Do you know where to tap?

At the end of the nineteenth century, a mill owner in the north of England was beside himself with worry. The steam boiler that provided light and power throughout his entire factory had broken down. Many experts had been to repair it but none had been successful. »Time is money,« he kept repeating to himself as he counted the costs of lost production. »Time is money.«

At this point a man in blue overalls was shown into his office. »I can repair your system, Sir,« he said. The mill owner was unimpressed. »I’ve had the best there are here to repair the boiler and they’ve all failed. Look at you, you’ve only got one small tool bag and not too much in it, if I’m not mistaken.«

»Correct, sir. For this job I’ll just need the tools necessary for this particular problem. Now, are you willing to let me fix it?« Still unimpressed, but thinking he had nothing to lose, the mill owner led the man in blue overalls to the boiler room. In the center of the room stood the boiler. Issuing from it were miles and miles of piping snaking towards every corner of the factory. From the boiler and pipes sound of knocking, clucking, and hissing could be heard. But it was the absence of the din of machinery in operation that was most deafening.

In a somewhat patronising tone the owner invited the man to get on with it. Quietly and without fuss, the man in the blue overall selected one tool from his tool kit, a small rubber mallet. Silently and methodically, he began to tap gently in various places, listening carefully to the responses he got from the metalwork. For ten minutes he tapped at pressure valves, at thermostats, at U-bends, at collars and joints where he diagnosed problems might exist. Finally, he returned to his tool bag, replaced his small mallet and selected a much larger one.

He stepped up to a complex elbow at one section of piping and gave it a firm and powerful thump with the mallet. The effect was instantaneous. As if a log jam had been shifted, water began to flow, steam began to pump, machines began to chatter. The owner was delighted. »Marvellous, marvellous. Send me the bill. Double your normal price.« »That won’t be necessary, sir,« said the man in blue overalls.

When the bill arrived some days later, the owner was stunned. The amount was far more than he had expected. One hundred dollars in all. A huge sum for those days. Although he had paid as much to some of the other companies who had failed to fix the system, they had been there for days. And they were companies with a reputation! The man in the blue overalls had been there for only ten minutes. The mill owner instructed his secretary to send a reply asking for a breakdown fo the costs.

The reply came by return of post. For ten minutes of tapping $1, for knowing where to tap $99 all together $100.

Source: The Magic of Metaphor: 77 Stories for Teachers, Trainers & Thinkers by: Nick Owen, 2001

Lessons from this story:

  • No matter how easy it looks for others to solve your problem do not undervalue their skills and work.
  • Knowledge is worth a lot, so is experience and know-how.
  • Only by learning and practicing what you have learned can you master a craft.
  • Do not just read about doing something or being someone. Learn about it then experience it.
  • People never take into account how much time a person needs to perfect his/her craft so that he/she could solve their problems quick.
  • Knowledge, experience and time are of great value. Combined, almost priceless.

Are there any lessons I missed? Please let me know in the comment section.

Source of the featured image: Do you know where to tap?

I hope you found this post helpful. Let me know what you think. Talk to you in the comment section.


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