Four Years Without an Oven: Making Due With Scarce Resources

Good friends of ours just sold their house.  As many do prior to listing their home, they finally did all the things they talked for years about doing.  The leaky faucet that annoyed with a “drip, drip, drip” for years all the sudden became one of many items on the handyman’s to-do list. Another item on the list was fixing the oven.  Actually it required replacing the oven.  Though Judy and Dave and their two kids made due without the oven for four years they knew that in the expensive DC housing market it was a non-starter.  The funny thing though is that for years, Dave, who is a gourmet chef, made due without using an oven.  Rack of lamb, duck, rabbit, roast potatoes, there wasn’t much he couldn’t make – with his grill.  While certainly Judy and Dave could have replaced the oven whenever they wanted, Dave seemed to relish in the challenge of doing without:  figuring out how to still prepare the cuisine they enjoyed without having the conventional tools he was accustomed to having.

As the time neared to put the house on the market, they finally got a working oven.  Judy told me today that since the day their new oven was installed, Dave has used it everyday.  I was somewhat puzzled by this, wondering why he so immediately went back to the oven, after four years of doing without?

I realized two things:  we are more resilient than we think and changes that don’t need to stick won’t stick.  What do I mean by this?

We are more resilient than we think.  When was the last time you really had to go without the resources you needed to get the job done?  As human beings we are wired to figure things out but it’s not until we are faced with not having what we think we need that we realize there are always other avenues and options.  We just don’t often see them because we are rarely (truly) faced with having no resources for a certain task.  If we look around, there are always resources, it’s just a matter of allowing ourselves to be confident and believe we can make something work even if the comfortable, obvious, conventional and familiar resources aren’t readily available. If we are willing to break free of the mental shackles that keep us resigned to an “I can’t” mentality we might find new ways of doing old things.

Some changes don’t stick.  Our friends made due without an oven for years.  Their lives were materially unaffected.  I would have thought that once they got the new oven they would keep using the grill for all their cooking needs.  You know that whole thing about it taking 21 days to develop a new habit?  Well they had used the grill – not the oven – for over a thousand days and yet Judy said not one day has gone by since having a working oven that Dave hasn’t used it.  It made me realize that some changes happen for a period of time and we get used to them and when circumstances shift, those changes don’t always stick.  It also made me realize that changes out of convenience may not be all that compelling and may not stick.

How many changes has your organization made out of convenience or for some other less than compelling reason, only to have the allure of hard wired convention creep back in?