The Hammer and the Shed: A Cautionary Tale

March 2, 2015   7:13am

I bought a new hammer. I had to. I’m building a shed and needed it to begin construction. I bought nails, wood, and the best hammer I could find. It’s sweet! It’s a 13 oz. claw hammer with a beautiful wood handle. I’m all set.  All my materials are in a pile in the back yard and I’m ready to get it done. 

March 7, 2015  8:49am

I haven’t made much progress on the shed. It’s been almost a week now and I’ve hardly driven my first nail. And I think I know what’s holding things up: it’s the hammer. Maybe it wasn’t the best hammer I could get. So I’m online shopping for new hammers.

March 7, 2015  4:21pm

I’ve been shopping online for hammers all day. I have researched and narrowed my search down to a couple of choices: an awesome 20 oz. fiberglass handled rip claw hammer or the 18 oz. titanium handled framing hammer. Hope to make a decision in the next couple of days and get started on the shed.

March 9, 2015  2:26pm

Ordered the hammer on Amazon. Should be here on Wednesday (thanks to Amazon Prime!)

March 12, 2015 7:37am

Up bright and early to build my shed. But I just realized the 20 oz. hammer makes my hand sore and my arm tired if I use it too much. I think I need to switch to that 18 oz. titanium hammer.

March 12, 2015  3:14pm

Been price shopping on 18 oz. titanium hammers online and found a good price, but It’ll take a week to get here.

March 19, 2015  8:07am

The new hammer arrived yesterday, a day early. Ready to get started on that shed. Been trying out the hammer by smashing small rocks in the driveway. It’s really solid! I hit a tree with it and put a big dent in the tree. I’ve been hanging pictures all morning with it and it’s really great for driving a nail in the drywall.

March 19, 2015  6:12pm

Spent most of the day testing the hammer and working on other projects. I really think I made the right choice in hammers. It’s getting dark now, so I think I’ll work on the shed tomorrow.

March 28, 2015  7:39 am

It’s been hard to circle back around to the shed. I have been doing some more testing on the hammer and realizing the 20 oz. fiberglass handle is the one used by most of the people on those remodeling shows on HGTV, so I think I’ll test that one out for a few days and see if it makes sense to shift over to that hammer.

Ok, we get it!

Mercifully, I think I’ll stop there…you get the idea. That shed is never getting built.

Now, substitute “shed” for whatever project you are working on. And substitute “hammer” for whatever tool, app, tech, or magic pill you are looking for to get it done.  How many “hammers” have you bought? How much playing (or “testing”) have you done with the cool tech or app?

Endless study, testing, shopping, evaluating, and seeking the best tools is just a form of procrastination. It’s a form of fear. We sabotage ourselves because we’re afraid of something. Maybe it’s failure. Maybe it’s success. Maybe it’s that we’ll give it our best and it still won’t work. I don’t know what the fear is, but I’ve experienced most of them and they all lead to stalemate and inaction.

Ultimately the tools really don’t matter. Once you deal with the fear it seems like any old tool will do. Think about it, DaVinci never used a Mac, Shakespeare never had access to Scrivener, and Frank Lloyd Wright survived without AutoCAD. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road using 12-foot rolls of paper. He later taped the rolls together, resulting in one huge scroll measuring 120 feet when unfurled. That’s single spaced, no margins or paragraph breaks, by the way.

Somehow they made magic.

So here are my two recommendations:

1.  Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Don’t leave that question until you get an answer. A useful trick is to keep asking why, diving deeper each time. “I’m afraid. Why am I afraid? Because I might fail. Why am I afraid I might fail?” And so it goes, down the rabbit hole. The more times you ask why, the deeper you dig, you might just uncover some truth about yourself that changes everything.

2.  Pick up a hammer. That shed will never be built until you pick up the hammer…whatever hammer is in front of you…and drive a nail. Just drive a nail. Don’t worry about the second nail. Just dive one and see where that takes you.

Pick up the tool you have and use it. Once you do, you might find yourself actually finishing that shed.


(In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not building a shed. I don’t own a titanium hammer, and I don’t have a pile of wood in my back yard. This story, however, is my own life story. I’m asking the question, “Why?” and I’ll let you know when I find the answer.)

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