Browsing the motorcycles for sale listings I spotted this 1968 Suzuki T500 Cobra, a nice vintage 2 stroke, but the condition of the bike is far beyond what you would have found in any dealer showroom back in the 60s. I just can't see any flaws, so I thought I would check out the fellow who did the work, Jeff Weier. I've never heard of him, but if you head over to his website, it's a photo gallery of his restorations over the years and each and every one shows the same attention to detail, the same finish quality, it's just the sort of work you would do if you had the time, knowledge, skills and determination to make sure everything was perfect. I've never tried to do anything like this, but it would be a tall order to replicate what he's done.
These restorations are the type of project someone might do over a period of several years, though Jeff is doing them, according to his site, with an 8 to 12 week turnaround. Wow. That raises the bar considerably higher for anyone who might say, "I could do that." I know, flat out I couldn't, and I'm I'm not ashamed to say so.
The thing is, I'd like to have a project like that slowly taking shape, a way to de-stress and unwind from other concerns and just focus on the task at hand. Stepping back every time I wrap up for the day and seeing some progress, however little it might be, knowing it's building toward a spectacular finish, or at least as close as I could come.
Everyone needs a project of some sort, I firmly believe that, something that ties the years together which means it should be a big project, stretching your skills far beyond what you have to begin with, learning along the way, building your knowledge piece by piece and then, one day you finally lay down your tools and say, "there, it's done." You smile, you feel that sense of accomplishment, you consider it from all angles and you know you couldn't have done it any better. At the same time, it may have a few flaws, it might not be perfect and you recognize that even if no one else does, but at this time, with your skills, in this place, it's the best you could do. In the back of your mind you might already be planning the follow up correcting the shortcomings of this project, a real masterpiece without the slightest of imperfections, but that takes nothing away from this one, because an imagined or planned perfect is no match for something real and complete.
Every now and then we need to have one of those self checks, to see if we can do what we think we can, to find out if we're actually capable of pulling it off, turning an, "I could do that" into a, "Wow, I really did it."
Cal Newport, the author of So Good They Can't Ignore You, in his follow up book Deep Work says, "... you have to face the possibility that doing your best might not yet be good enough. That’s a tough dose of reality, but it is something you can work on and improve." Yes, you can, but you can't improve what you have not tried to do in the first place, you can't correct mistakes you've never made and the only way you'll ever know where you fall short is to test yourself against the task, the project, the real work in the real world.
I love seeing work like this, it makes me think and I hope it makes you think, too. If you're already working on a big project, great! Stay with it. If you haven't decided on one yet, maybe it's time you should. It could be anything, it doesn't have to be a restoration or even anything mechanical or related to motorcycles, but you need to make it a real test, something you'll be ready to proudly show and offer to the real world to judge. Will this be your year to start on the project to find out what you can really do? Are you ready to find out if all of those thoughts of "I could" are true? It's certainly way better than next year, in fact, right now is the best time of all. What do you say?