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06/24/18

3 Life And Coaching Lessons I Learned Trying To Put Furniture Together

I moved into a brand new apartment last week. Now, I’m not sure when the last time you moved was, but if it was anytime recent you know just how much of a headache some of the logistics to moving are. You’ve got to set up your utilities, you’ve got to turn off the utilities in your old place. You’ve got to sign all kinds of paperwork. You’ve got to write too many checks to count, all of which give you this uneasy feeling in your stomach because in the span of a few days you’re watching all of your money disappear like the sand working its way through an hourglass.

Oh, and you’ve got to get furniture. You can’t forget that, and nor should you. Furniture is what this whole post is about. Well, kind of.

When I moved it wasn’t some short and sweet move like a number of people experience. At least a number of people in my old home, New York City. In NYC when you move it’s usually just to a different spot in the city. Sure, it’s a pain – because moving always is. But you’re moving at most 6-8 miles. You hire some friends, a couple of TaskRabbits, book a truck, and move your stuff. It’s all done in a day.

But when you’re moving from New York City to Austin, Texas those same rules don’t really apply. You can’t just move all of your stuff a couple of thousand miles, and it’s not like I’d really care to if I could anyways. I could spend this whole blog post telling you about a $6,000 mattress I got for free after I moved to NYC and the accompanying heartbreak that came with realizing how much of a pain it was and how much it was going to cost me to ship that damn mattress. That’s another story for another day.

Anyways, I found my new place in Austin about a month ago and my move-in date was Friday the 15th, which means that the past week has been full of slowly and steadily getting my life together. With sensible breaks for my dog Bowser and I to go explore the Greenbelt, of course.

For me, a big piece of moving this time around was putting together quite a bit of furniture. By quite a bit, I mean the following:

  • Bedframe
  • Futon
  • Couch
  • Coffee table
  • High top dinner table
  • Two large bookshelves
  • Two small bookshelves (I really love books, okay?)
  • One great L shaped desk for my home office
  • An office chair

All of that on top of the other obvious touches like hanging curtains and what not meant quite a bit of time over the past week with me holding a set of instructions and wondering if furniture companies hire teams of people to come up with the most frustrating directions imaginable. And it’s those instructions that we’re gonna talk about today because it turns out those little 5-10 page booklets hold some indelible life advice.

First things first, because I know people will ask: I actually didn’t go the IKEA route. I thought about it, but I knew what I was getting myself into with IKEA. I don’t want your Malm, Fyrkantig, or Sparsam. I just want to go to IKEA for the meatballs, please and thank you.

Instead, I ordered most everything off of Wayfair. Mainly because I’m lazy and they offered free shipping, could have everything delivered on the same day, and they weren’t quite as expensive as IKEA. So last Friday I was the man that every UPS driver hates when about 8 fully grown human-sized packages showed up my door. That’s when the real fun began.

Also, as a quick aside: You know what I really love? When a company treats me like I’m a normal person with a sense of humor. Whoever Wayfair gets their furniture from does an incredible job of making their instructions fun and appropriately insulting enough to be entertaining.

For example, the bookshelf instructions all said “To hold all those books you’ll never read.” which I really appreciated. More companies should take the time to make the boring things at least mildly interesting.

Anyways, fast forward to Saturday night and I’m sitting on my office floor surrounded by bookshelf components, instructions, and an intense feeling of shame as I start to wonder if I’m capable of putting a simple bookshelf together. That shame is the kind of existential dread that I’m not all that comfortable with. I felt like I was disappointing both my grandfathers and my Dad.

My very first job was with my grandfather who owned a roofing company. I’ve used a power drill since I was about 13 years old and learned to fix most things that broke around my home. I’m not the handiest man in the world, but I’m certainly not useless.

None of that matters whenever your furniture and it’s instructions feel like something straight out of Harry Potter.

I actually laughed out loud when the instructions for this bookshelf told me to “skip the power trip this time” and opt for a normal handheld screwdriver. What did they think? I was some dolt incapable of handling a power tool?

But trust me, friends. Instructions for putting together out-of-the-box furniture will humble even those of us who feel exceptionally handy. They come with all of these components that of course don’t all get used. And there’s nothing more confusing than erecting a bookshelf and looking down and seeing a few screws and a couple of plastic joints and wondering where the hell those were supposed to go despite the fact you’ve got no more holes to drilling them into.

Fast forward another 30 minutes and I’ve split one of the supporting shelves thanks to the torque from my power drill. Guess the instructions were right after all. Another hour and a half and I’ve finally got the first shelf done. It’s a bit more wobbly than I’d like, but we’re past the point of worrying about trivial things like wobbles. Now onto #2!

It’s the same process all over again. Frustration, randomly kicking things, deciding that books don’t need shelves and I probably don’t need a couch either if it’s going to be anything like this.

