Years ago I lived in Dallas, Texas, and had a good friend there by the name of Ed Rawls. He was an architect and was great at his profession. I was amazed by some of the buildings he was able to create in his mind and then put on paper. Ed was a very gifted individual and a wonderful businessman as well.
One day when Ed and I were talking about a personal situation, he asked me, “Do you think this requires loose specs or tight specs?” At that moment I had no idea what he was talking about. It must have been obvious by the puzzled look on my face. He then proceeded to explain.
He said that when an architect designs a drawing for a building, he signifies in the drawings which part of the building has loose specs and which part has tight specs. “Loose specs” means that the builder has some leeway in the project. If he needs to modify the plans, or adjust them slightly, he may do so and still be within the building code. When the building is inspected, as long as the builder has stayed within certain parameters of the project, he will still be safely within the proper standards and codes.
Tight specs are another issue. Ed explained that “tight specs” simply means that there is no room for modification or adjustment. The builder must follow the drawings of the architect to the exact letter because of some specific code, rule or law.
That meeting was over thirty years ago and I have no idea what the original topic of our conversation was that day! However, I have never forgotten the illustration that Ed so vividly painted for me. His point was that some things in life have “loose specs.” We have a little bit of leeway. We can go one way or another and still be within the guidelines of good judgment, safety and protection. Other times, life requires “tight specs.” We must do things exactly the way they are supposed to be done, without any room for error, or we may find ourselves in a difficult situation down the road.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been involved in a situation and thought that it would be okay to have some loose specs, while other times I have been in situations that I thought required tight specs. Perhaps a couple of examples will help.
I fly somewhere almost every week. When I think about what time the airline flight is supposed to leave, I always consider it to be “tight specs”. In other words, if the plane is supposed to leave at 3:00 p.m., I know that I must check my bag, get to the gate and be ready to board the plane an hour before the flight takes off.
However, if I am going to dinner with friends someone may say, “Why don’t we all meet around 7:00 o’clock?” I consider that to be loose specs. I can get there a few minutes before 7:00 or a few minutes after 7:00. Either way, it will be okay.
If I borrow $10.00 from you for lunch and tell you that I will reimburse you after we get back to the office – that is loose specs. There is some flexibility in repaying you in the next couple of hours. However, if I take $10.00 from your wallet when you are not looking, that is a violation of tight specs: “Thou shalt not steal!” I am telling you – this word picture has helped me numerous times over the years!
In any given situation each of us must decide whether we have a little bit of leeway to be flexible or whether we should respond in a very specific manner. I can assure you that whenever there is a misunderstanding about “specs” there will be hurt feelings and an argument.
Even though I am not an architect, I know that this principle has been a powerful influence on my life. It is important to know when “loose specs” are appropriate and when “tight specs” are appropriate. I find that the more I apply this principle in my life, the healthier and wiser I become. I trust it will do the same for you.
Tip: Recognize the difference between “loose specs” and “tight specs”!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm