in Waardevol

De realiteit heeft verrassend veel detail

John Salvatier heeft een mooi blog geschreven in 2017. Aan de hand van een paar simpele voorbeelden verteld hij heel overtuigend dat alles wat je in je leven doet complexer is dan je in eerste instantie denkt. En hoe die complexiteit opstapelt en ook weer vanzelfsprekend wordt naarmate je het meer doet en er in verdiept.

En het zijn de details die er toe doen

Zowel in het zorgvuldig en consistent maken van dingen als in het oog hebben voor elkaar en elkaars standpunten. Die standpunten zitten namelijk vol details die waarschijnlijk voor jou onzichtbaar zijn maar zeer belangrijk en doorslaggevend voor die persoon. Open staan voor de persoon zijn details en in staat zijn deze te ontfutselen (want voor die persoon zijn ze vanzelfsprekend) is de grote truc van een goed gesprek.

Reality has a surprising amount of detail

John Salvatier – 13 mei 2017 – link

Consider building some basement stairs for a moment. Stairs seem pretty simple at first, and at a high level they are simple, just two long, wide parallel boards (2” x 12” x 16’), some boards for the stairs and an angle bracket on each side to hold up each stair. But as you actually start building you’ll find there’s a surprising amount of nuance.

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are actually quite a few subtasks. Even at a high level, you have to cut both ends of the 2x12s at the correct angles; then screw in some u-brackets to the main floor to hold the stairs in place; then screw in the 2x12s into the u-brackets; then attach the angle brackets for the stairs; then screw in the stairs.

Next you’ll notice that each of those steps above decomposes into several steps, some of which have some tricky details to them due to the properties of the materials and task and the limitations of yourself and your tools.

The first problem you’ll encounter is that cutting your 2x12s to the right angle is a bit complicated because there’s no obvious way to trace the correct angles. You can either get creative (there is a way to trace it), or you can bust out your trig book and figure out how to calculate the angle and position of the cuts.

You’ll probably also want to look up what are reasonable angles for stairs. What looks reasonable when you’re cutting and what feels safe can be different. Also, you’re probably going to want to attach a guide for your circular saw when cutting the angle on the 2x12s because the cut has to be pretty straight.

When you’re ready to you will quickly find that getting the stair boards at all the same angle is non-trivial. You’re going to need something that can give you an angle to the main board very consistently. Once you have that, and you’ve drawn your lines, you may be dismayed to discover that your straight looking board is not that straight. Lumber warps after it’s made because it was cut when it was new and wet and now it’s dryer, so no lumber is perfectly straight.

Once you’ve gone back to the lumber store and gotten some straighter 2x12s and redrawn your lines, you can start screwing in your brackets. Now you’ll learn that despite starting aligned with the lines you drew, after screwing them in, your angle brackets are no longer quite straight because the screws didn’t go in quite straight and now they tightly secure the bracket at the wrong angle. You can fix that by drilling guide holes first. Also you’ll have to move them an inch or so because it’s more or less impossible to get a screw to go in differently than it did the first time in the same hole.

Now you’re finally ready to screw in the stair boards. If your screws are longer than 2”, you’ll need different ones, otherwise they will poke out the top of the board and stab you in the foot.

At every step and every level there’s an abundance of detail with material consequences.

It’s tempting to think ‘So what?’ and dismiss these details as incidental or specific to stair carpentry. And they are specific to stair carpentry; that’s what makes them details. But the existence of a surprising number of meaningful details is not specific to stairs. Surprising detail is a near universal property of getting up close and personal with reality.


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