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Fitting a square peg in a round hole (without the help of NASA brainiacs)

Anonymous • Feb 14, 2013 at 3:10 PM

This week's movie quote is more of a scene from 1995's docudrama "Apollo 13" which of course was based on a real-life event. Before the scene it was found out that the current carbon dioxide scrubbers were not sufficient for the time left until arrival on Earth. The astronauts would suffocate if something wasn't done. As luck would have it there was a sufficient supply of canisters to make it, however...

[Technicians dump boxes with the same equipment and tools that the astronauts have.]

Technician: We've got to find a way to make this...

[He places down a square Command Module LiOH canister.]

Technician: ...fit into the hole for this...

[Next he sets a round Lunar Module canister next to the square one.]

Technician: ...using nothing but that.

That's right. A square peg in a round hole and three lives were on the line. While we would like to presume that NASA is an efficient and very intelligently-run organization, it is still possible for oversights, errors, miscommunication, or just plain unexpected moments to happen. So too do we business owners like to believe we have things understood and in control. In this case we are the astronauts floating around in the spacecraft. Our journey is filled with wonder, excitement, and worry. What adventure lays before us and what dangers are all around us? We rely on certain systems being in place to keep us "alive" and panic when things go wrong.

Much like the astronauts, our resources are limited and every move we make can consume precious time, energy, and money. "Economy of action" is a term heard around my store often (though often in reference to card or roleplaying games). Even without a disaster, what are resources we can use in order to help us make the best decisions possible? Several were mentioned in a prior blog comparing the business climate to a zombie apocalypse, but let's repost them here for convenience:

Ohio Small Business Development Center

Erie County Economic Development Corporation

Sandusky Main Street Association

Erie County Chamber of Commerce

Those agencies are great for talking to a person about long-term planning and answering some questions about business practices and the area here.  But how can you address more immediate problems inexpensively from maintenance to repair even to decoration and marketing? When you are floating in your life pod in the cold depths of space what can you do to get just a few thousand more kilometers further to safety?

Offline solutions would be talk to your neighbors, both business and residential. It is amazing the wealth of knowledge and contacts those close to you possess. The whole "six degrees" kind of thing. Did something in the store break? Go to your local hardware store and ask what can be done and how to do it. Even if it only results in a sale of duct tape or a tube of some repair unguent the business made a sale, a friend, and you found an inexpensive way to do something effective about a problem. This may seem like abundantly simple advice, yet despite the influx of devices and websites that supposedly make socializing easier this option is still often overlooked.

I can assure you reader, especially on a local level, you can actually approach the local business owners and ask a question. Even if they don't know, if they are worth their salt they can help you find another shop or solution for you. Personally I have sent many people to other local shops and restaurants as they offer what I don't or couldn't. While not resulting in a purchase, I felt just as accomplished as I would if I saw bagged product leave my store. I fit the square carbon dioxide scrubber into the round hole myself.

Sometimes there are ideas that just may not be found locally. Perhaps even mental or physical resources that just don't manifest in our area. Or when the unexpected happens at 3:39 a.m. and there aren't in-person options available, we turn to online solutions. Here are a few resources I have used in my store that can help you with yours or your life in general. Just remember that the internet is still a wild, wild west at times so use discretion no matter how specific and well-worded your search is:

YouTube - There are a great many videos posted about sundry topics that give you a play by play on research, repair, reference, or if you even see a "bad" video it can tell you what not to do.

How Stuff Works - Some videos are provided but the topics here are nearly inexhaustible  Did your pilot light go out and aren't sure how to reignite it? Look it up here for instructions, diagrams, etc.

Pinterest - Probably one of the "safer" image boards on the internet, Pinterest is absolutely saturated with great photos, ideas, and even schematics to fix, decorate, or inspire you. There are new uses for old things and alternative ways of doing activities.

Fiverr - This is a site where people put up "job listings" of what they will do for $5. Art, voice acting, jingles, and other creative jobs can be found here.

Drawing on these resources both from fellow astronauts in space and those technicians on the ground with global resources, I hope you are able to better solve any problems you may face on your journey. It is scary to do things alone, to think there is nobody out there who can help, or that there is little documented experience with whatever it is you face. Maybe it is even a bit embarrassing. How red were the cheeks of NASA during that Apollo mission or when they forgot to convert Imperial measurement to metric causing the loss of a very, very expensive piece of equipment? Don't let that fear stop you! Asking or searching for help isn't shameful and will often lead you to a better place. The warm, blue waters of the Pacific were a much better option than the cold, black depths of space.

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