Just A Minute?

or –

Just A Minute!

The great strategist Napoleon has said that he was able to win so many battles because he understood the value of a minute. In The Art of Maneuver he is quoted as saying:

It may be in the future that I may lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute. … I act not by laws but by minutes.” -Napoleon

Napoleon was talking about how to strategically use timing. That is, a strike on the enemy at just the right time was far more effective than the identical strike at a different time. A maneuver executed at just the right moment, when the enemy was advancing, was far more effective than the same maneuver executed when the enemy was nowhere in the vicinity.

Life is no different for the rest of us. The same rules apply.

When I was a little punk kid I got a really cool electric guitar and I thought I was the 8 year old Ace Frehley of KISS. I jumped around holding my guitar, catching all of the poses and randomly plucking strings in a way that I thought looked cool. Yeah, just like you see in the pic at the right … but without the hair (well, that was the 70s … maybe I did have the hair too — Mom?).

It may have looked cool … but it sounded like hell! Nary a musical note ever came from that guitar until the day it died. Grandpaw always used to watch me with amusement but would kindly say

“learn the timing”, “work on your timing”, “it’s all about the timing” – Grandpaw

Yeah, ok Gramps — whatever! (was what I thought but did not say). You see, Grandpaw wasn’t a guitar player but what he was trying to tell me was that the way to make music was to learn to effectively time the placement of the fingers on the neck with the strum of the strings to make the musical notes. Ha! What did that old timer know???

He didn’t understand that this was hard rock guitar — not that old hillbilly stuff like he was talking about. Hard rock guitar was different — he just didn’t get it. Eventually I moved onto a new phase and forgot about the guitar.

That didn’t stop Grandpaw. On many of my other adventures, whether it was learning to shoot a flying duck, hit a baseball, ski a slalom course, or any number of other things, Grandpaw always said the same thing:

“learn the timing”, “work on your timing”, “it’s all about the timing” – Grandpaw

Gratuitious picture of Bob LaPointe, my waterskiing hero

… again, “yeah, ok Gramps” … whatever … it’s not like you’ve ever skied through a slalom course being pulled 36 mph like Bob LaPoint — what in the heck do you know?”


Well, it took well into my 30s before I realized, um, yeah … right.

Grandpaw was right about each and every one of those things. So was Napoleon. Correct timing of

  • striking the enemy wins the battle
  • maneuvering out of the enemy’s path avoids destruction
  • strumming the chords makes music — not noise
  • pulling the trigger shoots the duck
  • swinging the bat hits the ball
  • acceleration, deceleration and turns gets you through the slalom course

Now here’s my challenge for you: think about how many other things in life depend on the right timing, whether in your personal life or in your professional life. How many times would one minute have made a difference?

  • calling home 1 minute before getting the call of “where are you?” is responsible — one minute later and you’re in trouble
  • calling the client or customer with a status update 1 minute before they call asking for it makes you proactive and responsive
  • filing that document at 4:59 is timely whereas 5:01 means a notice to your malpractice carrier
  • walking into a meeting 1 minute before the other participants makes you appear one way, 1 minute after is quite another (and there may be a strategic reason for either!

These are just a few examples that randomly came to me as I was writing but we all know there are thousands of others.The point is, however, that to some people, having only a minute is often an excuse not to do something while to others, it is an opportunity to do something at just the right time — with only a minute to spare! How you view a minute — understanding that timing that is key to all of life — may just change your life one day. Gramps understood this and finally, after so many years, so do I. Oh, and by the way, timing in playing hard rock guitar is no different than any other, just in case you are still wondering!

Leave me a comment and tell everyone what your example of a 1 minute difference maker would be (and we all know it starts with conception … so move on to something else! haha). Do it NOW — don’t let someone post exactly what you were going to say one minute before you do!

Grandpaw’s Lessons: “It don’t take long to shower when the water’s cold”

The point: there are times you can be a craftsman and times you simply must get things done — do you know the difference?

This witticism was one that the old man said to my Dad and it gave me a good laugh. First, a little background about Grandpaw’s way of communicating. He didn’t usually have a whole lot to say and when he did, most people were frustrated because they believed he talked in riddles. He did. He always talked in riddles and short whimsical statements that usually had a point though it was lost on most.

One morning Dad was at Grandpaw’s fussing that his broken hot water heater which made for a  freezing cold shower (and it sure wasn’t summer time either!). Ol’ Gramps, never missing an opportunity to make a *smart* comment said:

“it don’t take long to shower when the water’s cold.”

Really Grandpaw? No kidding!

There was a point, however. One that we did not yet fully appreciate it. Think about it.

Have you figured out the point or how it applies to the things we do?


This was Grandpaw’s way of saying there is a difference between what you have to do and what you want to do. That is, how long does it really take for you to take a shower? Five minutes? Ten? Do you want to really find out? Use only freezing cold water and you will see – less than a minute, I can promise you!

Often times what we do in our daily lives is much like a shower. Normally we may be able to take our time and really enjoy what we are doing, or maybe even be a craftsman. At other times, however, there is less priority placed on the quality of what you are doing or your enjoyment in doing it, and more placed on the value of just getting it done in the quickest way possible. The key is understanding the difference between what what you may want to do and what you absolutely have to do. There is a difference.

You have probably figured out by now that I value craftsmanship in my work. But — there are times when doing something like a craftsman would be wrong under the circumstances, such as when a certain strategy or deadline places a higher value on completing a project than on completing it perfectly, though later. The key lies in knowing when to use each approach.  

There may be times when you’ve had a stressful day and there is nothing you want more than enjoy a nice long hot shower. On those days, enjoy it.

