this guy was definitely gonna have opinions ( i'm still amazed how i responded!)

authenticity business success business systems career Feb 20, 2024
black cashmere turtleneck

Hey Friend!

I should've known I was gonna get mansplained.

The guy had that look.

Right out of the Uppity Urban Architect Fashion Collection: grey flannel pants, a black cashmere turtleneck, and a pompous attitude.

Some architects are like that...especially with "lowly" civil engineers like me. (#notallarchitects)

They seem to forget no one would go into their ICoNIc EdiFIcE of GraNDeUR if it had no water systems, no sewer systems, no drainage systems to keep it from flooding, no parking lots, or no roads.

Anyway, we were looking at the plans I'd started...

... while standing on the future construction site

... in a small Mississippi town

... in the middle of August ๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต

That's when he mentioned moving the building on the property.

“That’s fine,” I said. “But it’ll take me a few days to regrade the site.”

“I could regrade the site in an hour,” he condescended.

Which was quite a lot of arrogance, I thought, for someone who couldn't dress themselves for the weather.


Now, here's a brief and non-technical explanation (with pictures!) of what "grading a site" is.

When I "graded a site", it meant I designed how to move the dirt around a construction site to make it suitable for the project.

In simplest terms, it’s moving high spots to fill in low spots.

 (image is a hill next to a ditch with text that reads: move hill to ditch)


And yes, you could do that in an hour, assuming you had the knowledge.

(On paper, obviously. Well, a computer. Not on the actual land.)

But it’s not quite that easy.

You see, when you dig up dirt, it fluffs.

So, if you dig a one-gallon hole, that dirt'll fluff up and take up more than one gallon of space in a truck.

But when you put fluffed dirt into a hole, it squishes down more than it used to.

Which means if you dumped all the dirt you JUST took out of the hole back into it, you’d still have a hole.

Though it would be a shallower hole.

If you’ve ever planted shrubs, you’ve likely seen this in action.

 (Image is a very-clearly-not-AI-generated sketch showing the fluff and squish of soil. The hole is dug and then filled with the same dirt, leaving a shallow depression.)


This matters because if you can’t fill all the low spots with the dirt from the high spots, you need to buy dirt and truck it in.

Or if you have too much dirt left over, you need to haul it off and pay to dump it.

Both of those things are expensive.

So the goal of a well-designed site is to BALANCE the earthwork.

With few exceptions, my goal was always to balance the site, not just flatten it.

And that couldn't be done in an hour.

So, I responded to Turtleneck with what is perhaps my most brilliant off-the-cuff analogy ever:

“There’s a lot of ways to make change for a dollar. But not all of them are convenient to have in your pocket.”


That analogy comes in handy a lot because there are usually a few ways you can perform most tasks.

But which you'll want to use depends on the result you want.

Yet I often see small-business owners process most stuff as "check the box" tasks, even though they don't want "check the box" results.

But that's exactly what they get.

...though they're not sure why, because they're getting stuff done. They “graded the site in an hour.”

A business is more than just getting stuff done, though.

A business, like my engineering project with Turtleneck, is a system.

And there's not much in a system that operates inside a little box, not affecting anything else.

Instead of simply checking boxes, we need to consider our business as a whole if we want it to succeed.

That can seem daunting, but it really isn't once you have processes in place.

I know, I know... I can hear the groans.

But creating processes is kinda fun!


Ok...well, it's fun for me. ๐Ÿค“

And I'm working on something that'll make it more fun (or at least less groan-y) for you. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, why not think about the "change" you want to see in your business?



P.S. That dollar-to-change analogy is probably the only time in the history of ever that I thought of the right thing to say at the right moment... instead of on the drive home... by myself... an hour later.