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This article was published on June 12, 2020

How my amateur woodwork made me a better CEO

Would woodwork work for work?

How my amateur woodwork made me a better CEO
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

Whenever I have a free moment during weekends, I like to build things. I might make a cutting board out of discarded wood, or a chair, or something else that’s relatively easy to make, considering my limited skill set. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to create something tangible and personal. 

But it’s not just the act of creating that I like, I also enjoy learning stuff. There are countless videos of hardcore woodworkers explaining how to use every tool imaginable.

This is especially great since every now and then — while I’m trying to build something new — I can get stuck, not knowing how to proceed.

A particular type of job might be harder than I thought, or I might undertake something that seems extra challenging to do with the tools I have. I’ll find myself using a lot of force, and sweating and cursing out loud because things aren’t going the way I envisioned. 

I’ve learned to be aware of those moments and make sure to act on them, rather than just stick to my guns and try to push it through. Why? Because it usually means I’m using the wrong tool, or I’m using the tool wrong.

So as soon as I catch myself cursing under my breath, or I feel like I’m trying to lift something heavier than is good for me, I’ll pause and ask myself a simple question: did someone, somewhere find a more straightforward solution for the problem I’m trying to fix? And surely, 90% of the time, I’ll find exactly that. 

Basically, whenever I think, “There must be an easier way to do this,” it turns out there is — and someone else has found it. In fact, it seems arrogant to think you’re the first one trying to do the exact thing you’re doing. 

Now, I also try to apply those lessons to my management style and really any other aspect of my life. Not out of laziness, but in search of efficiency (although making it easier sure is a nice bonus for my laziness).

When I’ve struggled with a particular project or business problem, I’ve therefore often found myself in the same situation as with woodworking. There must be a logical conclusion, a more straightforward way, and a better tool to help me reach my goals. When I talk to other entrepreneurs, managers, or artists, it turns out there is. 

I won’t deny it’s pretty satisfying to use sandpaper to round the edges of a cutting board you’ve made yourself. But it’s also pretty great to discover that a router exists that does the job better and faster.

P.S. Here’s one of my chairs!


View this post on Instagram


I made a chair. #woodworking #fun #stillhaveallmyfingers

A post shared by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten (@boris) on

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for TNW’s newsletters here.

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