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Eliminate the negative

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I have a bad habit that I know a lot of other woodworkers share: Endlessly obsessing over flaws and errors in perfectly good work.

Why do we do that? We’ve just completed something that came out – in the eyes of anyone else looking at it – great, but all we can see are the things we did wrong, the things we could have done better, or the things we could have done differently. Or, heaven forbid, all three.

What makes this all worse is that we’re the only ones who can see these things. Why? Because the completed project by all reasonable consideration is just fine. Show it off to someone and they won’t see any of the things driving us crazy. So, why do we do it? My theory is that we’re always trying to improve our work, and a good examination of the work we’ve done helps us learn more about how we’ll work in the future.

For example, the assembly table I just completed for my shop came out great. I laminated the top (something I had never worked with before) and did it exactly right on my first try. The table looks great, and it’s solid as a rock. But looking at it I wish I had made the overhang on the sides an inch or two wider. That’s it. A great piece of work that will serve me well for years, and I’m obsessing over an extra inch that nobody in the world sees but me.

Down the road I’ll probably make another table like this, and when I do you can be sure I’ll add that inch or two on the sides. But for now, I should be happy as can be for the job I did on this table.

Like the song says, it’s probably better to accentuate the positive.

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