Do Yourself a Solid

“Doing a solid” was a national catchphrase that went, thankfully, as quickly as it came. Middle America likes to adopt specific phrases and gestures and latch onto them as if they make the walking cliche’ using the fad in public unique in some way, or suddenly “cool” even though it’s been used already millions of times and wasn’t all that smart in the first place. I’m glad to see fist-bumping has been on the decline since 2016. Unfortunately, saying “I know, right?” as some insightful response is sticking in some females’ brains interminably. And even a few sad males. These types of cultural failures would be an exciting study, fer sure. That was the pinnacle of cool in the early 1980s for a few months — California Valley Girl lingo, which still contributes now and then. Black Americans seem to hold the licenses for most of what white middle America appropriates as “cool” in an almost satirical, mocking manner, but then cements it in place through popular (read: lame, brainless) media, mostly coming out of Southern California, where the black population is somewhat under-represented in many ways. Still, their equality is diligently defended with much talk. As long as they stay far away or assimilate exactly to white protestant culture, it seems. It’s the same way here in Louisville, a very blue city, also, coincidentally. Just some observations as I’ve moved around this great country.

fist-high-five-fail

But “doing a solid” means “doing a favor for,” and in this case, I mean, to do a solid for your future self. As much as you can.

I only really began noticing I was doing this over the past few years, which could be for a few reasons. As we get older, we gain experience and can use history to know what we’ll need in the future. It’s like linear regression modeling but just using your head instead of plotting points on an x and y-axis. Wisdom, in other words, which comes with age and experience. I was in my 40’s when I had an epiphany that I had turned a corner and could see more clearly the world around me because of the accumulated experiences behind me. I could more easily connect dots through time and see how events led to one another, versus what had been told to me or some connections had been left unattached. I could see the whole picture. And I think that comes with age and having lived life like I’ve had to, via much trial and error. And then beyond that, into the future to see where they will lead to some extent. That’s the power of knowing regression modeling and statistics. You can tell the future to a scarily accurate degree. My statistics professor in grad school was seriously a wizard and should have been a billionaire the way he could predict the outcome of future events by manipulating numbers. It was excellent and for the very brainy. I don’t think there a whole lot of people that can do that.

I’m digressing. But the way to do yourself a favor is to go the extra mile when you’re doing a job for yourself. Delight yourself. When you do a job, give it 100%. And then give it a little more. And that little bit is often found in a reward waiting for you in the future.

 

But seriously, if you do a lot of work in a workshop, there are lots of opportunities to go the extra mile today that you’ll thank yourself for in the future. Many have to do with safety. But mostly convenience of having something right at hand when you need it — or keeping things charged. Keep the air in your spare tire filled, for instance. Most people don’t ever think to check the pressure in their spare tires, but it slowly leaks out over time, and a flat spare is no better than any other flat tire.

There are tons of little and big ways to do this. Put some cash in your suit jacket so that in church, when you don’t have some money for the offering in your wallet since most people don’t carry cash anymore, you’ll have it on you. Keep a spare set of gloves or pack of crackers or bottle of water in your car. Stupid, natural things, but things you’ll be grateful for when the time comes. Bring in some dry firewood for when you know it’s going to snow or rain. Or put a tarp over the wood. Front-load the work, and you won’t have to worry about it when you’re weary and tired later. These are just easy examples. You have to learn what yours will be.

There are more significant ways to pay it forward. Savings is one way. People don’t set aside savings first, but spend first and save what they have, if anything, afterward. I did this for a long time because I was never taught better. But all it shows you is how to be broke. And I’ve been there. There are good ways to buffer against that scenario as well I’ve learned.

When times are good, stock up on the items you know you’ll need and buy them at great prices. Don’t ever pay retail for anything. There’s no reason to anymore with the internet. And if you’re sharp, you’ll learn how to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on items each year by being a savvy shopper. But that’s another post.

When I was flush with cash and had a high income, I bought things I knew I’d need in quantities that assured I wouldn’t run out or even need to worry about going and getting the as frequently as some people do. Toilet paper and paper towels are prominent examples. The kind of shampoo I use is expensive, so I buy it in bulk, and it’s enough to last me years. I use the same type of soap, so I get it by the caseload. Same with garbage bags. And Toothpaste. And deodorant. And detergents and other sundries. And I have storage for all this out of the way, of course, so it’s not stockpiled in my living room or anything. One good thing about Kentucky is most houses have basements. Even boxes I save for the next time I have to move, so I don’t have to go box-hunting. I order a ton from Amazon and Boxed, and keep the boxes, which have come in handy. All the time. For moving or making a rocket ship or house for my four-year-old daughter. I think there’s a parable about this like the ant and the grasshopper.

