Up until this week, my house had holes punched in the ceiling. To be more exact, there were four squarish holes carefully scattered like stars in the night sky across my ceiling... except they didn't twinkle and they let the dust into the lounge room and kitchen. And I hated them!
They had good reason to be there. The first holes appeared courtesy of my plumber chasing a leak. "Not here" he said after the first hole appeared. "Or here."
I talked myself into not looking at the holes (which were big enough to fit a rather burly plumber's head through them), and resolved to get a plasterer/painter to fix them soonish.
6 weeks passed. My plasterer/painter went to the same place that lost socks go, and next week became next month, became next financial year in his diary.
But wait... there's more holes
Then the rat made his appearance. And more holes appeared as it became apparent that the rat had a death wish and had been nibbling on the kitchen light wiring. That explained the funny smell coming from my kitchen for a few days (and no, it wasn't just the leftover pea and ham soup).
The electrician was very apologetic about the holes. "Sorry to have to do this to get to the wires, but you already have holes in the lounge room ceiling, so I figured a few more wouldn't matter too much."
I stared at all of the holes for days - my mind willing them to magically heal themselves. All that happened was little puffs of dust and the odd bit of decomposing rat blew through the holes and onto the kitchen bench.
Then I decided that enough was enough. Perhaps I could fix the holes myself. They certainly couldn't get any worse. And waiting for the plasterer was like waiting for your birthday to roll around when you are five - it seemed to take forever.
So I hit You Tube. For those in the know, You Tube is not just for funny videos of cats. If you have a problem, someone somewhere usually has put up a film of how to fix it. So I spent a few hours watching plasterers repair holes in the ceiling.
Taking a step back
Then all my fears kicked in. "You are still recovering from damaging your knee - how on earth will you get up and down the ladders?" "You suck at plastering - and Spakfillaing picture holes in the wall doesn't count. Every bigger bit of plastering you have tried looks like Kindy Play dough free-for-all day. Just wait for the plasterer."
So I sat in a corner and stared at the holes some more.
The Yoda of Hardware
A few days later I popped in to chat to the friendly local hardware man. To be truthful, he sits at the counter gazing out the door at all the people who use the ATM in the wall at the front of his shop. If I make eye contact with him, my guilt kicks in and I feel obliged to go in and chat as his customers are few and far between.
This day my eyes didn't slide away fast enough and he caught and held my eyes. I traipsed into his shop and told him all about my holes in the ceiling and how they were now staring back.
"You can fix it," he said in his gruff fatherly South African accent. "Use this stuff to glue to some scrap wood onto the inside of the ceiling - that's to give the plaster something to stick to. Then use this stuff to stick the bits of plaster onto the wood. Once you have that sorted, then use this plaster stuff and this big plaster blade and pretend you are icing a cake. Don't use too much at a time - expect to need 3 layers of this plaster stuff if you are doing it right, and then sand back between each layer. Easy! I know you can do it. You have done harder things than this."
Taking action (Take 2)
Loaded down with my purchases, and with a surprise dose of confidence, I headed home to do battle with the holes. I followed his instructions and the video tutorials to the letter. I used the right stuff at the right time and used the right tools.
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. The first day I wasn't game to sand the plaster stuff back. I was scared at what was under there - so I stared at it for a while (why stop a great pattern of staring as a problem solving tool?).
Then I dragged some vestiges of courage from a remote part of my brain, dug out my orbital sander and turned it on just to do a teeny tiny corner.
It was magic!
I was so excited about how great the ceiling was looking, that I didn't notice that a colossal dust storm had descended on my house. My lungs didn't appreciate it (I had forgotten my dust mask)... and neither did my children who spent hours dusting and vacuuming up my enthusiasm.
I didn't make that mistake again.
Now you can't even see where the holes punched in the ceiling were (after a few coats of paint to finish off the job). It doesn't matter how much you stare - there is nothing to stare at.
My stubby-wearing carpenter neighbour and my mowing guy that looks like a cuddly garden gnome both came in to admire where the holes weren't. "Darn good job. You wouldn't have known there were ever holes there. Can you come over and fix the holes in my garage wall? I can't plaster?"
I smiled to myself and told them, "Well what you need to do is... "
Business lessons of plastering
So what are the business lessons of plastering? How many times in business do we wait for someone to fix what we could do? Sometimes all it takes is finding mentors with the right knowledge, tools and guidance - as well as the ability to give us the confidence to try.
Sort of like talking with a copywriter to help you sort out the holes in the words about your business. Sometimes you can fill the gaps yourself - if you are talked through the process in a way that you can understand, and sometimes you need professional help