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Life Lessons Learned From Digging Out A Car

Photo courtesy of Simon Davison

What did I learn over the weekend when I found myself digging out my car from under a frozen mix of snow and rain? I knew digging out was going to be hard, and almost gave up right at the start. To make things harder, I had my four year old daughter with me and had to make sure she didn't wander into the streets while we tried to get the car door open - she had fun though. So what did I learn from this you ask? Read on and you'll find out.

Begin With A Goal

I started out with a goal in mind, dig out my car without breaking anything. I could dig out the car and end up destroying the windows or side mirrors or doing any number of other damages that can render a car a road hazard. So keeping my goal in mind is the first step. This doesn't mean much, for such a small problem as digging out a car. However, think about a larger problem, such as increasing traffic to your blog or website, and you may realize that it is very important to have this goal in mind at all times. What really helps me to reach my goals is to have a reason to for reaching that goal. In this case, I wanted to drive my wife and daughter to a piano recital a friend was holding later on this day.

Start Small

It's often important to have milestones when tackling big problems. We can even apply this milestone concept to my current situation. My first milestone is to get into the car and keep my daughter out of the cold. I had to chip the ice out of the keyhole, I did this within a few minutes. Then I had to work on the seams around the doorway, I banged on the door a bit to help loosen the ice. It would have been easier if I had a remote starter to heat up the car, so I could attack the problem from both inside and outside, but I did not. So I continued my quest from the outside only. Once I opened the car door and put my daughter into the car, I had reached my first milestone. It was time to celebrate, I smiled to myself and my daughter and asked her to get inside the car to help.

Attack The Problem From Multiple Angles

Now that my car was started and being heated from the inside, I can work twice as fast. My rear defroster is on and helping me melt the ice in the rear windows. The front of the car was being warmed up by the engine. Like all problems we face in real life, having more resources and properly directing those resources to work at its best can make large problems small. Without the heat coming from inside the car, it would probably have taken me over an hour to reach my goal, rather than the 40 minutes. Likewise, provided we have 2 people tackling a problem, the ideal result is to reach the goal in half the time. In the real-world, ideal results are what we shoot for, but often times the final result may not be ideal and we make compromises along the way.

Big Rocks First

Tackling the big rocks first! First ask yourself, what is the big rock in this situation? Tackling the problems using the 80/20 rule, or Pareto's principle is a concept that most people have been taught in school. If you are an entrepreneur, this is probably the most important concept you need to keep in mind. Using the 80/20 rule will make the best and most efficient use of your time and other resources. To apply this principle to my current problem means I should remove the ice that is preventing me from driving the car. The fastest way to do this is not necessarily to remove the biggest chunks of ice first. The biggest chunks of ice would be, the big sheet of ice on top of my car. Removing this ice does nothing to help me get my car moving on the road. Understanding the problem and then tackling it is more important than mindlessly getting into doing the work. So my best bet is to clear up the ice on all the windows that help me navigate. So before you tackle any problem, figure out the answer to the question "What are the big rocks for this problem?" and tackle them first!

Tread Carefully - Don't Waste Your Effort.

In many situations, we get so engrossed in getting to our goal that we forget that some of the minute details are more important than supposedly big chunks of work. Again, this comes back to defining what the big rocks are. In my situation, if I was not careful and just kept banging on the windows to try and clear out the ice as fast as possible, I may break a window. All my efforts would have been for nothing. This also goes for the mirrors, if I broke one of the side mirrors, it would make my car much less drivable and a lot more dangerous to be on the road. So how does this relate to other problems in life and business? If you are tackling a problem and are pounding away at it trying to get to your goal, it's wise to take a break when you are tired. Take a few steps back and look at the big picture. Doing so will help you resolve the problem faster and more efficiently.

Don't Forget Your Environment

Once I cleared all the ice that needed to be cleared, it was time to celebrate. I was glad I didn't give up. I was so happy I had reached my goal, as small as this may be. However, the side mirrors were not totally cleared, I figured, they will clear up as I drive. I drove half a city block and decided it was not a good idea to continue driving. I pulled over and started to clear the side mirrors. I needed to see other cars around me, especially in the icy roads. In business and life, you need to be able to see all your surroundings. If you don't watch your surroundings, you are prone to hit an obstacle or let another obstacle hit you. The music industry faced such a problem when mp3 distribution hit a tipping point. Even now the music industry giants are still falling and stumbling along. Lesson learned, make sure you can see everything coming at you and only then can you prepare for it. It's safer to know what obstacles you are facing than to try and face those obstacles blindly. Once you do know what your obstacles are, it is time to take action. Waiting will only make things worse, especially when it comes to all those "what if" questions.

So what life lesson did I learn? It's a lesson faced by everyone, and it's not limited to digging out a car from over a half foot of frozen rain and snow. If it was, my post would have been called How to dig out of the snow in 5 easy steps. What I learned is how to tackle a problem. Tackling a problem in small steps will make a mountain of a problem into an ant hill, which can be moved one grain at a time. What recent problems have you faced? What lessons have you learned from such an experience? I hope you have enjoyed this post. Thanks for visiting. Follow me on Twitter for additional links to Frugal tips and tricks. If you would like to contribute to Frugal NYC in any way, articles, ideas, posts, interesting links, advice, financial assistance, or anything else, feel free to contact me via email. Click here to add this to your RSS reader.


Trudy said...

It's amazing how life's experiences can transform and become incorporated with our business plan.

Most people would have not thought the way you did. They would have panicked and start chiseling away as if it were an ice sculpture without thinking of the repercussions of their actions.

You thought the situation out from beginning to end. You seen the entire picture before you even began the process. You thought about each action and the result that may have occurred. We get it!

We always have to remember the big picture and plan accordingly. Whether it's something in our personal life or business mantra. We always have to be four steps ahead.

Great blog. Thanks for sharing it with us!


FrugalNYC said...

Thanks for such a wonderful comment Trudy. Glad you enjoyed this post. I've come into the frame of mind that we all need to turn our lemons into lemonade. This is especially important when the whole globe is undergoing an economic downturn, we all need to do our part to make the world a better place by using our strengths. I've found great resources via books and the net as well as thoughtful people in my life, I am to be one of them for others in any way I can.

Hope you will visit this blog regularly and enjoy my other posts.

takeoutinc said...

Thanks for the comments on looking at the general picture when dealing with a crisis. I tend to focus on a single thing to the point of obsession, when I need to take a very deep breath and see the long view.

I got a little lucky, and a friend helped clean off the car, and then it rained the next day removing the rest.


FrugalNYC said...


Sounds like you lucked out and didn't have to do much cleaning on the car. Thanks for visiting! Hope you find other useful posts here!

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