Floor Buffers and the Meaning Of Life
It was last week when we were all cleaning up the main hangar at the museum. I had a revelation, an epiphany (they happen several times a week so it’s no big deal) about the meaning of life. All because Mike believed me when I said I knew how to use a floor buffer.
The floors in the hangar are in great condition, but after weeks of having the doors open and people doing power-slides in golf carts left them looking less than sparkly. Mike had been buffing for a while when I volunteered to take over for a bit. He asked the crucial question of “Have you used one of these before?”
Not about to violate Male Interaction Law #76, I came up with some story about how I had but it was a while ago so I was probably rusty. I’d never admit that I have better memories of what the doctor who delivered me was wearing than the last time I used a buffer. In any event, he told me to have at it which is about the same time that the fun began.
The machine and I instantly got into a fight. I wanted it to go left and used all my power to force it to go left. Instead it went right-ish. Then I tried to make it go forward. It went back and to the left. About three minutes of this pathetic wrestling match was all Mike could take. He walked over and said, “It’s just like flying a helicopter. Two fingers is all you need to control it. Balance it first and then just give a gentle push in the direction you want it to go. Otherwise you’re going to be going in circles all night and get exhausted.”
Light bulbs went off in my head as I tried the subtle method and had instant results. And the floor looked great…okay my part looked alright, the stuff everyone else did was what looked great. But even more important was the lesson derived from an unruly machine that threatened to twirl me across the room:
In life, we are programmed to exert force against something that we don’t want, or don’t understand. When someone does something we don’t like, we make it a point to make them change which doesn’t work very well at all. In situations where we feel upset or threatened, we expend energy in resisting whatever it is, much to the detriment of our health and well-being.
If you took high school physics (do they still teach that?) you’d instantly recognize Newton’s 3rd law of motion. Every action generates an equal and opposite reaction. The harder you push, the harder “it” pushes back. “It” could be air resistance, a rude coworker, or a loved one but the law does not discriminate. If you push hard against something, be prepared for one of three results: You move, it moves, or you self-destruct. For an easier image, imagine needing to change lanes while on a freeway at 70mph. If you crank the wheel all the way over and say “By Jove I’m gonna change this damn lane if it kills me!”, it probably will.
The easier way is to give a gentle nudge and let physics work for you. I used to be a sledgehammer against anything I didn’t 110% agree with. It had to be broken and restructured in the way I saw fit OR ELSE! That was also the same period when everything I planned went in some other direction other than the one I wanted it to go. Never made the connection. Duh!
These days, thanks to laziness and an endless stream of wonderful people who deliver life lessons, I nudge problems. It uses far less energy, the situation doesn’t push back at me so hard and it becomes easy to go and do what you need to correct it. Training myself to avoid the instant and intense emotional response that causes the push (OMG NO WAY THAT CAN’T HAPPEN! NOT ON MY WATCH!) is probably the most important thing in avoiding getting spun by the buffer of life. When you feel something going in a different direction than you intended, don’t freak out. Just think of me getting whirled around by a floor buffer and remember this simple mantra:
- Relax: Relax the death grip on the buffer, or your problem. “Two fingers is all you need.”
- Balance: Find the balance point of the situation. Without knowing this, it’s impossible to understand what has or hasn’t changed.
- Nudge: Lean, tilt, nudge, glide, whatever word you want you use, just understand that you can’t shove and bludgeon your problems into submission. There is more than enough energy in the known universe to turn you into a whimpering, complaining, this-always-happens-to-me basket case if you insist on pushing against things.
I hope this helps some of you out there deal with issues you might be facing. If nothing else, you now can now either impress your friends with physics knowledge, or buff a floor.