My Dad could build anything. He wasn’t just handy. He could create almost anything you could dream up, be it a piece of furniture, a home to put it in, or a skyscraper. It all seemed to be the same kind of easy for him. He’d say, “It’s just a box. It’s just a matter of how fancy you want your box to be.’’ Of course, anyone looking on could see the truth. He was a master.
Growing up with Superman wasn’t easy. It was actually kind of painful for a kid like me. For whatever natural ability he had, I had an equal and opposite clumsiness. My lack of skills made me hesitant to try and afraid to fail… until one day when I was in eighth grade.
I was alone in the house when I decided I needed some new shelves in my closet. I have no idea what emboldened me to try to build them myself, but I grabbed Dad’s tool belt, and strapped it around my waist. I can still remember the awkwardness I felt walking through the house with the extra weight and my father’s tools hanging at my side.
I got to work, making each step twice as hard as it should have been. I choked up so high on the hammer it took a dozen strikes to drive a nail, and I probably hit my fingers as many times as I connected. But I didn’t quit. I persisted – and I did it! Yes, they were ugly and uneven. Yes, I was exhausted and bruised.
But I did it.
You’re likely thinking, Chance conquered his fear and he got better. Today, he builds shelves and skyscrapers for fun on the weekend. But that’s not how this story ends.
I didn’t realize Dad had come home while I was working and he’d been watching me. As I finished and stepped back, he entered the room and stood beside me. Together, we stood there in silence, admiring my handiwork.
He broke it by saying, “Son, I’m so proud of you. You did it! Those are the worst looking shelves I’ve ever seen!”
We both burst out laughing. It was a perfect moment – a perfect burn. I’m even laughing remembering it now.
We sat down, and he continued. “I really am proud of you, you know? I’m glad you tried. But it’s time to put the hammer down, Chance. You’re never gonna be a good builder. And you know what? You don’t need to be. That’s not what you’re here for. You go do what YOU do, and do it so well that you can hire someone to do what you don’t do.
Something inside me said yes.
He was right. I could have worked and worked, trying harder and harder – and eventually my skill level would have improved from “terrible” to ‘’will do in a pinch if no one else is available’’.
I learned a huge lesson that day. Play to your strengths – and avoid your weaknesses. Many of us make it our goal to become well rounded. But society doesn’t actually honor well-rounded people. We applaud and promote experts. And every moment we spend focusing on our weaknesses is a moment we’re not investing to improve the strengths that lead to our purpose.
My Dad freed me that day. He didn’t give me a pass for laziness. He didn’t allow me to avoid hard things. But he focused my attention and energy in the direction that I’d be most effective, helpful, happy and successful. He released me from trying to excel where he’d excelled – to be ‘me’ instead of a lesser version of him. He insisted I give 100% to the cause of becoming great where I showed natural ability. And today, I’m reaping the benefits of having focused my attention towards my strengths instead of my weaknesses.
I’m not handy! There, I said it! And you know what? It doesn’t even sting. Putting the hammer down was one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life.