A Screwdriver as Art

My father-in-law is a master woodturner. 

I use that term carefully, because a lot of people call themselves an expert.  But the proof is in the results.

For as long as I can remember, he has been working with wood.  Everyone in the family has multiple pieces of furniture that he designed and handcrafted.  It’s his way of demonstrating his love for us, and those pieces are a constant reminder of his involvement in our lives.

I don’t remember exactly when he bought his first woodturning lathe.  But when he learned to turn wood, he found his sweet spot.

Over the next few years, he studied and practiced his craft.  His specialty is “segmented bowls,” where small pieces of exotic wood are cut at precise angles and glued together, resulting in showcase-quality designs.

It’s always rewarding to go into high-end craft stores where similar bowls sell for a small fortune – and realize that they’re not as good as his.

He doesn’t believe they’re worth that much.  But he doesn’t worry about whether other people think his projects are good or bad (they’re good).  He just enjoys the process, and makes things to bring joy to those around him.

screwdriverSeveral years ago, he turned a screwdriver for each of his sons-in-law.  He even made a custom case to store it in.

It was awesome.

So awesome, that I didn’t use it. 

I kept it in the case, because it was too nice to use.  I was afraid of scratching it or damaging it.  Whenever I needed a screwdriver, I grabbed one of my cheap plastic ones to do the job.

One day, I misplaced my cheap ones.  Not knowing what to do, I remembered my museum piece.  I thought, “I’ll just use it once, and be really careful.”

I was blown away.

It fit my hand in a way that gave me leverage I had never experienced.  It was comfortable.  It had a more solid grip on screws than and tool I had ever used.

It worked.  It was incredible.

And I’ve been using it ever since.

The finish might not be quite as perfect as it was originally.  But my father-in-law didn’t make it for us to look at.

He made it to use.

The best part? When I’m using it, there’s a constant reminder of the way he has invested in our lives.  He uses his gifts to build into people.

I see a simple application. 

We all have gifts and skills.  It’s easy to look for other people to tell us if what we do is “good” or not.  We’re looking for their affirmation, comparing ourselves with others.

But “good” is subjective.  It’s better to strive for “effective.”  Then it doesn’t matter what others think.  It matters if it makes a difference.

My screwdriver is effective.  It works.

And it’s also good – a piece of art.

If we worry about what others think of our unique contribution, we might never make that contribution.

What could you do if you weren’t worried about what others thought?


Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)