On Tuesday, my little woodworking helper went to the great wood shop in the sky. I’m thankful for the time we spent together, in part, because he was such a great mentor and taught me a lot about entrepreneurship, woodworking, and life. Here are a few things I learned from Ralph the Woodworking Cat.
You can accomplish just about anything you put your mind to.
You see that picture to the left? Ralph had a heck of a time tightening those clamps with his paws and teeth. He just would not be denied because when it came to woodworking, Ralph was all about craftsmanship. As you can see from the picture, he was exhausted after all that effort, but he would not quit until he had applied enough clamping pressure. He was determined to have a solid joint. His diligence was always a great inspiration to me.
Along those lines, when I was a junior officer, I was bound and determined to get my pilot’s license. Back then, many of our Air Force bases had flying clubs. These days, they’re mostly gone due to budget cuts. But back in the day, my aero club had a handful of aircraft like Cessnas, Piper Warrior II’s, an Arrow, etc. and I loved to go out on a clear day and do some flying with my instructor. One of the things I absolutely hated, though, was doing stalls. Stalls are when you point the nose of the aircraft up until the plane starts shuddering because it is losing airspeed and enough air is not flowing over the wings for lift. I knew, though, that I’d have to do stalls with the FAA examiner if I was going to get my license. I agonized over it and decided I was going to do stalls over and over again until I was comfortable. So that’s what I did. I went out flying about 3 days every week and flew to a relatively desolate area where I could stall the plane over and over and over again. It just took putting my mind to it, just like Ralph did with his wood glue up.
Don’t take “no” for an answer.
See this picture? Guess what’s in the pan. That’s right: chicken. Ralph would never take no when it came to chicken. Sometimes he’d jump up on the counter when we weren’t looking. Other times he’d push a trash can over and other times he’d wait until the trash bag was at the curb to open the bag with his claws. He was going to get that chicken. When he smelled chicken, he’d get this crazed look in his eyes and start to almost vibrate. We need to be the same way when we have an important goal in mind: get that crazed look and start to vibrate.
A pal of mine wrote his first book called The DevilDragon Pilot recently, but he had to get approval from some government organizations before he could publish it. As we all know, the government is incredibly fast and efficient… You can stop laughing now. Anyway…the review process was supposed to take less than 30 days. That’s right, it took over 8 months!!! But the author refused to take “no” for an answer. He called. He E-mailed. He called some more. When asked to make changes, he turned them around in hours to put the ball back in the reviewers’ courts. He submitted the book for review in January and finally, in November, the book is for sale. Now that shows exerting will over friction, terrific grit, and not taking “no” for an answer. We’ll release a blog post soon with an author interview. Click here for interview #1 and here for interview #2.
Ralph liked to work hard and play hard. I think as he got older, “play hard” meant “nap”, but to each his own. One of Ralph’s favorite things (and mine) was to enjoy the smell of fresh sawdust. Here you can see he is multitasking by both napping and smelling sawdust.
When we were stationed in Europe, our neighbors would disappear for a month at a time taking something called a “vacation.” We wondered how you could possibly take an entire month on these things called “vacations.” You see, my fellow Servicemembers and I were slaving away and losing some of our 30 days of annual leave every year. Talk about different cultures! But you know, our neighbors seemed happier and spent much more time together as a family. I think the Europeans are on to something.
There’s a lesson in that for all of us. Sometimes we just need to stop, look around, and enjoy the scent of fresh sawdust. Or the feel of a finely tuned plane in our hands. Or the feel of a hand running over a nicely cured oil and urethane varnish.
Ralph, this one was for you. We’ll miss you.