Measure Twice Cut Once

From the earliest project that I could remember, my father taught me the lesson of measuring twice and only cutting once.  I am not even sure when the lesson happened; I just remember it being ingrained in me in such a way that I measure twice cut oncenow say it to my son and even others near me when the shoe fits.  No, that is not a precursor to a posting full of sayings learned from my parents and grandparents.  Or is it? (As my son would ask just to be funny.)

Okay, to take a moment on this tangent, I do remember the cast iron pot stand in my grandmother’s kitchen that said “the hurrier I go the behinder I get” and no I don’t see the proper grammar or spelling in that either.  I also learned as teenager “any job worth doing, is worth doing well” which probably came from mowing the lawn.  In my case the two likely collided when my father caught me rushing through the lawn to get it done faster, and then having to do it a second time because too many blades of grass escaped the mower blade in my haste.
 
What is the point of measuring twice?  The inexperienced would say they already know how to measure, why do it again?  The point is in getting things right the first time and helping to prevent occasional errors.  It happens more than you might think.  Why, just the other day while playing soccer there was a penalty in the box (the 18 yard box in front of the goal) that results in a penalty kick in an infringement is made within those four lines.  In our haste we walked off the paces from the goal line and someone piped up that it did not look far enough from the goal line – sure enough, after pacing it off again we had gone 10 paces instead of the required 12.

In construction, not measuring twice may result in higher costs to finish the job due to mistakes that end up not being able to be used.  For example, this would be any piece of wood cut for a specific purpose that ends up being a bit too short due to an incorrect measurement.

In some situations there are tools to help us prevent the mistakes.  Like a well marked soccer field that has the spot where penalty kicks are taken from already marked.  With email communications, measuring twice would mean proofreading the email for spelling errors before sending – even then you may not find the error so there is a built in spell checker that you can turn on and have it done automatically for you – saving possible embarrassment or at the minimum a poor impression.

We are all guilty of rushing through a task just to get it completed and then learning that we made a mistake in the process.  In certain situations this is acceptable if not affecting a financial bottom line or life threatening in some way.  For companies that manufacture products for the public, or financial services firms that have regulations requiring perfection there are entire professions based on quality control or quality assurance that outline processes that ensure perfection of the outcome.

For our children this usually amounts to us reminding them to double check their homework before turning it in, or not rushing through a test without going back and revisiting their answers to ensure success.

Interestingly, now that I have Googled the phrase as I finish this post, there are books entitled Measure Twice Cut Once, there are several blogs with the title, a few constructions companies use it as their slogan or tag line, and countless articles and posts have used it as their opening topic.  So much for my originality – but the bottom line still holds true.  Taking the time to begin with the end in mind (borrowing from Covey), means the prudent course of action is to take steps to insure success.  Whether automated or manual, these steps might include proofing, double checking and of course, measuring twice before we cut.  In the end, it is less work for us and a better product or outcome for our efforts.

How smart our forefathers (and foremothers) were!  A stitch in time saves nine.  A penny saved is a penny earned.  Waste not want not.  I was surprised to find a site dedicated to phrases like this called the Cliche Site but the most surprising thing was that Measure Twice Cut Once was NOT on the list!  Of course, I submitted it via the submission feature on the site.

I wonder what phrase our children and our children’s children will quote in the future.

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