I get it. You could care less about my snowblower. I can appreciate that, but walk with me for a moment as I share some life lessons this old snowblower taught me. I’ll make it worth your while, I promise…

COVID-19 has led many of us down the path of picking up old hobbies or taking on projects that we would have sidestepped in 2019. With some extra time at home on our hands, and a restlessness that builds up inside from time to time, this pandemic has brought out some sides of our personality we may have forgotten were there. A little more bold, a little more adventurous, a little more outside our comfort zone. That’s what it has done for me, and it led me to my garage…

With summer ending and winter approaching, it was time for an annual tradition to take place – moving my lawnmower to the back of the garage, and the snowblower to the front. Truth be told, I hate that snowblower – not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because I haven’t taken care of it. There’s a tire that always gets flat, the handles are wobbly and loose, and it runs a little rough. It’s showing its age, or more likely, its lack of care. I never change the oil, put in new sparkplugs, tighten up the bolts, or run the gas out at the end of the season. I simply move one to the back of the garage and the other to the front. It’s a straightforward ritual, and that’s how I like it.

That’s Lesson #1 in this story. We need to care for the things in our lives that matter to us. Your relationships with your spouse, kids, and friends – they need care and maintenance. Your mental, emotional, and physical health – they need care and maintenance. Don’t maintain them, or shove them in the back of the garage when you’re done with them, and there’s a price to be paid – just like my snowblower. What could use some care in your life?

With that in mind and pandemic boredom as my catalyst, I began a new love affair with my snowblower, giving it the TLC it deserves. I could have just bought a new one, but for some reason, this seemed like a worthwhile project to tackle. And to be honest, I wanted to see if I could actually do it. 

Here’s Lesson #2. Taking a risk is way less risky than stepping around risks and avoiding them. If I didn’t try this, I’d never know what I was capable of. That was scarier for me than destroying my current snowblower in the process and having to buy a new one. I needed to find out what would happen if I tried this. What risk have you been avoiding?

I started with that tire on my snowblower that goes flat every year. Multiple times each winter, I pump in more air and it goes flat again, so I add more air. It’s a vicious cycle that has led to strings of words that are only meant for the garage on frigid winter days. The solution? Youtube. Twenty minutes online opened up Pandora’s box of solutions, and one of those solutions led me to an easy fix, solving years of headaches. It was so much easier than I expected… once I quit trying to solve this problem alone and went somewhere for the right advice. 

This leads me to Lesson #3. When you’re stuck, quit spinning in circles and ask someone for help. Within your circle of friends, or maybe even on Youtube, there’s someone who has the knowledge you’re looking for. Fixing this tire was simple once I asked someone with experience. I found myself reminded that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s OK. Find someone who does know, and enlist their help! I was also struck by all of the years I had “put up” with this problem tire. The solution to fixing it was there the whole time, and it wasn’t hard… I just had to put in some minimal effort to find it. What have you been putting up with?

With the tire fixed, I needed to work on the snowblower’s handle which had been loose and annoying for at least the last three seasons. There was a bolt that needed to get replaced, and so I tried about ten different ways to remove it that didn’t work, beating my hands and scraping my knuckles. Finally, I got out a hacksaw and proceeded to spend twenty minutes sawing off the head of the old bolt with Led Zeppelin blaring in the background. Once I sawed the bolt in two, it made it easy to pull the old metal out of the way and replace it with a shiny new bolt. Tighten everything up, and instantly my snowblower’s handles were ready for whatever winter threw at us. 

Lesson #4 is this… There’s almost always more than one way to do something. If the first solution doesn’t work, try something else. And then, something else after that. Most projects fail because we give up right before we try the solution that would have worked. Instead of stopping, keep trying. Hacksawing through that bolt was not my first idea, and it was the last solution I wanted to try, but it was the one that finally worked. What have you been tempted to quit that you need to keep working on?

One of the final things I needed to do for my snowblower was to change its oil. Like I mentioned earlier, it was running pretty rough. Adding new oil meant draining out the old. Again, I ran into a stuck bolt and tried a ton of things to get it loose. This time around, I skipped the hacksaw and bought a new tool, a vise grip. After a couple of hours of frustration, buying those vise grips changed everything. I was able to drain out the old black oil to replace it with new golden goodness.

That was Lesson #5. Having the right tools in your toolbox changes everything, and once you have the tools, they’re yours forever. Every tool we acquire, every lesson we learn, every skill we pick up, and every insight we gain is a new tool that makes us better, stronger, and more prepared for what’s coming next. Continuing to add new tools and skills to our lives is a valuable, never-ending journey. What’s one thing you’re learned recently?

Once the new oil was in the snowblower, the last thing I did was to change the sparkplugs. To be honest, I have no idea what spark plugs do, but now seemed like the perfect time to take care of this as well. And, to be transparent, it made me feel like a real mechanic. So, to take this project to the very end and not skip any steps, changing that spark plug was the last thing I did.

That leads me to my final garage insight, Lesson #6. Don’t do anything halfway. Once I started this project, I went all-in to make sure I did it right and checked all the boxes. With time and energy not holding me back, and that restless spirit pushing me to stretch myself a bit, I made sure I finished strong. Is there something you’ve started but not finished 100%?

The Takeaway

To be clear, I’m no mechanic and I won’t be starting a snowblower repair side hustle any time soon. I am, however, the owner of a snowblower that now runs and feels like brand new. Even more important, I’m looking at the work I did in that garage, and I am proud of everything I figured out. It felt good to step outside my comfort zone, get my hands dirty, and learn some new things this fall. As I said in the beginning, this was never about the snowblower. Something bigger came out of this experience…

How does this translate for you? As we’re entering these next months, how will you stretch yourself and take advantage of this pandemic season we’re in? My challenge to you is this… Find one thing that you’re going to tackle, something that makes you slightly uncomfortable, and give it a shot!

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Take care! – John