The Cedar Chest

More and more, I find that life imitates work and work imitates life.

I dabble in antiques and old furniture, sometimes turning trash into… well… not treasure….just better trash.  Anyway 20 years ago, I didn’t realize this would be my hobby.

In the fall of 1995, I get a call from my grandmother, “Robby, a neighbor put an old cedar chest out by the dumpster.  Do you want it?”  Grandma was always looking out for us since we were a young family.  I said yes, and my wife and I went and picked it up.

This was not the prettiest of cedar chests.  In fact, it was dusty and scratched, but it served an immediate need which was storage for quilts and we put pictures and other personal memorabilia in the bottom drawer.  Over the years, that chest was moved from room to room and we never did anything to make it any more attractive.  Eventually, we got tired of looking at it, and it ended up in storage.

A couple of months ago, we were cleaning out the storage area and came across it.  At this point, I was tempted to just get rid of it.  While it served an immediate need, at the time, it never got any better looking on its own.  In fact, it probably got uglier, over time.


I decided that maybe I’d put a little time into it and see what was under the years of nicotine buildup, dust, and old brown finish.

I go buy a random orbital sander because “I needed it”…of course.  I take the handles off and get to sanding.  What began to appear was beautiful, decades old cedar wood.  The smell of cedar began to fill the air and the chest began to not look like the same piece it once was.  Because I spent some time with it, and on it, it began to show a character and a promise I had never seen in it before.  I’m grateful I put some time into seeing what I actually had after all this time.  It now sits proudly in its new spot in the house, in all its newfound glory, living up to its fullest potential.


Not every piece turns out like this chest.  Sometimes, you can scrape, sand, nail, glue and paint until your arms hurt and you can’t bring an old piece back to life.  Only after you have put the effort into, and your wife tells you “enough is enough”, can you make the call to put it in the burn pile or drive it to the dump.

Many times we hire people and expect them to be perfect OR we know there are imperfections and we never take the time to help them improve.  We expect them to just get better over time.  We let them flounder in mediocrity, never living up to their true potential, much like I did this chest for 20 years.  We tire of the mediocrity and terminate them or, worse yet, they don’t feel valued and successful so they quit.  We have to put the time in to make sure they are the right fit for our company and help them to reach their full potential.  It won’t always turn out the way you want it to, but when it comes time to part ways, at least you know you aren’t getting rid of a diamond in the rough.  If it works out, your Grandmother’s call wasn’t in vain.


Written by Rob Woodruff
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