I was walking to lunch in Portland’s Pearl district the other day. As I passed the construction site for a new block of condos, I noticed a couple of workers attaching a steel beam to the outside of the building. One of them was hammering away at a bolt. It didn’t seem to be budging and I said to myself, the bolt obviously didn’t fit the hole.
After I got lunch, I walked back past the construction and the same two guys were hard at work. It looked like they were still working on the same bolt. This time they had stopped and were considering what to do. Ah ha, I thought smugly, that bolt isn’t going to fit in that hole.
When you need a bigger hammer
What they did next surprised me. One of them reached into their tool trunk and brought out this really big hammer. With a couple of swings that bolt was firmly in place.
It made me realize, sometimes you do need a bigger hammer.
Sometimes staying the course is the best approach
I’ve learned when something isn’t working, to stop and try a different approach. While this is good advice, I guess there are times when we need a bigger hammer. It’s the story of staying the course and doubling down when it seems easier to give up.
At the same time, I remember early in my career, the bigger hammer was my go to tool. If things weren’t working out, I would try harder. In reflection it didn’t work out too badly. Although there were definitely times when I was hammering a square bolt into a round hole.
There is a time when doubling down on the existing solution is the right answer. But don’t make that your default. If that bolt wasn’t the right size for the hole, the bigger hammer would have caused more harm than good.