species rose to the top due it’s inherent gift of flexibility, so can you. Those that come up with creative and new solutions have always been rewarded with fame, riches, and a plethora of, ahem, mating opportunities. It wasn’t the strongest, or the fastest, or the tallest. It was he with dexterity of mind and thought that became king. It has been argued that the driving force of our ever increasing brain size was competition among ourselves to come up with new and better ideas to find shelter, get food, and woo women. This has wonderfully expressed itself in our time with the incredibly huge amount of art, poetry and pure beauty that this once monkey brain has produced.

How about in your life? How many ways can you realize that by improving your flexibility of thought you will reap rewards of a king? Flexibility is not only about success, it is about personal pleasure and happiness. Who is happier, somebody that can only be satisfied with one specific set of circumstances, or one who can create happiness for yourself anywhere, anytime? Should you not understand the power of flexibility, just look to the great inventors of our time, and notice how many wonderful inventions have come to pass because of their boldness of new thought.

As the economy continues to crumble, and the old model of doing the same thing for the same result passes away into the new paradigm, it becomes clear that he who is most flexible will come out ahead. And when you change your mindset into this kind of thinking, you will naturally become aware of the untapped opportunities that are all around you, now, waiting for you to profit from.

How many ways can you imagine doing that?


Easy Way to Bubble Your Way Out of Stress

I used to live in a city where I had to ride my bike around. The only time I ever took the train was when I had to go someplace out of reach of my bicycle. There was a movie theater I used to go to that was about a ten kilometer ride, so it was defiantly doable, but I didn’t want to get sweaty before I watched a movie, so I usually took the train. The local places that I went to I usually went to by bicycle. And at the time, I thought it was a drag, because sometimes I was kind of tired, and didn’t really feel like riding my bike home.

I had a friend kept three or four bikes around town. His theory was that two or three junker bikes would be a better value than one nice bike, because he would always have an option of leaving by bike or by taxi. Because he always had a bike stashed somewhere he could use. And some of the bicycle places shut down early, before the bars, so it was sometimes convenient to get a ride someplace other than he had planned on going. He was always looking for ways to be more flexible. He thought that always having two or three options in his back pocket was the best way to go.

He reminded me of a speaker at a seminar I went to once. It was a stress management seminar, and the guy was saying that most people make the mistake of wanting less stress. He said that people that have lower stress overall actually have pretty boring lives. He said they key is to be able to find the bubbles in the stress, and make good use of them. One guy that was sitting next to me asked about this, as did the guy that was sitting behind me. They wanted to know why he was talking about bubbles in stress. But then he said that bubbles were really the moments in the middle of a stressful period where you can momentarily forget what is going on around you, and just exist by yourself, in the moment. Just take a quick break and follow your breath for a couple cycles. In. Out. In. Out. Slow like. And he said the people that are actually the most flexible, the people that can find the most little bubbles in the stress throughout the day are the most healthy. He gave an example of an old Samurai warrior who had about a five minute time period between battles, and decided to lean against a tree to recharge himself, while all his Samurai buddies were sharpening their swords. The tree contemplating Samurai, of course, was victorious.

Sometimes my friend even was able to loan his bikes out due to his flexibility in their placement, because it’s always good to have friends. And he told me once he even had bikes in other cities, because sometimes the trains stop at stations that aren’t so close to the city center, and you never know when you are going to take an impromptu trip out to the sticks.

The city I live in how has lots of trains and opportunities to use public transportation, so I haven’t even used my bike yet. But I’ve had to run and catch connecting trains and busses and such, and I’m finding that those bubbles sure do come in handy. But you already knew that, didn’t you?


Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Flexibility

So I was sitting there, waiting for the train. When I looked up the times on the internet, I mistakenly wrote down the train going the other direction, instead of the one going in the direction I wanted to go to. So I got on the train going the other direction, seeing I didn’t have any big plans, just to head downtown and maybe find a new coffee shop to hang out in. Funny how that works. You plan something, and then based on mistake or a whim, you can easily change your plans, that is if you can be flexible enough with your plans.

Some people make plans, but forget to dig deeper and uncover exactly why you are making your plans. Some people plan to do things because they think it is what other people expect them to do. Others plan based on what they did yesterday. I think It’s important to know the reasons for your plans, so if your plans don’t come through, you can always hold on to your reasons and put them someplace else that can be convenient. 

For example, my plan today was to find a nice quiet place to hang out, do some reading, some journaling, and dig into my thoughts to see if I can find something interesting that I’d forgotten was up there. Or maybe have a look around to maybe do re arranging or some general housekeeping type maintenance, which I’m sure you know is good to do from time to time.

But since I looked up the wrong time on the internet, I decided to catch the train going the other direction. I’d heard that there was a pretty decent shopping area that way, and since I’d never been there, I figured what the heck. I still had my backpack with my notebook, and pencils and pens to write with, so as long as I found a table that didn’t shake too much when I wrote, I’d be ok.

Turns out I was way more than OK.  I found a really cool little cafe that just opened a few months ago. They had some really tasty bagel sandwiches, and a really friendly staff and some pleasant background music against which I could easily write and think and arrange thoughts into more resourceful patterns.

Now had I gone in the right direction, I would have gone to the same coffee shop I’d already been to. I probably would have sat at the same table and eaten the same thing. Instead, I was able to discover something new, which was really there all the time. So when you think about it, I doubled a lot of things today. Before, I could only go one direction, but since I can now choose a direction, I have twice as many places to go. And because the new place I went to today is filled with restaurants, I now have twice as many restaurants to choose from. And because I can catch trains going both directions, I can be more flexible when deciding what time I have to leave.

It’s amazing how much the world opens up when you simply allow yourself to make mistakes, so that the unknown can become familiar and friendly. Because there are a lot of places in the world you can discover, and make friends with as you become used to doing new things for the first time. And one of the coolest things about that is you get to meet lots of new people along the way.