I have a friend who shares a remarkable hammer story.
When he was a youngster, he would often work alongside his grandfather in a well-outfitted wood shop, making bird houses and boxes and such. His grandfather would regularly point out to him that he was “choked up” too far on the hammer’s handle. That is, he was holding the handle in the middle and not at the end.
It may seem, at first blush, that a hammer is a brute force tool. But it’s really not. The concentration of force that is achieved by properly holding and wielding a hammer concentrates roughly 100 pounds of pressure on the head of a nail. The nail’s point has an area of one-hundredth of a square inch. So, the pressure the nail tip exerts on the wood is 100 pounds divided by 1/100 square inch for an amazing 10,000 pounds per square inch!
When my friend showed no interest in properly holding the hammer, an exasperated Gramps finally snatched it from his hand, went over to the big chop saw and cut off half the wooden handle, handing it back while pronouncing, “If you ain’t gonna use it, I guess you don’t need it.”
I was talking with a prospective business client the other day. She described her business, her needs and her challenges. I proposed several strategies I thought we might be able to utilize to get her business back on its feet and restore her cash flow. Nearly every strategy I mentioned was met with something along the lines of, “Nope. Tried that. Didn’t work.”
It was a bit frustrating, to say the least.
In the interest of getting a better handle on her business, my partner and I drove out to meet her at her property. As it turns out, she’s incredibly passionate and dedicated to her life’s work, just frustrated and at her wit’s end. In the process of that meeting, she softened her stance quite a bit and became more open to ideas. So much so, in fact, that I’m fairly certain we’ll be partnering with her to develop her strategy moving forward.
It was about an hour’s drive to her property and on the drive home it occurred to me that she was “choked up on the handle”, metaphorically speaking. The tools don’t work. She’d tried and they’d failed.
If she’d had a kindly but stern grandfather there next to her when she said that, he’d have whacked off the lower half of her handle, as he’d done for my friend, way back in the day.
We Already Tried That
Now, look, it’s not as though a kid can deliver the full force of a hammer onto a nail. That’s beside the point. Gramps wasn’t trying to perfect him in that moment, just set him up to understand that, even if your hands are too small to properly use a hammer, you should still hold it the right way. Because, “God willin’ and the creek don’t rise”, there will come a time when your hand is big enough and your muscles have grown strong enough.
If you learned proper form at the tender age of 10-or-so, you’re ready to pound some nails. If not, you’ve been set up with a poor understanding of how to use the tool.
Later, when someone sees you trying to drive nails with a shoe, they might suggest that you try a hammer.
The most likely response?
“Nope. Tried that. Didn’t work.”