This is a story about a guy named Dave, who wanted a new kitchen. Actually that’s not true – His wife wanted a new kitchen, so he only thought he also wanted one:

Now Dave considers himself a pretty sharp guy, so when he walked into IKEA, he was like a soldier on a mission. He already knew the dimensions of the kitchen, because he took the time to measure everything before leaving home. Well done Dave! He also knew the colours, textures and other basic features he needed, right down to those tiny little white plastic screw covers.

He’s made sure it all blends with the rest of the house in general, and it fits his budget. If Dave’s married, and as smart as he thinks he is, all he did was take the measurements – For all the rest of the information, he asked his wife. Fantastic, Dave’s on his way to owning the kitchen his wife has been dreaming about. In-fact, he even had his wife double-check the measurements, because he loves her, and being a good husband, he’s also a little afraid of her.

 So, Dave knows what he wants… A new kitchen

And he knows why he wants it…His wife said so!

There’s a perfectly good reason for the old one disappearing, and I’ll get there…

Okay, so no project can succeed without a deadline…When does he want it completed?

For the sake of including some drama for effect here, let’s just assume you’re Dave in our little story (I apologise if you’re female, but please have some fun with this and try using a little imagination. It should be fun). Your mother is coming to stay with you and your wife for a few weeks. You can stop freaking out now. Remember, you’re not really Dave, and this is only a story, so your mother is not actually coming to stay.

So anyway, the last time your mother stayed over, your wife was convinced that she’d insinuated the kitchen was only suitable for a wife whose greatest culinary skill is making toast. She may not have actually said those exact words, but by God it had to be what she was insinuating when she asked for toast every single morning without fail.

This time when your mother arrives, your wife’s going to show her exactly how well her little boy’s been eating since he got married. And to do that she absolutely has to have her new state of the art kitchen by the time “that bloody woman” arrives.

Well there you have it, your deadline has been given to you, and you know precisely by WHEN it has to be done. You’re still wondering how the hell a simple slice of toast could have caused all of this. According to you, the original kitchen was perfect, and now here you are, standing at the IKEA checkout counter, looking like a deer caught in the headlights, with about fifty other frightened husbands all looking just the same, and mumbling something about their mothers coming to visit.

“Fortune Favours the Brave”

-Publius Teretius Afer-

If you’ve been absolutely honest with yourself, and you’re truly brave enough to believe you spent enough time measuring all the work-areas correctly, you should have no doubt the units you’ve selected will fit perfectly into the available kitchen space, and therefore you should also have no problem handing over your credit card to pay for it all. Go ahead then – take a deep breath and pay the nice lady, all the other good husbands are doing it.

Everything’s gone so smoothly up to this point, and you cannot wait to get started, because you really want to make your wife proud. Of course you’re also sick of eating take-out food since your wife had those four fat guys come in and demolish the “old” kitchen while you were at the office.

More importantly, you’ve seen what the finished product is going to look like in the brochures they handed you in IKEA, and both you and your wife smiled lovingly when you saw the beautiful couple on the cover of the brochure, standing in their super-duper awesome new kitchen. The man, dressed in designer jeans and a tight white t-shirt, drinking a cappuccino, and his perfect wife standing behind him with her arms lovingly wrapped around his muscular torso, smiling from ear-to-ear, her teeth so white that Mr. Six-pack is even wearing sunglasses indoors just to avoid going blind.

“This must be the simplest kitchen in the world to assemble”, you think to yourself. I mean, this guy still has his tool belt on his hip, and he hasn’t even got a single dirty mark on his whiter than white t-shirt. Not to mention his skinny jeans that are so tight, there’s absolutely no way he even had to bend over once during the entire project. Even the Labrador standing in the picture, with its wagging tail and shiny fur coat seemed to be proud of him. I can almost swear the dog was smiling.

The big moment arrives, and you now have a bunch of different size boxes standing in the middle of your gutted kitchen, ready to be opened so you can transform that cold empty shell into a fairy-tale fantasy cooking land. Or as your wife refers to it “the place where your interfering, toast eating mother will eat her words”.