There will be other days, however, when necessity demands that something be done as quickly as possible. When it does, focus only on what you absolutely have to do and remember Grandpaw’s saying: “it don’t take long to shower when the water’s cold.”

Grandpaw’s Lessons: Be a Craftsman


I have been hearing the word “craftsman” my whole life. Grandpaw taught me about it decades ago when I was just a kid. So, while this is his lesson, the truth is that I was reminded of recently when reading Seth Godin’s blog on The new craftsmanship and it had such a profound impact on me that I decided to blog about it myself. (p.s. and hint hint …if you read Grandpaw’s Lessons: My New Blog Series you would already know that!) Anyway …

What is a Craftsman?

There’s always been a bright line around the craftsperson, someone who takes real care and produces work for the ages.”

Amen Seth, I like the way you put it … work for the ages! Grandpaw would have liked that though, in his simple way, he always said

if you are going to do something, take your time and do it the best that it can be done.”

At other times he would simply say

take pride in your work.”

Amen Grandpaw! To me, a craftsman is someone who truly cares about their work and, because of that, does work of exceptional quality.

Who Can Be A Craftsman?

Anyone can be a craftsman, right Seth? Exactly—and he is right. It is not about the title of your job, what type of trade or profession you are in; rather, it is about how you whatever it is that you do. And when I say “whatever it is that you do”, this does not only apply to things you do for work but should apply equally to things you do for fun. If something matters enough to you do it, why not do it the very best that you can? (Please use your brain here folks, as I will discuss below) Why in the heck else do you think that I would be spending so much time learning about social media? I’m a lawyer for crying out loud! I am not trying to make a career out of blogging. However, if I am going to spend my precious time doing it, I want to learn to do it right and do it the best that I can within my own abilities.

As for Grandpaw, he was an automobile body repairman and, though not the most glamorous of trades, he took a tremendous amount of pride in his work. He described himself as a craftsman and he certainly was. He could take whatever materials he had at his disposal and, using whatever tools were available, through patience and care, craft a way of making something work. And when he did, he so in a way that always produced a finished product that was not only functional but “polished” as well. Grandpaw distinguished the way he worked from that of the “jack-leg”, as he called them, which was who was someone who took no pride in their work and merely tried to get it done in quickest and easiest way possible. The jack-leg’s “work” was characterized by rushed, sloppy final product that in many cases was not even functional and, therefore, had to be redone. Grandpaw was a firm believer in doing things right the first time. How about you, do you want to be a craftsman or a jack-leg? If it’s the former, then read on …

How Can You Be A Craftsman?

  1. You need a worthy purpose. The first thing you should do is make a wise choice in deciding on whatever it is that you are going to spend your time doing. This is what I mean when I said to use your brain. Taking out the trash or using your dog pooper scooper does not merit a craftsman worthy effort! In fact, all that nonsense will do is get you a spot on the new television series My Strange Addictions http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/my-strange-addiction/ with all those other, um, people, who spend their lives collecting rocks, eating toilette paper, or sucking their thumbs. If this just so happens to be you, please stop reading and use your time looking up a good psychiatrist. Aside from any strange psychosis from which you the reader may be suffering, there really are times when being a craftsman is not always the right approach for other reasons. I’ll explain this further in the next post in this series when we can talk about Grandpaw’s lesson about cold showers! (You really don’t want to miss this one)
  2. You have to make a choice. It is a conscious choice that you must make to decide that you will care enough about whatever it is you decide to do so that you will take great pride in how you do it.
  3. You should think. No, really, I am being serious. Do you have any idea how many people go off and do things without even thinking about what they are doing? If you are going to be a craftsman, you have to think through what you are doing if you really want to produce work for the ages. Ask yourself a few questions: What are you trying to accomplish? What is the final product you are trying to create? How should it look? How should it work? There are many things you should figure out and, if at all possible, figure them out before you get started lest you find yourself rushing into making a whole bunch of mistakes. If you do that, you have to start over. Wouldn’t it have been a little better to spend some time thinking in the first place? I thought you would agree.
  4. You must prepare. If you are going to do top-quality work, you have to prepare accordingly. First you must have developed the necessary skills. Then you must gather the necessary materials to use and tools that it will take to do the job right.
  5. You must use patience. Patience is a must! Rarely do you see a craftsman who hurries through his work. I’m sure there are some, but I would bet not too many. You have to take your time to think about your project, plan how you’re going to complete it, make all of the necessary preparations, and then allocate plenty of time to actually work on the project in a careful yet deliberate manner. Then you must do it.
  6. Don’t forget the polish. The polished product is the mark of a true craftsman. This is the part that most people fail to complete whether because of lack of time, motivation, experience, or desire. For whatever reason, people often times become so anxious to move on to another project as soon as they reach a point of completion that they rarely take the time to go back and raise the level of quality of that product to a point where it is truly polished. That is, truly finished.

I am sure I have left off quite a few steps and my hope is that,if there are any you think of, you will help improve the quality of this blog post by including them in the comments. At any rate, based solely upon the six steps I listed above, you can see that it is not easy to be a craftsman. It takes hard work. It takes dedication. If, however, you are properly motivated, it is something that anyone can all attain with enough effort. My motivation is not too difficult to explain: In my professional career, each and every day I aspire to be the very best that I can be, within the limits of my own God-given abilities. That is my motivation to be a craftsman. (have you read my two “life quotes”?)

Motivation is crucial. Perhaps the most important question is, “what motivates you to be a craftsman?” How about you leave a comment to help inspire me and others who read this post–let’s all motivate each other to be craftsmen!