When to Throw the Ball Away: Lesson Learned from a Sideline Pass

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run . . .”
— Kenny Rogers

Ahhh. We’ve all been there. That point where you have to throw in the towel on a project, walk away and try again. I recently hit that moment during a milk painting adventure. What saved it from the Shelf of Forgotten Projects was a sideline pass by Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.

Milk Painting FailMilk painting uses an ancient organic paint containing basic ingredients to capture a variety of modern, trendy, antique and textured looks on everything from furniture to frames to old jewelry boxes. It is the cornerstone of the Shabby Chic design movement and my new obsession.

I have painted tables, chairs, mirrors and picture frames. But I was looking to take my painting hobby to the next level by painting a wooden tray and using transfer gel to add a graphic design to the interior of the tray.

Don’t be fooled. Not all creative projects are equal in their level of difficulty.

I sanded the tray, applied a base coat of white paint and then a layer of brilliant orange. I sanded down the orange layer a bit to reveal the white here and there for a bit of distressing effect. So far, so good.

Or that was up until the last step with the transfer gel. Perhaps I applied it wrong or too heavy. Maybe I rushed the last bit where you wipe off the paper. In any case, the image came off with the paper or at least what I could get off the tray without seriously chipping away.

Milk Painting FailI was disappointed to say the least. Here was a project that I had envisioned, spent three days executing, only to see it fail within the last step. There was hope and time invested in something that ended up on the top shelf in my work room.

Until inspiration struck during a Seahawks game.

“Wilson knows when to toss it away, when to abandon the game plan and give it another try,” the announcer said after a sideline pass.

#3 Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, is a man under pressure. The entire defensive line is fighting to get their hands on him and he is surveying teammates to see who is available for a pass. Often times, he is .01 seconds from being turfed by the opposing team when he tosses the pigskin towards the sidelines — narrowly avoid the sack.

While many would see this as him giving up a down, others see it as a mark of good leadership. Quarterbacks find their focus narrows when executing a play, to the point that they are willing to go to extremes to make the play work. They don’t want to give up the play. This often results in a sack or, worse, an interception for they are forced to throw it before anyone is ready.

The power move in these situations isn’t sticking it out to the point of fail or success. It is knowing the moment when you are about to surrender yards and advancement is no longer in the cards. It is knowing when you can fold and line up for another go. It is knowing that the magic isn’t happening this round, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be there for the next down.

Every attempt that is made in business or on a project offers a lesson. In some cases, as with the transfer gel, I learned a bit about what not to do for the future project. In others, it is how the next play should be executed for success. In short, use your downs to further your personal development. It just means that you needed an extra down to get it right. Line up. Fire away. Fail. Try again.

That being said, I have a tray that needs sanding for another go of milk painting.

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