Measure Twice, Cut Once
Like most of my childhood trips to Baltimore, I ended up in my grandpa’s basement workshop, enjoying the smell of sawdust and glue as swirled around me.
I watched as “Pop Pop” carefully measured a piece of wood, made a small mark with pencil, and then slid it into place next to the table saw.
As he turned it on, the blade began to whir, slowly at first and then angrier with speed. Suddenly, he switched the power back off, removed his goggles, and took the wood away.
He placed it back in front of him, pulled out his measuring tape, and double-checked his previous pencil mark.
I wondered what he was doing when he turned towards me, smiled, and said,
“Always measure twice and cut once. Always.”
When we’re young, it’s hard to follow this sort of advice.
After all, we usually get it from all sides: parents, teachers, and even older siblings who mean well but usually end up frustrating the hell out of us.
As a kid, the above advice didn’t really register. I wasn’t really into woodworking, so I thought, “When would this ever be useful?”
It just so happens that these days, I think about these words a lot.
As you can guess, there are plenty of times in life when measuring twice can make a huge impact. In some cases, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Since I’m not a neurosurgeon, the stakes tend to be a little less dire.
They also tend to be a little less literal. For me, measuring twice and cutting once usually looks like going back through an email before I click, “Send” or combing through a PowerPoint deck before I project it onto a big screen.
Now, I know crafting an email is very different from crafting something with your own two hands, but in today’s world, many of us do our crafting on computers, which means this is where we tend to make most of our mistakes.
Sure, thanks to tools like spell check or Grammarly, measuring has become a whole lot easier, but we can’t always rely on technology to do the work for us.
Sometimes, measuring twice comes way before we even open up our laptops. Personally, I tend to do a lot of my “measuring” in my journal. I jot down projects, plans, and priorities that will eventually help me decide what to cut.
At the same time, notice how the saying is “measure twice, cut once” not “measure 56 times until you psych yourself out and forget to cut once.”
Technology is great, but it can’t strategize for us, it can’t plan for us, and it sure as hell can’t tell us what to cut. This is one of the advantages we have when it comes to being human. We can use our intuition to proactively guide where we want to go, but only if we take the time to listen.
I’m sure if Pop Pop was alive today, he’d stubbornly share that computers are fine, but they can’t replace an honest day’s work.