Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring

What Problem Are You Trying To Solve?


Tonight I had an interesting experience. Let me preface my story by saying that I am not very handy although I am not afraid to try to fix things when needed.

My problem started as “Our shower handle was loose”. I had tightened it once before but it came loose just a few months later.

It took me about 45 minutes to loosen the handle so that I could remove it. The issue was I could not find a drill bit that had the right geometric head and size to fit the screw. As I came to learn, this screw was a set screw. Very little but necessary to tighten the handle to the water valve of the shower. To do this, I was using a battery-powered drill.

The head of the set screw was slightly worn. So I decided to go to the local hardware store to get a replacement. If it was longer or had a different type of head geometry that would need a different drill bit, so be it. I blamed the design of the shower valve with the handle and the existing screw for why it would continually come loose.

The gentleman, at the hardware store, helping me find another set screw knew the craft of a handyman. He determined that the thread of the screw was very fine and less common. He searched up and down the aisle containing all types of screws but could not find the same size or thread profile.

As he was getting frustrated, I asked him if we could solve my problem a different way by using gorilla glew on the shaft of the valve the handle attaches to so that it becomes secure. He laughed and said not only would you never be able to get the handle off if the valve needed to be repaired, but the set screw would also become permanently fixed.

Then he looked at me and asked “What problem are you REALLY trying to solve”?

I started at the beginning and explained the loose handle, how I had trouble removing the screw, and that by replacing the screw I could solve the loose handle problem. He looked confused and asked me what was I using to remove the set screw? Why a power drill of course! He confidently answered, “That is your problem!”. You are using the wrong tool.

What I needed was an Allen wrench. Once he sold me one that fit the set screw perfectly and I returned home to put the shower handle back on, it was easy to attach it solidly to the valve. The Allen wrench fastened the screw tightly on the shaft. Taking only about an hour and a half to solve with outside help. A task that should have taken five minutes if I knew what to do.

There is a famous saying that says something like “If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. I fell victim to exactly this behavior by owning a large drill bit set to use with my power drill. This set has served me well for tightening screws with a lot of geometrically different types of screw threads over the years.

Making me stop and think how many times both I and we do this in our daily lives. Where we think we understand the problem or issue when in reality we don’t. Spending a lot of time on finding a solution given what we mistakenly believe rather than spending more time exploring what the real problem is leading us to a quicker, more effective solution.

Bits of Life Missed Worth Exploring


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