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🔩 Knowing which screw to turn

You may be familiar with the following story told in a few ways, but the one that follows I enjoy the most and heard from Jim Kwik.

One day at a package delivery distribution center, everything came to a halt. Everything stopped running. Nothing was moving and thousands of dollars were lost every minute. After hours none of the workers could solve the problem. The head of operations called the best expert he could find.

The expert technician arrives and goes to one of the numerous beams, draws and X on the electrical box, opens it, and turns one screw about a quarter of an inch and - bam! - like magic everything starts working again.

The director was relieved and asked for the bill. “$10,000,” the technician responded.“ ”$10,000!? You were here for a few minutes and turned one screw.

Anyone could’ve done that…. Please give me an itemized bill.“

The technician wrote on a notepad the bill that read:

Turning screw… $1 Knowing which screw to turn… $9,999 The director immediately paid him.

Where in your life can you put that X?

Similar to what I mentioned a few weeks ago, what’s the One Thing I can do that If I accomplish it, everything else will pretty much fall into place?

There are a few key takeaways from this parable. One being that your productivity and performance is less about working harder than it is about identifying which "screw” to turn i.e working smarter.

Given that I write about Chassidic concepts, here’s a story of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that drives the point further:

A shliach (emmissary Rabbi) in Florida had a older woman community member who came to classes, dinners, and synagogue often, but in her home she was not, as the saying goes, keeping the mitzvahs (commandments i.e keeping kosher, observing shabbat, etc). After many encouragements from the Rabbi, the woman told him, “Alright Rabbi, I’ll do one mitzvah. That’s it. You choose which one and I’ll do it.”

Before reading on, pause and consider what mitzvah would you suggest that she take upon? Lighting candles, baking challah, celebrating shabbat?

The Rabbi felt nervous about which one to choose. After all, each mitzvah is precious in the eyes of G-d. Who are we to decide which one is minor or major? Chapter 2:1 of The Ethics of Our Fathers, even teaches, “be as careful with a minor mitzvah as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvot…” Explained further in Tzavat Harivash, The Testament of the Baal Shemtov testament 1, the word for careful in Hebrew, zahir, is an expression of “they that are wise yaz'hiru (shall shine)…(Daniel 12:3).” In other words, “the soul will shine and glow from a "minor” mitzvah even as it does from a “major” one.“ Similar, but in no way comparable, to an expert performer looking to master his craft, he works on minor and major components; "to the seeker of G-d there is no difference between "major” and “minor” mitzvahs.“

SO, Which mitzvah was he to encourage the woman to practice?

He wrote the Lubavitcher Rebbe and received a beautiful response. The Rebbe told him that she should put a white table cloth on her table for shabbat. The table is traditionally covered with a white tablecloth to bring out and enhance the beauty, joy, and purity of the Shabbat Queen.

A white table cloth? Is that even a mitzvah?

As his forward thinking had it, she would see the white tablecloth on Shabbat and realize that the table also needs Shabbat candles. This led her to then purchase and light shabbat candles. In turn, she thought she can’t just have shabbat candles and a table, a table needs food. Now, that there’s food there must be guests. And so on.

The Rebbe informed the shliach who relayed to the woman one act that would snowball in the positive direction.

Another beautiful lesson that can be derived from the parable, is that the technician did not need to add anything to the distribution center. Through readjusting a screw, he simply returned the conveyor to its natural, prime performance.

In the story with the Rebbe, the suggestion too was, albeit seemingly an addition to what she was doing, a return to her core.

Amid the stressors of life, rarely - if ever - is the solution to add more things to do. As Bruce Lee said, “it is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.” The same can be applied to other areas of life - there can actually be more done with less doing. Put another way, from transformational coach and former comedian, Kyle Cease (whose book The Illusion of Money I’ve written about in the past, like in my travel blog to Hawaii), ”If you undo the doer in you, more will be done through you.“

In conclusion, a third lesson from this parable, or at least one personally, is that of humility from the director of operations. Sometimes when nothing seems to be working, we - I - tend to work harder and try to solve things ourself or through our workers. Applying a Chassidic take to this parable, one could look at workers as servants, like Rabbi Manis Friedman mentioned in Episode 3 of our series on Health. A servant would be our thought, deed, and speech to our soul. In other words, the director could not determine the solution himself, so he asked another person, an expert.

Thursday morning, per the recommendation of Coach Johnny, whom I mentioned getting a massage with in Let’s Get Physical, I saw a physical therapist for the back of my head and neck. Over the past 4 years or so, I’ve learned about and experimented with several ways of natural healing and technologies that assist in healing. As you may have read, listened, or seen, it has become what my profession is growing into - Thank G-d! Yet, there still seems to be some numbing, like nonstop white noise, but a feeling in the back of my head (pun intended). As I wrote in Let’s Get Physical, health is integrative. I had thought in a limited way that perhaps doing these "physical” actions may be out of alignment with allowing the body and brain to heal itself with G-ds help. In truth, however, it’s all one. They all complement the other. The “spiritual” work of meditation and prayer supports the “mental” work of learning, choosing where to place one’s attention, and thinking/feeling positively, which supports the “physical” work of exercising, eating well, and seeing others for support. In fact, the latter is a manifestation of the intention to heal. Some may experience spontaneous remissions through meditation, but to only accept transcendental ways of healing would be rigid. There’s no limit to how we can be healed or what will be the final screw that needs adjusting. Towards the end of the evaluation, he applied a great deal of pressure in the upper shoulders near the neck. It felt like hitting a target, like turning the right screw, that led to pleasant convulsions throughout my body and release of tension. And he then referred me to a spinal neurologist to asses for nerve damage, and continue arriving into this complete and greater levels of health.

Looking for some tools to support you in identifying which “screw” to turn?

Checkout the two new guides to journaling and to meditation on my website.


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