But something most people wouldn’t think about is clothing. I buy well-made, durable clothing and shoes (I mostly wear men’s boots) that, if taken care of properly, will last a long time. I still wear leather Wellington boots that I bought in high school, for example. I’m no fashion plate and don’t try to be. I dress conservatively in things that don’t go in and out of fashion. Women may say they can’t do that as easily, but that’s nonsense. When most women try to dress with the latest trends, it goes horribly wrong anyway. Women’s fashions have gotten far worse if anything, which is saying a lot as someone who started noticing the horrors of the 1970s. And then the neon bubblegum 80’s and then the poseur 90’s. And then some hipster scene junk that turned into mall trash tattooed/pierced colored hair insanity that lingers, which brings us to the slovenly yoga pants/pajama bottoms and shoulderless rags and outdoor housecoats of today. Most women seem to try and dress like the other women they know, instead of what they look and feel good in. Bad mistake, all around. So far, I’ve been mightily impressed with what clothes my daughter chooses to dress in and how she puts her outfits together. She has a good eye, I believe. She loves to wear her fanciest dresses.

snake dress

Anyway, I get my shoes and boots, resoled and clothes repaired if and when necessary. I have a lot of functional boots for various activities and spent a lot of time researching which were best and why and who uses them for what. I have waterproof steel-toes for hazardous areas I find myself in all the way to dress boots that I can wear with a sports coat. I luckily live in a city big enough to have some high-quality cobblers and tailors/seamstresses. My clothes cost more than most people’s, but they’re nicer than most people’s, and therefore they last longer than most people’s. I have lots of clothes and will never lack for decent clothing, which is a nice thing to be able to say. And I take care of them probably better than most people because they do cost more and are worth the extra attention.

Same as if you owned a Ferrari; you’d take excellent care of it, right? And the companies I buy them from stand behind them 100% so if something is wrong, they’ll always make it right, no questions asked and with a great apology. I’m very brand-loyal when I find one that’s solid. So even if I am broke, I can still dress nicely and not look or feel quite as broke, which is essential for self-esteem while getting back on my well-shoed feet, I’ve found. So that’s another way to pay yourself forward. Take care of your nice things, and they’ll be there for you in good shape when you need them — oil your boots and leather goods. I’ve bought shorts or pants/shirts/sweaters offseason on clearance, knowing I won’t be able to wear them until the next year when it gets warm or cold. And it’s cool finding a brand new pair of awesome shorts or pullover waiting for you in your closet you forgot about when Spring or Autumn comes around. I realize all this clothing talk is unrelated, but this is a life lesson, and there are things to pay attention to here with clothing.

Buy durable clothing that stands the test of time, like Pendleton, Orvis, Barbour, Filson, etc…But don’t necessarily buy brands without knowing why. Brands change over time, and usually not for the better. Burberry used to be a high-quality brand, as did Brooks Brothers and Polo/Ralph Lauren. But money is what drives those companies, and eventually, they all succumbed to clothing the masses instead of the elite. This is to say they commoditized themselves, started selling lower quality clothing in “outlet” malls, and started cutting corners, and instead of working for high margin, well-made clothing, they opted for lower-margin but sold en masse cheaply made clothing.  Sure, they still offer high-priced goods with premium margins attached, but they aren’t the same quality as they used to be. They’ll market them as “purple label” or something distinctive, to match the distinctive price.

What’s the difference, you may ask? With clothing, look at the stitching. Inspect the quality of the fabric and how it was cut. Check out the hardware, like zippers, pulls, rivets, toggles, and buttons. Is it double-stitched or single stitched? Does the material feel durable? Are the fibers woven tightly and is it heavier than it looks? Where there are ends, does it look “carefully finished” or just like “one and done?” Is the hardware genuine brass or flimsy, never meant to last plastic?

Learning to discriminate between high quality and junk is doing yourself a solid. You won’t end up wasting your time and money, frustrated with an inferior tool, garment, shoe, piece of furniture, or anything else that commands a high price. Learn to inspect the joinery and materials of furniture. There are big differences in quality and price and very often a high price doesn’t equal high quality there, either. As far as tools go, look at what the pros rely on for their livelihood. DeWalt is always a good bet. But there are others. Bosch, Milwaukee Tool, Snap-on, and even Sears makes some decent wrenches. We have so much to choose from in America, you need to be knowledgable or else marketers will decide for you, which is what you want to avoid.

geezer

Think of it like hiding an Easter egg for yourself. And when you start getting good, you begin forgetting all about them and surprising yourself when you find them, and you want to pat yourself on the back.  As I read this, it sounds like old-geezer-talk, so maybe it is something that comes with age, but I don’t see any reason not to try it sooner than later, knowing the benefits it brings.

wisdom

This is cleverly accurate