I am a fixer.

I just can’t look at something that is broken or in need of repair without an overwhelming desire to “fix” it.

It’s almost compulsive and likely a deep seeded issue I need to work out. Although, perhaps surprisingly, I have gotten over this with people. I don’t try to fix people. I don’t have the patience. I may try to help but that’s a fairly short pier to walk down with me.

This morning my wife handed me one of my daughter’s necklaces and asked if I could fix it. The chain was tangled and it would take a bit of work to straighten it out. My wife, knowing me, knew that I’d take on the project without a second thought.

It wasn’t that bad but took about 20 minutes of work to un-tangle the whole thing. As I worked, I started thinking about patience and why some people have it and others don’t.

My wife would never have sat down to fix this chain.

It’s just not something she would do. She is focused on doing more important things. And I think she’s normal. It’s a waste of time, attention, and energy.

Now I have an advanced degree and been a C-level executive for nearly years. I can do a cost-benefit analysis. The jewelry isn’t worth the time I put into it, not even close, if I use my hourly billable rate. So you may ask “Why would an otherwise logical business leader chose to do something like this?”

Do you go to the gym every day? If you do, you likely do it to stay in shape or because it makes you feel good. It may help calm you and helps you focus.

That is exactly what I get out of a project like this. I do not go to the gym, it bores me, but I will sit and fix problems like this for hours. I also like working with my hands. I see fixing things as being similar to creating things, which I also like to do.

I change my own oil in the car and build planters for the garden because I can and enjoy every minute of it. Most people buy the planter at Home Depot and drop the car off at QuickLube. My social network doesn’t seem to do these things themselves either.

Now here is where I may lose you.

My suspicion is that all the lack of patience stems from a lack of ability. When you are not good at something, you tend to be really good at explaining WHY you don’t do it. Some people are so good at it that they want to convince others not to do it either.

Before you go off on efficiency of outsourcing everything, don’t. Hardly anyone is so efficient that they can outsource everything they should. It’s like communism, it is good in concept but fails in practice. I ran the numbers, QuickLube is still more expensive than paying myself to change my own oil. It’s doesn’t take that long for me to do it. If you add the time to get there and wait for the service times your hourly rate, it costs you more to have them do it.

Here is a short story

I worked at a company that often made the boardroom available to outside groups. While the room was big, the furniture wasn’t great. It didn’t all match and many of the chair arms were ripped and torn from rubbing on the tables. We all agreed that the chairs didn’t reflect the company in the best light but replacing them all was tens of thousands of dollars and wasn’t in the budget.

One weekend, I bought leather and reupholstered the arms of the chairs; fixing most of the rips. It wasn’t a perfect match but the chairs looked much better.

While it was well known that I’d done it, it was never acknowledged. Never even spoken about except, I was later told that it was a waste of company time and money to have fixed them. Which was a laugh because I paid for the materials and the time was over a weekend.

The chairs remained in service for years so I must have done an adequate job.

Now, my time shouldn’t enter into the conversation since I took my personal time and money to do the work. You certainly could say that I should not have donated the time but that’s a totally different discussion. I’ve realized that there are people that fix things and there are people that pay to fix things. I’m happy to be the former because getting things done makes me happy!

Paul Bergman
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