Learning from Don Quixote: How do you know that you should stop fighting windmills?
Don’t you feel like Don Quixote from time to time? You have your heart set on doing something and sometimes there is no way and no how that it will actually happen. Generally, I can recommend scanning for three soft roadblocks before calling it a day.
My favorite personal example of this was when I thought I could earn a little extra money in addition to my meager apprenticeship earnings. Yes, this has been quite a while ago, but the story really made a point that I never forgot. All it took were three distinctively different signs before I stopped what I was doing.
A friend of mine had been looking for a good source of firewood. I knew exactly where to get that from. There was a saw mill not far from where I lived and they were glad to rid themselves of waste wood. It was perfect fire wood: hardwood beech, dried, pre-cut, and just small enough to put into furnaces.
I organized a tractor from a good friend in our village. A suitable larger two-axle trailer was secured from another good friend close to the saw mill. The saw mill was called and I made sure that they would load me on a Saturday morning. The friend of mine who wanted the fire wood made sure he had family and friends ready to put all of the wood away once I would drop it off. The date was set and a suitable Saturday was chosen for the event. All set, ready to go – so I thought.
Then it went downhill from there. For one thing it taught me the vital lesson that planning this in the midst of winter is generally a bad idea. When I woke up very early that very Saturday morning, I wasn’t feeling well at all. I knew that I would come down with the flu; I had a fever, but I took a little medicine and moved on anyway.
Next came picking up the tractor. Did I mention that it was around 14 degrees F (-10C) outside and there was a little dusting of snow on the road? Needless to say the large Diesel engine of the tractor did not want to wake up: the battery had succumbed to the frost. Dead, dead, dead; the instrument cluster lights barely lit up.
Now what? There was a smaller tractor that I could use and amazingly it started. The smaller tractor could not possibly pull the large trailer though. I went home and called the buddy with the large trailer and asked him if he had access to a smaller one. He called me back a while later and he did have a smaller single axle one.
There was a hook though: It had no brakes. Now I had a call to make. It was the third major malfunction of the morning. I felt terrible, I had only a small tractor, and the smaller trailer did not have brakes. Additionally, I had to take into consideration that all of this back and forth had cost me 2 precious hours already. Then there was the smaller payload.
What pushed everything over the edge was that I would have needed to drive over a sizable hill in winter weather. Not that I was scared going uphill, but I had quite a bit respect for going downhill on an icy road with a trailer with no brakes. Hmm. I ended up calling everything off. The money was not worth risking my life for.
Things that you are meant to do leave signs for you to pick up on just as well as the things that are probably destined to go awry. “All” you have to do is to be in the moment to be able to recognize your version of three signs. Be aware though that you really have to sometimes look hard for they are indeed soft roadblocks. You can skip right over them if you are too careless.
Do you have examples for when your sixth sense kicked in and prevented you from fighting windmills? Please share you Don Quixote stories in the comments field.