Earlier this year, I had a wood burning stove installed in my house. I’ve always wanted a real fire, but growing up we only ever had the electric type. So I was really pleased to finally get a proper fire. They’re pretty to look at, but wood burning stoves also generate a lot of heat. You can burn coal, but I’m a bit of a environmentalist and so I’ll stick to burning wood. And I really couldn’t wait to get fires going and heating up the downstairs of the house.

There was just one problem. I couldn’t build a fire! OK, not true.  I was in Cubs and Scouts when I was younger, and so I knew how to build a fire and get it going to cook on, but I’ve come to find out that a wood burning stove is entirely different. I couldn’t get them to stay alight, and when I did the stove didn’t get particularly hot. This was disappointing, especially as I had looked forward to getting the fires roaring.

So, after a bit of thought,  I turned to Google and read up on some articles from the Forestry Commission about wood burning stoves. These articles were a little dry. So dry in fact I could’ve used them for fire wood (boom boom.) But they did help me, and so I bought a book about how to light fires. Now just think about that for a moment: a book. About lighting fires. The first thing man mastered after how to fall out of a tree, and I needed to buy a book on it. But you know what? It was informative. Very informative. And it turned out I was making many mistakes. But I corrected these and since then I’ve been able to get the stove so hot that the chimney breast in the room upstairs gets very warm indeed.

So when something new appears that is apparently familiar, take a step back and see if it is the way that you see it: at work recently we were discussing a new data model, something I have done before, and my initial thoughts were that the absolute basic model was the way to go to minimise the changes to the current database and not bloat it with too many objects. But upon hearing the ideas of the other people in the meeting it became clear that I had under thought the process. Now we’re talking about several tables, lookup tables, static data, a view and a couple of stored procedures to deliver a really complete story. And even now I’m thinking of having a quick flick through another book I have in my library to verify that what we’re doing is indeed a smart way to go.

Look, it’s easy to assume that when you’ve been doing something long enough you’re good enough to do it. But it’s always prudent to pause and assess the situation first. Don’t rush in to a situation and assume the position of knowing the solution based upon your previous experience. Maybe you do need to go and pick up a book on the subject, even if you’re familiar with it already. This is just my advice based off, ironically, my experience.

But then, what do I know: I’m the guy that had to read a book on how to light a fire…..