The weekend is a time of rest and relaxation, or so I’ve been told. Mine is usually filled with household chores and some sort of DIY activity. This past weekend, my big project was repairing my trusty tower fan that I’ve had for 8 years. It turns out a bearing is on its way out in the motor and it was rattling something fierce. So I spread out in the basement with the fan, a screwdriver, and my trusty can of WD-40.
That little blue and yellow can of WD-40 has been a real lifesaver over the years. Any DIY’er will attest that two of the most important tools in your toolbox are WD-40 and a roll of quality duct tape. I think those unassuming cans also have hidden lessons that we can apply to everyday life and our money.
WD-40 started out as a product from the Rocket Chemical Company. They were trying to create a water-displacement oil to protect rockets from rust while they were waiting for launch. Besides, once you get into the freezing cold of space, the last thing you want is water near any joints or seams. Water expands as it freezes and that is actually one of the most destructive forces on the planet! So goal in mind, their company of three chemists started working on coming up with a way of doing them. It took them several tries. But on the 40th formula, they figured it out. That’s right, WD-40 wasn’t meant to be a consumer name, but simply a working title that showed that it was the 40th attempt at a Water Displacement oil.
WD-40 Lessons for Life
If at first you don’t succeed, try try again
It took the chemists at Rocket Chemical Company forty tries to get a formula that worked they way they wanted it. Considering the number of cans sold each year today, can you imagine what would have happened if they had given up after a couple tries?
Lesson 1: Perseverance is more important than knowledge. You can always learn more, but not if you give up.
Multiple uses can be found for almost everything
On its face, it doesn’t get more single-task oriented than WD-40. The product wound up being such a success, that, in 1963, just 16 years after work first began on the product, the Rocket Chemical Company renamed themselves to the WD-40 Company. It was an obvious idea, since it was their only product on the market at the time.
But while the company only sells one product (now in a variety of cans however), the product itself has hundreds of uses. The ones that people are the most familiar with are a penetrating oil and a lubricant. The reason that 4 out of 5 homes in America have at least one can of WD-40 is because of its ubiquitous use at quieting squeaky hinges.
Lesson #2: Don’t fall into the specialist trap. Even if you do specialize, make sure that you can use that knowledge and talent in different ways to make you marketable to more people.
WD-40 Lessons for Money
Sometimes the low-cost solution works as well as higher priced items
DIY enthusiasts will sometimes rant about products that “work better” than WD-40. But those products aren’t a household name and WD-40 is. Why is that? Because it’s cheap! A 12 oz. can costs about 5 bucks and will last for years of casual use. The next cheapest product on the market is white lithium grease, which can sell for twice as much and is only a lubricant. Hmm, twice the cost for a fraction of the potential for use?
Lesson #3: Don’t waste your money on the most expensive product when a cheaper product will do what you need.
Until recently, the WD-40 Company made only one product: WD-40. In the past couple years, they have begun to roll out a “Specialist” line that has formulations for other uses, taking individual uses for their original product and adjusting the formula to specialize in just that.
Even before then, they started selling the spray in a variety of cans. Everybody recognizes the standard can with the removable red straw that you always lost. Now, there is a can with the straw built-in. It folds down out-of-the-way and can never be lost. There is a can with no straw for when you need a wide spray instead. There is even an applicator pen, and it can also be bought by the jug!
Lesson #4: One of the biggest keys to financial success is to diversify. Tastes change. Fads come and go. What is popular today may be a pariah tomorrow. When selling a product, or simply investing in companies that do so, you want to spread your bets to maximize your chances of long-term success.
What life lessons have you gotten from everyday tools and objects around the house?
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