I love tools. I have a small woodworking shop and I started buying tools to enable me to build things over 25 years ago. I was on a budget, so I bought inexpensive tools. I would use them for a while, then they would break. They usually didn’t work quite like the ones on the woodworking shows on PBS from the beginning and, trying to learn from my mistakes, I decided not go cheap again–I would buy a slightly better one to replace the broken one! I would trek down to Home Depot and buy an upgrade. I would still get sub-par results and it would last a while longer but eventually, I had another useless tool.

One day I splurged when I came across a really great tool at a woodworking show in Atlanta. I bought it. One designed to last a lifetime. The kind you hand down to your kids. One that cost “too much”. Suddenly, I was able to get results like the woodworking guys on TV. But man, it cost a lot. Or did it?

The first tool was inexpensive. It cost less than $50. A year later, a ‘good’ upgrade was $125. Two or three years later, the best one was a little over $200. I spent $375 to get a really good $225 tool. If I had just bought the best one up front, I would have saved myself years of struggle, years of sub-par results and in the end would have SAVED $150!

Instead of doing it right the first time, I did it over. And over. And it cost me much more than if I had just done it right up front.

I learned a lot from my tool buying experience. I was using this principle in nearly every area of my life. I started to notice myself taking shortcuts and then having to “do it over” the right way. Then I consciously started doing things right the first time. It was really easy. Before I would undertake a task, I started asking myself “What is the right way to do this?” And then I would do it. My work become better immediately. It didn’t matter if it was a chore around the house or a project at work. I started paying attention to the details and doing things the right way up front. It saved time (over the long run), it saved money (over the long run) and it saved a lot of frustration (all along the way). There were a lot of times in the past that I did things ‘half way’ that caused me frustration. I have never gotten frustrated doing something the right way. Not one time. Buying one tool really changed the way I led my life.

John Wooden is credited with saying: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again?”

Simon Sinek, in his inspirational 2011 book ‘Start with Why’ includes the following:

There is a wonderful story of a group of American car executives who went to Japan to see a Japanese assembly line. At the end of the line, the doors were put on the hinges, the same as in America. But something was missing. In the United States, a line worker would take a rubber mallet and tap the edges of the door to ensure that it fit perfectly. In Japan, that job didn’t seem to exist. Confused, the American auto executives asked at what point they made sure the door fit perfectly. Their Japanese guide looked at them and smiled sheepishly. “We make sure it fits when we design it.” In the Japanese auto plant, they didn’t examine the problem and accumulate data to figure out the best solution—they engineered the outcome they wanted from the beginning. If they didn’t achieve their desired outcome, they understood it was because of a decision they made at the start of the process.

When the Japanese car and the American car were delivered to the customer, the doors on both cars fit. But the doors that were not as well engineered required an additional step in the process. There was at least one extra skilled employee required for each line on each shift. There was a need to buy mallets that would not damage the doors as they were being adjusted. Not designing the door to fit properly during the design stage created extra work and extra expense down the line.

Whether you are making cars, renovating a closet or building an office tower, you will never regret doing things right the first time. Doing it right eliminates the need to do it over. The bad news is that when you get to the point of needing to doing something over, you have little choice. You really HAVE to do it. Often times, have to pay someone to do it over. If the door doesn't fit properly, it HAS to be repaired before the car can be sold. You usually have fewer options when you have to do something under duress than you had when you made the initial decision(s). To get great results, you will eventually invest the time, money, headaches, etc… in the project anyway, so go ahead and do it right from the very beginning. 

To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “You can always count on people to do the right thing — after they've tried everything else.”

If you have struggled with doing things over, make a commitment to start doing things the right way the first time. People will immediately recognize a difference in you and your work.