However, I got it done – and in the process of getting all of this done, I learned a few lessons that I think apply to just about everyone, but especially those of us who are working with our own set of instructions.

We have to follow the instructions.

I got myself into trouble by assuming that because I knew how to build things and had fixed things for most of my life that meant that I could put together some simple home furniture. I knew what all of the pieces were meant for and knew how they should probably go, but knowing individual components isn’t the same as knowing how the parts all fit together to make the whole.

That’s similar to how working with a Coach goes. For most of the people reading this, you probably found Stronger U after trying out a number of different diets or programs. You might have read every single diet book out there and felt like you knew far more about the internal metabolic processes than any average person should. You might know all about Insulin from the book you read last year, or you might know all about the benefits of Veganism from the documentary you watched.

But knowing those pieces isn’t the same as knowing how to integrate it all into a plan that helps you reach your goal. As a client, it’s always our job to take the instructions and implement them. With Stronger U, the Coach is your set of instructions – only this time the instructions don’t laugh at you for not reading books. Unless I’m your Coach, of course.

We have to be willing to give up the line of thinking that you know everything. We have to exercise humility and be willing to take instructions and feedback. We have to recognize that if we’ve screwed up a load bearing shelf or completely missed on our numbers because we were too busy thinking we knew how to do everything, we’re doing something wrong. Even more important than that – we had a mentor or sheet of instructions that told us that was going to be wrong. Next time we should probably just listen. It’ll save us time and a shelf.

Frustration is part of the game.

Just because you’ve started putting a desk together doesn’t mean that you’re free from frustration – and the same goes for starting this program. Starting something isn’t the same as actually working at something, and working at something is typically going to invite frustration in some form or fashion. That’s the nature of working at something.

You start something and you start to move forward. You start to see the bookcase come together, or you start to see your clothes fit a bit more loosely. You get some confidence, and do more of what you were doing. But you’ve only done this for so long, so you run up into a challenge. A challenge that your skills just aren’t quite sharp enough for. So you have to work at this problem a bit – and that work can be frustrating. But that’s apart of the game, because that frustration is you honing your skillset.

For me, going through that feeling of sitting on my office floor and wondering just what the hell I was thinking putting all of this stuff together instead of buying it that way was just part and parcel of the process. You have to go through those periods of frustration and anger at the journey. If it weren’t for those, would it even be a journey?

The same goes for plateaus, nights out, and bumps on the scale. Those are all the dues that we have to pay in order to get to a place where we feel like we can actually control our food and our weight. We have to deal with those situations that can feel like setbacks because those setbacks are the times when we learn actual lessons that help carry us through and forward. Everything, no matter the situation, is a chance to learn a lesson. There’s a certain kind of joy in realizing that, because it helps us reframe each and every curveball life throws our way as a chance to learn, adapt, and improve.

Sure, we might be able to get results without learning those lessons. There are plenty of people who crash diet their way to great results, and through that process, they don’t learn the same lessons as you. But those lessons are the very reason that your results will last. You’ve paid your dues, and now you have a skill set that can help you throughout the rest of your life.

You still have to care about the things that you build.

So I’ve got my shelves, desk, couch, etc. all built. But that doesn’t mean that the job is actually done – and much the same can be said for you once you’ve hit your goal. Once I’ve finished building this stuff I can go ahead and throw away the instructions because I probably don’t need them anymore. Once you’ve finished working towards a specific goal you might be able to say that you’re done with your Coach. But that doesn’t mean we stop caring.

I know that I can’t be completely irresponsible and treat all of this new furniture like complete trash. I don’t want to bump and bang everything with reckless abandon, and I don’t want to spill my coffee all over it leaving ugly stains everywhere. Just a couple of stains to add character, you know?

The same goes for you. Just because you’ve hit your goal doesn’t mean that you treat the thing you’ve been building like trash now. You’ve put in work to chase your goal, and maintaining that new version of you is still going to require work. It might mean eating more vegetables than you did before starting this, going on daily walks, and still pay attention to what and how much you eat. Just because something has been built doesn’t mean that the work is over, only that the work is different.

Following instructions and taking the time to build something can be a painstaking process. It’s frustrating because it often leaves us feeling like whoever is writing those instructions (or coaching us) isn’t actually writing for us. They don’t understand us. They need to adapt their way to us so that we can actually put these things they’re saying into practice.

That’s all understandable. Of course, we all feel that way. But let these moments be a brief pause for reflection. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t always know exactly how everything should go. Maybe the most important thing we can do is not force everything to bend to our will, but be malleable enough to adapt to whatever situation life has given us.

Maybe the most important thing we can do is follow the instructions.

Tanner Baze
Director of Content