Threading the needle

Sent by Jonathan Stark on March 8th, 2019

Erica (my better half) has been knitting a big chunky sweater with super thick and fuzzy yarn. It’s a “colorwork” garment, which means that she is using a few different colors of yarn to create a pattern. Using multiple yarns in this manner means that there are tons of loose ends of yarn hanging out at the points where she switched from one color to the next. 

When a knitter is done knitting a colorwork piece, they have to clean up the loose ends by weaving them in. This is accomplished by grabbing a yarn end, threading through a needle, and kind of sewing it into the surrounding fabric so the end disappears. 

So there we were last night, sitting in the living room. E was preparing to weave in her ends to finish the sweater. I watched her grab a needle in one hand and a loose end of yarn in the other, and I thought, “Oh, this is going to be good...”

I sat back and prepared to bust chops mightily while watching what I imagined would be at least fifteen minutes of failed attempts to poke this incredibly thick and fluffy frayed end of yarn through the eye of this small needle. 

Much to my shock and dismay, she threaded it through on the first try. In fact, she did it so fast that I didn’t even see how she did it. It was like a magician doing sleight of hand. She moved her wrist in an unexpected way and boom... needle threaded. 

I exclaimed, “Whoa! How’d you do that?!” and she was like, “Do what?” and I was like, “How’d you thread that needle so fast?!” So she goes, “What, this?” and in one smooth motion she pulled the yarn out of the needle and rethreaded it without breaking eye contact with me. She didn’t even have to look!

If I had to thread that needle with that yarn, it would have seemed impossible. It would have been frustrating. It would have taken me at least 100 times longer. Because I would have been doing it the hard way. 

Here’s the thing...

Think about the hard stuff that you do. The stuff that is frustrating. The stuff that takes a long time. Now ask yourself: 

What if you’re just doing it the hard way?

If you’re billing by the hour, what would cause you to even look for an easy way? 

Nothing, that’s what. 

It simply wouldn’t make sense to do so. Why would you expend any mental energy at all trying to come up with a way to chop your income to a tenth (or less!) of what it is now?

When you get rewarded financially for taking longer - and you feel justified for doing so because “it’s so hard” - your brain just isn’t going to automatically explore ways to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently.

When you switch over to value pricing for custom projects (or fixed prices for productized services) the financial incentives completely reverse.

The moment you stop trading time for money, your brain automatically starts to explore ways to deliver the same outcomes in a fraction of the time. 

Suddenly, dropping your labor intensity by a factor of ten would translate into a giant jump in profitability, and with no decrease in value to your client.

Win win. 

Yours,

—J