Can't Succeed in a Project? Maybe it's Time to Question Your Assumptions

Do you find yourself stymied on a project, either at home or at work? Have you "tried everything"? Maybe it's time to give up!
 That's right.
 "But what kind of negative, defeatist philosophy is that?!?", you might be saying.
 But before you give up on me, please read on!

I was working on a little project around the house, and could not find a way to make it work. The project was simple enough: Find or make a furniture pad to fit on the metal legs of a stool (it's shown in the image on the right), since the supplied pads were small and hard. Yet each attempt only led to failure and frustration.
 About to give up, I for some reason looked at the pad that I was trying to replace it with and said "Wait, I have been assuming that this side is the bottom - because it was "designed" that way. What if I turned it over?" Once I turned it over, the pad would simply fit snugly on the supplied small pads!
 No tools or fasteners or modification of any kind needed!
 So what is the conclusion of this experience? If you find that you simply cannot make something work, maybe it's time to question your assumptions!


So here is the pitiful pad that was supplied with the stool.
 It is small.
 It's too hard.
 So, as is the case so often with poorly designed products, it was time to come up with something better.


Failure #1 The first pass was to go buy a larger pad with its own bolt. The bolt was the same diameter as the original one, but, alas, the original one is metric (the bane of buying products made in other countries). It wouldn't fit!


So I bought this universal pad. I show it here with the "bottom" side showing.


And here is the "top" side.


It came with a sheet metal/wood screw, meant to be driven into wood. Yes, I knew the stool legs were metal, but I "knew" that I could modify it to work.


Failure #2 I bought some metric bolts that were the same size as the original, and I figured that I could pass them through the hole in my new pad. All I would need to do then was to simply drill the center hole a bit wider so the bolt would pass through.
 But, who would have ever expected a simple furniture pad to be made with hardened metal?!? After a few seconds of drilling, my new drill bit was instantly ruined - the metal was harder than the bit!! You can see that the hole was only partially drilled through.


"All right. Fine", I told myself. "I will simply use a longer sheet metal screw (thin enough to pass through the pad's hole as you see here). I had assumed that there would be a threaded hole about 1/2 inch deep in the stool leg. I would simply drill a small hole at the bottom of this threaded opening, so that the tip of the sheet metal screw would bind in my newly drilled hole.
 And yes, I figured that the stool leg would surely be just plain ol' iron (not hardened like the pad!) and could be easily drilled.


Failure #3 But I looked at the leg, and the round ball was hollow - not solid. The threaded part was about 1/8 inch thick.
 At this point I briefly considered drilling through the top part of the leg and then passing a long flat head bolt through the new pad, all the way through the stool leg and placing a decorative "cap nut" on top!
 But then. . .


And then came the "Duh!" moment!

This is the moment where I realized that I had restricted my solution to fit the assumption I had made about the problem/challenge. In this case, I have assumed that the bottom of the furniture pad was the factory-intended bottom.
 In other words, when I looked more closely at the pad, I noticed that the whole thing was made of rubber, and that the "top" side actually made a better, and even wider, surface to contact the floor.

And, further, I was delighted to discover that the original pad would fit snugly in the (inverted) new pad!


Here it is fully inserted. Actually I applied a bit of adhesive to the old pad, to help guarantee that it wouldn't slip out.


So here's the original tiny pad supplied by the manufacturer of the stool. It's just too small and hard, and concentrates the weight into a small area.


And here is my "new and improved" pad - softer and with better weight distribution.


Second "Change Your Assumptions" Project

I have had a broken vertical blind slat for some months now. (I think one of the grand kids did it during a previous visit by my daughter, but they're claiming innocense. . .)
 In any case I have been wondering ever since how I might patch the broken top part so that I could rehang the broken slat.
 I will explain in the next picture.

broken blind

Here is an intact slat and the broken one. How to fix??

 Well, from time to time in the months that followed the original breakage, I would ruminate over several solutions.
 I could glue a piece of plastic across the gap. But what kind of glue would hold? And where would I find a piece of plastic that thin?
 I could bridge the gap with a small piece of metal, secured with a small screw on each side. But it would have to be a thin piece of metal, since the mount is a narrow slot that the top of the slat fits in.
 Maybe I could string some wire through several small holes drilled on each side of the break.
 Maybe I could even break down and see if I could order a new slat from the factory. But my experience has consistently been that almost all products nowadays are imported and "repair parts" has become an obsolete phrase!

blinds blinds

Finally the "Duh" moment came. Rather than try to make a patch on the broken end, I would simply turn the shade around and make a slot in the unbroken end!

So I placed the good blind over the unbroken end and traced the outline of the slot.



I then selected a drill bit whose diameter was such that it would just fit through the good slot, and drilled a hole through each side of the traced outline. I used a thin file to enlarge the center part after drilling the two holes on each side.
  Don't have a thin file? You could probably use a utility knife with a new sharp blade to trim the center part.


And here is the repaired blind in place. No more uncovered opening in my patio door! The solution was not to try to apply a patch of some sort to bridge the gap at the top of the slat, but to simply turn the slat over and make a new mounting slot!
 Yes, the hole in the bottom of the slat might be noticed by an observant family member or guest, but it's not likely. Indeed, I swapped the repaired slat with an intact slat from the far right side, which is quite often collapsed when the blinds are fully open on cloudy days.

 So there you have it. Having trouble figuring out how to solve a problem? Does the solution keep eluding you? Then change your initial assumptions about the problem! You might be surprised how easy the solution appears when you do so.

fixed blind

And the takeaway from these experiences. . . .

Have you been working on a project at home or at work and haven't found a solution? Is it the case that no matter what you've tried, you just can't solve the problem?
 Then maybe it's time to re-examine your assumptions. You just might find that what you "knew" to be the ground rules is flawed, and that changing those "rules" (assumptions) may lead (maybe even easily) to the solution!

Taking it deeper:
 And what about some the "big" issues of life? What about "depression", for instance?
 What kind of assumptions have been made - maybe some time long ago - about the "causes" of one's depression?
What if it's just diet? (at least in part.) The Standard American Diet with meat overload, processed foods with white flour, white rice, and white pasta, and sugary soft drinks and foods lends itself almost perfectly to creating very low energy levels, very low depth of feeling, and big swings in feeling "up" or "down".

Magnesium deficiency is associated with higher incidence of depression, stress, and anxiety. Magnesium is found in nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, wheat and oat bran and greens. (You won't find many of those in the Standard American Diet!)

Omega 3 compounds: Quite a few studies show a strong relationship between higher levels of Omega 3 compounds and the prevention of depression and anxiety. A high quality fish oil will provide these compounds.

And probiotics! What possible relationship would there be between probiotics and well being? It would be that 75 - 90 percent of the Magic Serotonin is produced in the gut bacteria!

I actually have written an extensive article on the many "mental" effects of poor diet, (along with the "physical" effects). Simply select the "Back" button at the top of this page to return to my Home Page. There, under "Health and Nutrition", you find a link titled "Poor Nutrition as Cause of Our Modern Crankiness". (It actually describes many other issues in addition to "Crankiness"!)

And what about that most flawed assumption of all? Low self-esteem. Low self-acceptance. What if we just accepted ourselves - just the way we are?
 What a concept!
 And even better: What if we forgave ourselves?
 We hear all the time that holding grudges about other people saps one's energy, and that it is well to forgive others. Maybe it's time to forgive ourselves. . .
 It's only taken me about 50 years to accept myself! And my life is now a life of ease and delight, unless of course that I make flawed assumptions about how to mount a furniture pad!

Copyright © 2023 J.A.