Roll Up Your Sleeves

"Plumber" by Marcia Milner-Brage

“Plumber” by Marcia Milner-Brage

I’ve never owned a house so I’m not much of a repairman. I don’t come with tools or know-how. So, when the bathroom sink plumbing failed yesterday, I was contemplative, which is to say, not much use. I watched Kerri roll up her sleeves and get to work. She crawled under the sink, swore like a sailor, and pulled apart the offending pipes. I ran to fetch tools, paper towels, buckets, and anything else that she needed. I became the plumbing equivalent of a sous-chef.

All the little rubber rings (a technical term, I’m sure) in the pipe joints failed. I like to think that after many years of fine service they simply decided to retire and since they started their careers together they retired together. It was a group retirement without prior notice.

Since we’d entirely deconstructed the fittings, we decided to replace everything so we went to the hardware store, stood in an aisle and consulted with a man who knew less about plumbing than I did. Kerri rolled up her sleeves, swore like a sailor (the unhelpful man fled), and she began pulling parts off the rack until she’d discovered what she needed for reconstruction.

Like true plumbers we had coffee and delayed the inevitable descent beneath the sink. After a healthy interval, since all the heavy lifting and brainwork was already done, I did the deed. Following the example modeled for me, I rolled up my sleeves, swore like a sailor (though my repertoire of words was less imaginative than Kerri’s), and crawled under the sink. Like a control tower helping a passenger land the plane after the pilot passes out, Kerri talked me through the assembly. I was triumphant when the pipes did what pipes are supposed to do, when no water dribbled to the bathroom floor, when the sink was once again open for business.

In my work and my life I rarely experience a sense of real completion. It’s the reason I like to do dishes: there’s a clear beginning, middle, and end. Right now I’m trying to find ways of getting my book into the world and I’ve run through what I know to do. I’ve exhausted my first level of ideas. I realized that the challenge is a lot like plumbing. At the beginning, contemplation is not very useful. Asking the question, “How will I do it?” is necessary but needs to come somewhere in the middle of the process. And, “how” is never a definitive answer, it is a good guess at a next step. “How” never reveals itself until after the job is done.

I work with lots of people and the number one block to meaningful action is the question, “How?” Yesterday in the role of plumber’s apprentice, I learned what I teach: the answer to “how” is this: pull things apart, put your hands in the muck, swear like a sailor, see what’s there, ask for help, know when help is or is not useful, look at the pieces, run and get buckets because there will most likely be a mess. Then, take another step based on what you find.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

For hard copies, go here.

2 Responses

  1. I love this.thanks, I always have the swearing part down.

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