How hard could it be? The plans seemed simple and included everything we needed. It had a materials list, a description of which fasteners to use, and even how long to cut each board. It should be pretty easy, I thought.
My good friend Mike wanted to build a new shooting house at his place so that next deer season he would have a spot to take his grandson. He had researched online and found some simple plans. I helped him think through the process and made sure he had all the right tools for the job.
Mike set out to follow the instructions. The guide laid out each board that was needed and provided all the necessary lengths that were to be cut. Mike went down the cut-sheet line by line, carefully making each cut listed and organizing the pieces for assembly. Once he had everything cut he began to build the structure, step by step, according to the plans.
Then I got the phone call.
“Hey buddy!” Mike said when I answered the phone. “I think we may have a problem… Some of these measurements aren’t quite matching up. We’ll have to make some adjustments.”
I laughed when I heard this. I’ve been building things for almost twenty years. Everything from shelves, to cabinets, even houses. I was laughing because I don’t know that I’ve ever built anything where the final product looked exactly like the directions. In other words, I am certain that the final version isn’t exactly what I set out to create.
This is a truth that weighs heavy on me. Since that day with Mike I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve realized that many of my life experiences are the same way. I often launch into an adventure with a picture of the end in mind. What I end up with, however, usually doesn’t turn out as I initially pictured.
I would bet the same is true with you. Look at your life as it currently appears. Chances are you are seeing some things you didn’t anticipate when you were younger and looking toward the future. Chances are your reality now isn’t exactly what you always pictured.
Some of us may find ourselves in a reality that is drastically different than we first planned. Maybe it’s because we were dealt some cards we didn’t anticipate. Maybe it’s because we made a different choice than we predicted we would. Maybe it’s because we made a mistake. Or maybe your life is more amazing than you ever thought it could be. Maybe you can’t believe you have ended up where you are and you can’t dream of anything better. Either way, I would be willing to bet that none of us are exactly where we pictured we would be.
Do you know why I love to build things out of wood as opposed to steel or stone? Wood is a forgiving medium. Sure, once you cut a board you cannot stretch it back out again, but you can usually make adjustments or repurpose that board to still have a part in the final product. Wood allows you to make modifications all throughout the building process. When building with wood you almost never reach a point of no return where in order to correct a mistake you have to destroy the entire project.
Your life is like a structure made out of wood. When you were fifteen you had a set of plans. They made sense. They looked easy. But in your twenties or thirties you realized some of the measurements may have been off. Things were taking longer to develop in your life than you planned. Some of the pieces may have just downright not fit where the plan said they should.
When you realize the plans and the pieces of your life aren’t in sync, how do respond? You have to make adjustments. Sometimes you have re-draw part of the plan. Sometimes you have to repurpose something. You may not be able to undo a mistake from the past, but if you stay committed to your plan you just might realize that your mistake, when repurposed, can produce an even better end result.
In Mike’s case the wall studs for the window were not fitting correctly. They were too tall. An adjustment had to be made and they needed to be shortened in order to fit. We scratched our heads at first because following the plan should have produced exactly what we pictured, but it just wasn’t right. If we shortened the studs it would change the position of the window and bring it lower. Then it hit me… wouldn’t that be better anyway? Part of the reason he wanted to build this shooting house was for his grandson. If we lowered the window it would make it easier for a kid to see out and shoot through the opening without having to sit up extra high. Brilliant!
Life is about making adjustments. It’s about being flexible and forgiving. Your choices, mistakes, and even your greatest achievements are not things that should be set in stone to define you. Instead, they should drive you. Along your journey to significance you’re going to have moments where the road bends left and you were looking right… just remember that mistakes and miscalculations are only failure points if we don’t find a way to grow out of them.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans. And be careful about following plans that someone else has drawn up for your life. If Mike hadn’t made adjustments to fit his needs there would be other complications down the road when hunting season comes back around.
You are a man who matters. Have the courage to make adjustments when needed and reach out for help when you get stuck.