“ Showing up is not all of life – but it counts for a lot.”
~ Hillary Clinton
Do you ever find yourself immersed in a project? What is it about making and creating things that’s so compelling? Why are some of us humans so geared towards building stuff?
It all starts with an idea. You, or someone else, has a thought that gets put into words. The idea starts to gel. A list is made, a doodle appears, there may be a napkin sketch involved.
There may be persuasion required. Someone, or some organization, may need to be convinced that this is the proper course of action. Sometimes it flows from the other direction. A business or government entity has an idea fully formed and decides that you are the one who is able to do it.
Estimates are estimated, quotes are quoted, bids are bid upon. Proposals are sent up the chain for approval. Sketches become drawings and then become plans. Materials are located, prices are determined. The math you learned in High School is put to use. Guesswork is dialed in like a well-sharpened pencil.
It some point it reaches the moment when a decision is made. A Memorandum of Understanding is drawn up, a contract is signed, now resources can start to be allocated. Finally, it gets real. Someone cuts a check.
In the metaphysics of manifestation, money plays a magical role. When it changes hands, the universe pays attention. Suddenly, the entire idea is thrust from the realm of speculation and “maybe” to “lets get the darn job done!.” You cross the point of no return when you accept the deposit. Suddenly, the responsibility is yours, your reputation is on the line.
The clock starts ticking. Time may not exactly be money, but once a project kicks into gear, they may as well be joined at the hip. Time, money, and your human activity join together in a complex choreography.
All along you’re figuring things out. Phone calls are made, emails are sent, material prices are confirmed. Shortcuts appear that you hadn’t noticed. Obstacles get in the way and threaten to slow everything down. Supply chain issues? Materials out of stock? Capacities underestimated?
A million questions arise. Do I have enough space? What about the right tools? Who am I going to need to help me? Did I remember to account for every little detail in my quote? Can I actually do this? What the heck did I get myself into anyway?
This is when every scrap of experience you have gets called into service. The only way to grow is to keep biting off just a little more than you can chew. You have to remind yourself that they gave you the job because they believed in your abilities, so you’d better hope you didn’t over-hype yourself.
But now the ball is in your court. You’re the expert. They have questions, you have answers. They’ve given you their trust, now you can tell them how it’s going to be done. This is the time to summon your confidence and take charge.
All along, you keep moving forward. Some days a lot gets done, others seem like you’re going nowhere. But whether it’s up, down, or going sideways, one thing is for sure — it’s on the front burner. From dawn till dark and beyond, when you’ve got a deadline looming and a project due, you’re going to make it a priority.
All through the process, a similar cycle repeats itself. You tackle a specific part of the plan that you’ve decided comes next in the sequence. You spend some time standing around looking it over, scratching your head and coming up with what you’re betting is the right approach. You choose a tool, set up a jig, layout your dimensions.
Then you get down to it. When the first piece or part of the process is on point, you breath a big sigh of relief. Now you can press pause on your thinking and simply get to work. The “doing production” part of a project is actually quite calming. Whether it’s a dozen pieces or some number of hundreds, if you know they’re right, you can relax.
Then it’s on to the next thing, and the head-scratching phase in the cycle returns. It’s a reductive process, like concentric circles. With every merger of a batch of components the stakes get higher. Every time something comes together and fits up correctly you breathe a bigger sigh of relief. Backing up to do rework becomes more and more of a nightmare the further along you go.
Finally the day comes when whatever it is looks ready. Is it to be delivered? Installed? Picked up? Whatever its fate may be, the moment of truth is looming. Your client, customer, or whoever commissioned it is about to take possession of the artifact. Their reaction is everything, your future prospects depend on it.
And then, voilà! Your work is unveiled and The People That Matter are favorably impressed. If there’s a final payment due, the check should be clearing right about now. And just like that, your horizon widens and you step into the open space on the other side of your deadline, that I know you met on-time and under-budget.
Anyway, if you’ve guessed that I’ve just given you a window into the recent months of my life, you’d be right. Well over a year ago a landscape architect reached out to The Crucible from the city of San Ramon. I spoke with him and looked over his sketches for a pergola that would be replacing a fountain in front of the community center.
At the time there was no real budget and the idea was sidelined. I’d practically forgotten about it completely when sometime last spring I got a call from the city manager. They were reconsidering the project and would I like to meet? The original architect was long gone, an engineer was now shaping up the design.
What happened next proved the old adage about showing up. Since I was willing to come out to the site and meet in person, the manager sidestepped the city’s three competing quotes requirement and gave me ‘single-source’ status. Thus began several months of occasional back-and-forth until the engineers design was finalized and my quote was accepted.
Another couple of months passed while the city approved the funding, until just over three months ago the funds for the first phase arrived in my mailbox and I could begin ordering steel. Thanks to the kind and generous accommodation of a fellow welding instructor at The Crucible I was blessed with the use of a world-class fabrication and machine shop in Berkeley that had a large enough pad in the yard for the project.
The steel pergola with cedar planks you see behind me in the photo above was built in less than 10 weeks, working part-time, around 20 hours a week. Taking it apart and loading it on the flatbed semi for delivery took a couple of days. We had a 40-ton crane on site with a crew of ironworkers and had it up and bolted together in five hours flat. One more day attaching the planks and a leisurely afternoon yesterday touching up the paint. And just like that, it’s finished and behind me!
All through the project, and more and more as it approached the finish line, I marveled at how much fun a big project like this can be. Hanging half-ton beams of steel from a crane at 7am might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for someone like me who likes a bit of variety in life, it’s just the ticket.
To me, that’s what’s so inspiring about this great dance of life we’re all blessed with. You have the ability to think of something and then bring it forth into being. No matter what it might be. You think it up, you spell it out, you speak about it, write about it, draw it, model it, code it, whatever. Your thoughts are the seed, your actions are the sun and the water, your finished work is the fruit. You are what makes life happen!
And with that, I leave you with much love until next week!
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine