holding the stupid end of the tape
and the joys of merely showing up
A measuring tape has two ends. The smart end and the stupid end. The smart end is the one with all the lines. It’s the one you measure with. That’s the end that the person cutting the wood needs to use.
The person holding the smart end needs to make choices. Where does the line go? The blade of the saw is 1/8th inch thick. Where does the saw blade go in relation to the line? Do you leave the line or take it when you cut? When you hold the smart end of the tape, you need to think about this stuff.
The other end? The stupid end? The end I’m holding? That’s the little hooked end that really doesn’t need a person. My work could be done by a brick or a reasonably flat stone. Though working this way would be somewhat less efficient, things would be considerably more quiet.
When not holding down the tape, I’ve been useful as a clamp, forklift and for repetitive tasks like screwing down a sub floor. Nothing has required much thought. This has been wonderful.
My cousin is building a cabin. He’s been holding the smart end of the tape. I’ve taken the week off work to help. While screwing down the floor beside him, he was interrupted five times in ten minutes. Questions had to be answered. Screws needed to be purchased. Decisions had to be made.
Me? I’m taking the week off work to help. While he was holding the smart end, making decisions and such, I got a bit of a rhythm going. Happily, I went along screwing down sheet after sheet of plywood, unthinking and uninterrupted. Each completed task was followed by a simple exhalation of ahhhh.
In the recent past, I’ve been involved in a considerable number of renovations and new builds. I’ve typically been in my cousin’s shoes: Making plans. Coordinating. Deciding. Figuring out how to do stuff. Working with deadlines. Managing the project with input from others that could be both helpful and overbearing.
Leadership, whether in renovations or as a therapist, teacher, executive or project manager can become exhausting. Manual labor, merely showing up, working then going home feels like a break. It’s wonderful. I get all of the satisfaction of seeing the results of my efforts with none of the stressful decision making.
I get to provide input. In the end, I’m not responsible for what happens.
Are you a leader?
Have you ever taken the time to hold the stupid end of the tape?
What happens when you let others lead and merely go along with the ride?
Are you even capable of doing so?
Lemmie know down below.