Often times, the only difference in a hunk of junk and a hotrod is timing and torque.

I have always been fascinated by engines. I appreciate the simplicity by which they operate, but also the precision of its parts. They say that there are only three things needed for an engine to function:

  1. Fuel
  2. Fire
  3. Compression

While that may be true to some extent, there are some things that aid in its function. The strength or support around the compression walls, the stress or force that is applied to each threaded bolt, and the timing. These things are important in my life and my environment as well- support, stress, and timing.

About five years ago, I overhauled a V-8 engine. I have very little mechanical skills, almost zero working knowledge of engines, and I am, overall, a pretty slow learner. However, I am persistent, determined, and I enjoy a challenge. With the help of YouTube, a Haynes manual, and about forty thousand F-bombs, I was able to remove the motor, disassemble it, perform the re-build, and get it put together again.

Upon getting everything back into place, I crossed my fingers and turned the key. The excitement was so great that I almost couldn’t stand it. As I rolled my wrist forward, turning the key in a clockwise fashion, I heard the solenoid click, the starter engage, the engine turned……and turned…and turned…and turned…and turned.


After countless hours of disassembling, cleaning and organizing parts, learning the different functions of foreign pieces, watching video, perusing the internet, and reading manuals, I had failed. Something was wrong with my engine. It was too complex of a situation for me to figure out. I was defeated. I felt so stupid. I felt so alone. I felt like I should have seen this coming. I felt like this was my entire life all wrapped up into one worthless hunk of metal.

I took a break, I gathered myself, I got some rest, and I played with the kids. Suddenly, as if God himself came down and playfully kicked me in the shin, it occurred to me that I had possibly overtightened the bolts to the rocker arms, not allowing the valves to close.

I retreated to the shop, like a man possessed. I made the necessary adjustments to my engine, and just like that, my project was complete. In the turn of the key, I had been rocketed from a dismal failure to a grateful being, who was humbly proud of himself, and appreciative of all the patience, guidance, and knowledge which had been given to me on this particular project. Life was good. My engine was firing.

It occurred to me that, while building the engine was a unique experience, it was also a metaphor of my yearly, monthly, and weekly life. It was a project that involved ignorance, energy, curiosity and drive. It involved passion and desire, and a will to succeed. It involved the possibility of failure and the frustrations that come with potential defeat. It involved the same things that come with going to the office, taking the stage, walking into the classroom, standing at the pulpit, or starting a family. It was just like everything else that we encounter everyday, it was a series of unknowns, and opportunities for growth, chances for failure, and various opportunities to succeed.

I feel that there was no mistake that I did not make in rebuilding my engine. I believe that I did everything backwards until the only option left was the correct one. The process of elimination- it is a frustrating way to learn, but if you are persistent enough it can be effective. I am convinced that of all the ways you can go about doing a particular job incorrectly, I did all of them first, at every level, at every stage of the project.

But in the end, it was of no count. It all worked out, and all of the failure was wiped clean with the shop rag of success. I could be proud of myself; she was firing on all cylinders. Throughout all of my ignorance, all of my frustrations, and all of my emotions, the only things standing between victory and failure was a little bit of torque and a tiny bit of timing.

Sometimes, I just need to ease up on the tension or bear down a touch harder. Maybe, adjust my approach just the tiniest amount. Sometimes what seems to be an enormous mountain of worthless garbage is a 45 degree turn from being a powerful, well-timed vehicle of performance, which rides on shiny wheels of success.

Don’t stop adjusting the bolts.

Keep fine tuning.

Study the parts.

Use the tools.

Fire up the engine.

Peace, Love, and all things, Beef related,