Give Yourself Time to Tinker

It was going to be epic.

My friend and I were going for a run in the hills by a beautiful river on a fine (and warm) winter Saturday morning. I tramped on out to my vehicle to head his way.

Dead battery.

I’m an impatient man in many ways, and this sort of thing really bugs me.

After a first attempt at cleaning my car battery terminals of corrosion, followed by a jump-start, my car still wasn’t starting. A bit of Googling led me to believe that I might have a larger issue: a bad starter. And so I tramped right back to my house in defeat and despair (and in the rain, no less). All of my tinkering so far – or so I thought – had been for nothing.

After a depressed nap and a quick call to old Dad to sanity-check my hypothesis about the starter, I sallied forth again to fully remove the car’s battery clamps and clean the terminals directly. Deployed a number of wrenches trying to find the right fit for the nuts, brushed on the baking soda, and tried to keep the (newly clean) terminals dry as the rain began again.

It took some time, but when that car started up I celebrated like a cave man after a successful mammoth-hunt.

There is a lesson here*: I needed to give myself time to tinker. I gave up too soon on my first try. If I hadn’t had the patience and taken the time to try cleaning my battery again, I might have had my car towed to a shop, assuming I needed a starter replacement.

I love problem-solving – when I have an idea of how to solve the problem. But tinkering comes before problem-solving, and it’s not something that can be done on an exact timetable. It may take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours, with no guarantee of success. While that seems like a risky investment, it’s probably far less risky than jumping to conclusions.

My mistake might have been that I was dramatically overvaluing my time.

I am young, with a lot of life ahead of me. And it was Saturday, with a lot of weekend before me. While I may have many things (and responsible ones, too) I did *want* to do, I didn’t have many things I absolutely *needed* to do.

Besides working with car batteries, I have a lot of life skills I’ll need to learn in the coming decades. If assume a quick fix, or crowd my mind with unnecessary urgencies and schedule items, I won’t give myself the time to tinker – and I’ll pay for it. But if I slow down, I might become the able and educated maker-of-things I want to be.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash


*(also: trust an experienced mechanical person you know – aka Dad – before trusting articles on Google)

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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