This is primarily a ‘well, obviously’ sort of parable, I’ll warn you now; there is no new information here, you already know this. It is a cautionary tale, a reminder, and a warning – like any good parable, a teachable moment being snuck into the day by way of storytelling. 🙂 This one is also ‘work related’, and very specific in that context. This is The Parable of the Wheelwright.

A beautiful morning for a journey.

A beautiful morning for a journey.

A man of vision preparing for a long journey comes to a famously skilled wheelwright to order a covered wagon for his great journey. He has a vision, and shares his needs clearly and simply. The wheelwright takes his order, and asks questions about finishing details like color, and fabric, the size of this feature or that one, and the extras her new customer may want. It is a reasonable order. The wheelwright is a busy one, serving multiple customers in the community. She provides the man with a receipt for his order, and advises that his wagon will be done in one month – four weeks from that day.

The wheelwright is skilled and orderly, and lays out the work for the new wagon so that each detail will fit the others, and the work will be assembled smoothly, efficiently, and be ready when the man comes for his wagon in four weeks; this is done in such a way that all her customers will each receive their orders on time, completed with the great skill for which she is known. The work commences in the ordinary way. The wheelwright loves her work.

Before the end of the first week, the man of vision returns to the wheelwright agitated, and eager to get started on his journey. His wagon is not ready, and will not be ready for 3 more weeks – as agreed to. “Can I just get a wheel today?” he asks excitedly. The wheelwright observes that a wheel is not a wagon, and will not serve his purpose well, but the man insists he must have a wheel that very day, well-made and able to be affixed to a wagon. The wheelwright does have a wheel ready… made for a different wagon altogether, for another customer, but she is reluctant to give it to the man – it’s not made for his wagon at all, and giving him this wheel now, it may not fit his wagon when it is ready. The man insists, and takes the wheel that she has made, over her objections – he is sure it will be just fine, and departs contented.

Nearing the end of the second week, the man returns. He eagerly requests another wheel. He inquires if perhaps he could also have the canvas wagon cover as well. The wheelwright explains that a wheel is not a wagon, and that having just two wheels would not serve his purpose well. She points out that a canvas cover made for another wagon may not fit the wagon she makes for him. He is unconcerned and urgently wants what he wants, and insists on having a second wheel and the canvas cover that very day. The wheelwright explains that while she does have a wheel and a canvas cover on hand that she could give him, they were made for other wagons – and that taking these items from other jobs will put her behind on her work on those jobs (which have due dates much sooner than his wagon) which will delay completion of his wagon – which will not be ready now, until 6 weeks. The man is annoyed that his wagon is delayed, but insistent on having the second wheel and a canvas cover that very day.

At the end of four weeks, the man returns for his wagon – which is not ready. The wheelwright reminds him of the two wheels and the canvas cover which he received ahead of schedule, and how these choices delayed completion of his wagon. The man seems surprised that these actions would change the outcome of his original order, but agrees to return in two weeks for his wagon. Over the next two weeks, he sends several small changes to the wheelwright by messenger, requesting different fabric for the canvas cover, and a different style of spoke for the wheels.

When the man returns in two weeks for his wagon. He is surprised to see other customers waiting at the counter, angry that their orders are not ready on time. The man’s requests had delayed other jobs than his. The wheelwright did not seem to be enjoying her job anymore; she felt as if she could not work efficiently or skillfully with the frequent interruptions and changes, but the man only sees his own vision, and does not see the unhappiness of the wheelwright. When his turn at the counter came, he requests his wagon. It stands on blocks, with only two wheels and no cover, and he is angry and disappointed. The wheelwright reminds him he has taken two wheels ahead of schedule, and the canvas cover – and that if he will bring them in, she’ll attach them to the wagon.

When he returns with the wheels and the canvas cover, the wheelwright attaches them to the wagon. It doesn’t stand level; the wheels are three different sizes. Only two of the wheels have the sort of spokes the man requested, and the canvas cover is a very different fabric than he had decided on after the work was started. The wagon appears quite poorly made, and insufficient for the man’s great journey. The man is angry, and disappointed, and taking receipt of his wobbly wagon he departs grumbling about the poor workmanship and wondering how this wheelwright ever came by a reputation for being extraordinarily skilled, concerned that his journey would now be a failure ‘due the lack of skill of that damned wheelwright’. The wheelwright watches the man leave and considers taking up some other work altogether, finding the making of wagons frustrating and unsatisfying.

The very same week as the man of vision submitted his order for a wagon to the famously skilled wheelwright, another man had submitted his order to a wheelwright who had only recently set up shop in the community. This other man submitted his order with great care, having never ordered a wagon but certain of his needs on his upcoming journey. He listened with care to the recommendations of the wheelwright, and departed on her promise to have the work finished in four weeks. In four weeks he returned to take receipt of his wagon, and it was ready. Other customers had arrived ahead of him, and were receiving their wagons with great satisfaction, each wagon completed and beautiful. When his turn came, he received his wagon as well, completed, beautiful, standing level, and looking precisely as he had requested in every detail. Even the interior was well-finished, with handcrafted comfortable seats and cushions, and little details to make the experience of using his wagon extra nice. He was delighted with the perfect beautiful wagon and left with it exclaiming to all he passed that indeed she was a brilliantly skilled wheelwright… including to his friend, a man of vision, who would submit an order for a wagon the very next day.

I enjoy a good change of perspective.

I enjoy a good change of perspective.

Is this one a tad over obvious? Ah, but here’s the thing… the punchline… the plot twist; the wheelwright could have said ‘no’.

There’s a lot to learning about taking care of me. It’s a nice evening for it.