Sometimes you have to shave the Yak


At some point in your life you may have to shave a yak. This sheering realization often scampers by you at a time of great inconvenience. You’ll probably be doing some task of moderate importance, only to realize the deed cannot be done until you’ve stepped through a series of smaller, tedious tasks requiring something obscure like yak hair to complete the idiot loop.

And the next thing you know you’re at the local petting zoo shaving a yak.

Backtrack on this yak -- he's already been shaved.

Backtrack on this yak — he’s already been shaved.

I faced a yak attack the other day while doing something computery. This is what my brain was thinking as the shaving (nearly) went down.

This is my brain on yak:

  1. I want to use a cool new feature in Evernote, so I need to update my Evernote app.
  2. To update Evernote I need to upgrade my iPhone to iOS 7.
  3. To upgrade to iOS 7 I need to backup my iPhone.
  4. To backup my iPhone I need to update iTunes on my laptop.
  5. To update iTunes on my laptop I need to restart my computer.
  6. My computer battery is low on juice, so I need to plug in my laptop.
  7. I forgot my power cable and I’m sitting in a coffee shop 45 minutes away from home. I could buy a new power adapter at the Future Shop next door, but that’ll cost me $75 bucks.
  8. I hear yak fur is a great power source for Apple devices. I should source a Himalayan bovine, but I’m on deadline and that new Evernote feature would have been awesome if only I had enough yak fur to power my dang laptop.

In this instance I put the razor down and opted to let the furry beast be, because sometimes you shouldn’t shave the yak. Sometimes you need to find a better way around the shearing. And sometimes you need to get a good grip on the clippers, let the fuzzy fur fly, and choke on the hairballs. Some yaks need a good hair cut.

Yak Attack: I may need an electric shaver.

Yak Attack: I may need an electric shaver.

I told this to a reader after he emailed to complain about the work required to build a budget. Welcome to my reader’s yak:

Hi Kerry,
I downloaded your budget spreadsheet and read your How to make a budget series. I enjoyed reading it. I’m discouraged because before I can do my budget I need a few months of receipts and statements to track my money. I don’t keep my receipts. Should I wait a month before doing the budget and track my spending? Thanks.

Classic yak. Also, procrastination. My response after explaining yak shaving:

Dear Reader,
No, you shouldn’t wait. You should get an electric razor in one hand and a vat of shaving cream in the other and find that paperwork hiding in that woolly yak. What, you don’t have credit card statements, banking records, and a few receipts kicking around the house? Bite the bullet and shave your yak already. You can always update your numbers with better numbers as the month mooooves on. You have the tools, so use them. You can do it.

Love, Kerry

The decision to shave a yak shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ask yourself, “What is the cost to not tackling this problem right now?” If the cost is great, like not understanding your finances, then tackle that yak. If the cost is small, like skipping an unimportant software upgrade this second, then put the razor down.

The biggest yaks tend to trample your sanity when you’re striving for perfection. Since ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist, find a less than perfect way to shed your yak and live with it.

So where am I going with this?

I’ve delayed updating my computery devices for days, so my yak is calling. Please excuse me while I download software, restart computers, and install new operating systems — that mammoth needs a good clipping and I might be shearing for hours.

Too many devices to update, restore, upgrade.

Too many devices to update, restore, upgrade.

I really hope the new Evernote is worth the hassle ’cause fur is gonna fly.



  1. Levi Blackman November 3, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Hilarious way to look at procrastination and prioritizing you todo list. My wife is going to think I am a weirdo once I start talking about Yaks all the time πŸ™‚

  2. Ruth Cooke November 4, 2013 at 5:32 am

    One of your best posts, Kerry! Love the image, and it’ll be useful from now on when I’ve got something to do that has a lot of steps. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy razors.

  3. Jody November 4, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Out of curiosity, what is the feature in the new Evernote that you want to use–in case I need to sharpen my shears fast? This was a great post!

  4. Kerry November 4, 2013 at 6:57 am

    @Jody I wanted to add multiple images to an Evernote note in a single swoop. Also, I wanted the new user interface across devices. πŸ™‚

  5. shipcarpenter305 November 4, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Staying true to frugal. Fired ATT/iphone. No app’s! Cheap flip phone and $25/mo unlimited everything.

