In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Confidence:--The Tool You Can't Buy
Feb 23, 2014
I am totally impressed with the innovative, creative and near-miraculous repairs many farmers accomplish. I've seen guys repair, modify and build equipment with results akin to what Deere, Case IH and AGCO engineers come up with in their experimental design shops. Some of those farmers work from full-bore, fully-equipped shops, while others work their magic from dirt floored, dimly lit sheds with sparrows roosting in the rafters. The one thing those mechanical masters have in common is confidence---the attitude that, "If it's broke, I can fix it, and even if it ain't broke, I can make it better."
Confidence is a powerful tool. I know mechanics who have absolutely no doubt that they can fix anything. Give them enough time and they can figure out any mechanical malady. Other mechanics, myself included, are confident that even if I can't figure it out myself, I know where to look or people to talk to who can help me out. Successful repairs breeds confidence, and confidence breeds successful repairs.
The secret seems to be never admit failure. I once had a mechanic tell me, "I never make mistakes." The sheer arrogance of that statement caught me off guard, until I worked around and with him enough to understand that what he meant was, "I always get things fixed." It might take him several tries, but every repair is a learning opportunity. The first try may only confirm the WRONG way to do things, but eventually the job gets done. In that mechanic's mind, mistakes are merely learning opportunities.
Lately, I've had a lot of learning opportunities. A few projects have refused to stay "fixed." I'm confident that I'll eventually figure them out, but sometimes I have to go to "Plan B." Some mechanics step outside and smoke a cigarette, or go home and have a beer and start fresh the next day, in order to regain their confidence. Me? I've got a 32-ounce ball peen confidence-builder in the bottom drawer of my toolbox that helps me convince machinery to see things my way.