This article was orginally published at Strella Social Media on January 23, 2013.
There’s an amusing little story that I’d tell my kids when they were younger. Although I did tend to exaggerate or embellish on some of the dramatic details, the core of the story is absolutely true and profoundly relevant to my small business services today.
When I was younger, I worked a lot of construction jobs, mostly exterior work that required me to climb up and down ladders most of the day. There was this one job in McAdoo, Pa. where we did extensive work over several months – a new roof, siding, soffit, guttering; the works! We practically remade the entire outside of the house, and it was a big house. If you are familiar with northeast Pennsylvania, many homes in that area are large, vertical, and have steeply pitched roofs.
One morning I was first to arrive at the job site. I started to set up when I was summoned by the woman next door. She was an elderly and kind person with whom I had spoken with several times before, but this time she had a grave look of concern. She pointed up towards the eave below the ridge of her roof where a huge bee hive had formed. She asked me what if I could do anything to help her. Now the older and wiser version of me might have referred her to a good exterminator or some other expert, but I was twenty-something with loads of bravado and a big ladder. So I simply said “I’ll see what I can do.”
To this day, I don’t know exactly what my plan was. I climbed the ladder with a broom stick and the intention to simply knock down the hive. But upon the first gentle poke, hundreds of hornets were stirred into action and for the first (and only) time in my life, I literally slid down the exterior of a ladder in order to escape.
My embellished version of the story has the bees chasing me for blocks down the street. But the reality was actually much worse. The bees swarmed and swarmed all day, causing us to lose a great deal of production because we were constantly looking over our shoulders. We were the talk of the neighborhood as people walked by all day to observe and talk about the swarming bees nest and the kind old lady next door was more stressed than ever, especially when a removal expert arrived but couldn’t do anything until the bees settled down. And I was the fool who had caused it all.
Today I run a web design business and specialize in a group of specific skills that I’ve work hard to perfect. Still, many people assume that if you’re an expert in anything technology related, you’re proficient on all technology issues. I’ve received requests to do work outside of my scope of expertise. On a few occasions I’ve accepted, either as a gesture of altruism or with the idea to meet a new challenge. These decisions proved unwise as modern day hornet’s nests were stirred, ultimately causing more harm than the good originally intended.
So the moral of the story is to stick with what you do best and learn how to say “no” in those situations where you’re not highly confident in the outcome.
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“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
— “Dirty” Harry Callahan
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