  6. Catherine November 4, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I thought you were going someplace else with this – I’m a spinner (wool, not bikes) and yak down is a luxury fiber that is extremely valuable! I thought maybe this would be an allegory leading to the idea of mining overlooked assets for hidden value. Because if you had a yak, you would have a mint on the hoof. This is also true of Musk Oxen, BTW, in case you want to build a herd.

  7. Ajka November 4, 2013 at 7:48 am

    I am not familiar with Evernote but I am in yak-shearing mode at least 8.5 hours a day since I work as a technical analyst.
    So when I need to explain to somebody that the root of his problem is Z, I automatically think that in order to fix X he will need to look at his Y settings, increase the X parameter, make sure this value does not break W and potentially also V.
    Easy peasy beautiful!

  8. Rahel Bailie November 4, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I call this The Law of Prerequisites, and it has replaced Murphy’s Law as the common thread of my life. In fact, I cannot secure my Samsung II with a lock code because having forgotten the code, I would have to do a factory reset, which means I would have back up all my data, which means I would have to find an IT professional who would be able to figure out why Kies doesn’t work with this phone. And so it goes …

  9. Ruth November 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for this yakkety yak! Soooo true!
    I have ridden a yak, eaten yak and own a yak tail flywhisk.
    My daughter has a tshirt which states, ‘Procrastinators! Leaders of tomorrow!’
    And it’s a bit like the children’s book, ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’.
    Keep on keeping on!
    Cheers from Ruth

  10. Maripat November 5, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Kerry, this made me laugh all the way through.
    @Ruth, I love the Law of Prerequisites. I’m using both of these!

    In my house, when someone starts down this path, my response is always “…and now it’s a project” πŸ™‚


  11. Leslie November 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Ahh yes… love it!

    And I love my budget and how dedicated I have been to keeping it and constantly tweeking it. My spreadsheet is pretty danged anal, if I do say so myself, but it makes sense to me and keeps me accountable to me! What more could I ask for?

    Leslie <

  12. Selka November 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Your description of your coffee shop thought process reminds me of a piece by the Canadian comedian Lorne Elliott on trying to do something, but the tool you need for the job needs fixing, then so does the tool you need to fix the first tool…and next thing you know “you’re in the backyard knapping flint”!
    So my phrase for your yak-shaving has been variations on “getting stuck in the backyard knapping flint.” Man, I hate those times:)

  13. Andee November 14, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Aw, shucks. After reading this post’s title, I momentarily thought you were about to delve into an awesomely-awkward, often tricky, and rarely blatantly-discussed lady-hygeine topic. Briefly disheartened upon realizing the falsity of my assumption, I read on anyway. I’m glad that I did because I found your post to be timely, highly relatable, endearingly witty, and motivational. A few sentences in, I had completely forgotten about my original assumption… That is, until I went to give you props via comment, and thought I would grace you with a bit of my own mind’s inner-workings.
    ::Bookmarking SquawkFox to my “Blogs I heart” folder::
    Love, your newest reader,
    Andee Glock
    P.S. Feel free to write about frugal methods for maintaining the lady mane (that I wish I hadn’t unintentionally associated with “the yak”) and rest assured that you will still have at least one avid reader afterwards! =]

  14. Kerry November 15, 2013 at 7:50 am

    @Andee Wax on, wax off. It’s true, being a mammal is a hairy business. I can’t deny I’ve ‘thought’ about attacking the topic of the “lady mane” with a budgetary approach. I think the wit of your comment may just entice me to write something witty too. Thank you for the chuckle. Love, Kerry

  15. William Charles November 20, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    It’s funny how much time people will put into preparing for something (e.g reading your budget series) but when it comes time to take action they find a reason to stall.

  16. Mad Dog, English Men, I’m OK and #Shoutouts November 22, 2013 at 4:14 am

    […] at Squawkfox gives us the oddest titled post Sometimes you have to Shave the Yak, read it and figure it […]

Leave A Comment