Like a small child on Christmas morning, you rush around opening all the boxes so can see what’s inside them. By now, your wife has convinced you how important it is to have this new kitchen, and you’re on-board. You even have your white t-shirt on, but you decided skinny jeans weren’t the best idea, especially since the ones you have are ten years old and must have shrunk in the wash, because you’ll need a crowbar to put them on now.

And then it hits you – Oh crap, you’ve opened all the boxes, spread all the parts around the kitchen floor, in what you thought seemed to be the perfect order. However, the instructions have all been jumbled up, and the dozens of packets containing screws, bolts, and all the other weird little twiddly bits lay in a heap in one corner. What now? There’s that deer in the headlights again, and you literally feel the enthusiasm drain out of you.

“Failing to Prepare is preparing to Fail”

-Benjamin Franklin-

Nobody mentioned the importance of proper planning. The twelve-year-old IKEA salesman wearing braces and a Batman pocket-protector never mentioned that you should open just one box at a time, and then actually use those pathetic instructions. You’ve never undertaken such a massive DIY project on your own before, so how the hell were you to know how challenging it can be to put all the pieces together. Sure, even if all the correct instructions had been given to you anyway, it would still be a big challenge, but now it’s going to be almost impossible.

It’s about now that you’re wishing you had just been honest with your wife when was trying to convince you that just because Bob next door built his wife that amazing set of cabinets, without even using an IKEA DIY kit, you could at least do this. You’re also suddenly remembering that handiwork is one of Bob’s great passions, and he has an entire handyman workshop set up in his garage. “I bet he still also looks great in his frikken skinny jeans, even though he’s already sixty-five”, you think to yourself. “Stupid Bob, with his stupid passion for stupid DIY projects”.

 

There are a few good lessons to learn from Dave’s melt down

Admittedly, unlike Dave, I’ve never personally undertaken a project quite as large as an entire kitchen using IKEA’s DIY technology, or anyone else’s for that matter, but I have had the pleasure of bringing at least a dozen pieces of DIY furniture home over the years. I attempted to build them, while remaining calm, and trying to enjoy the task at hand, and almost every single time was a nightmare. I hated following those ridiculous instructions. I’m not an idiot, it’s a few planks and some screws. What could possibly go wrong? Well something usually went wrong. I really don’t enjoy building DIY furniture, and should leave it to those who do.

My wife on the other hand, loves it. She can bring home something that looks like it’s going to require three mechanical engineers, a rocket scientist, and a brain surgeon to assemble, and within half the time it takes me to build the simple six-piece toy box for my child, she has completed her NASA space project. She’s even had enough time to make lunch for the family, chat to a few friends on Facebook, and wash her hair so she looks gorgeous for her victory dance. She’s as bad as that impossibly handsome skinny-jeans dude in the IKEA brochure. They both make me sick!

Worst of all, she’s sitting back after doing victory dance around the living room, with a glass of champagne, admiring her handiwork, and she has that look of achievement in her eyes (You married guys out there know the look I’m talking about), while my son’s super hero dad is still sitting on the floor in a pool of sweat, trying to figure out how I could have a fully assembled toy box in front of me, when I still have five screws and two bolts in one hand, plus one seemingly important plank in the other. Not a good sign.

So what can we learn from these two pretty silly DIY stories?

Discovering your own personal passion, and constructing the life you’ve always wanted, may be a more complex project than assembling a DIY kitchen, but the basic fundamentals are very much the same. In this particular case, Dave was not anywhere near passionate enough about the idea of a new kitchen. He only did it to satisfy his wife’s revenge on his mother, and the results spoke for themselves. This does not mean we should try avoid doing anything we don’t have an absolute passion for.

There’s no problem compromising on small things, like who should drop the children at soccer practice, or which movie to go see. Even compromising on where to spend your summer vacation is just fine. But when it’s something that could have a significant impact on your life, you absolutely must be honest with yourself – and get Bob next-door to do it.