When people ask about the work I’m doing on The Hague House Project, they often ask where I learned to do that kind of work and if I always considered myself handy.
The fact is no. In fact, if you would have asked me 15 years ago, I would have said I’m not very handy at all. I grew up mostly living in apartments. My family that did own houses were professional people who hired for any work they needed done. I had no role models doing this kind of work and no idea where to begin myself beyond pulling out a phone book and making some calls.
“So, how did you end up learning how do to that kind of work then?”
In 2011, my wife and I purchased a house for $7200.00. It was vacant for a long time and in need of a lot of work. The thing is, when you buy a house for $7200.00 you can make a lot of mistakes — expensive ones even — and not have to worry too much about it. You can just dive in and try things. A house that cheap removes the greatest barrier the “not handy” people like me have about such things… Fear.
That house taught me a lot. It taught me that if you don’t know how to do something there are a lot a ways to learn. These days, for anything you might not know, there’s probably hundreds of YouTube videos and dozens of books one can check out of the library. You likely have a friend who is handy or, at least, has done that same something before. Maybe a local organization teaches classes on such things. You could even talk to a professional, explain that you’d like to hire them not to do the work, but to teach you. To walk you through the process so you can learn. Even if the extra time such a thing may add to the job increases the cost, the money will be well spent because knowledge is almost always worth the price.
With a lot of trial and error and effort, that house is the one my Dad lives in.
After a while, you learn that most of this stuff just kind of makes sense. Once you take apart a rope and sash window and see how it works, it’s easy to figure out how to put it back together by reversing those steps and then you know how to fix any other rope and sash window you encounter.
If anyone asks, I now can confidently say, “Yeah, I’m pretty handy.”
I’ve come to realize that this approach, removing that barrier of fear and approaching things with the goal of learning, translates to many other things.
When it comes to technology, my knowledge largely comes from my lack of fear over trying new things and pressing buttons just to see what they do. My consulting clients ask me where I learned how fix that thing that they called me in for – even if I may not have encountered their specific issue before. I explain that the main thing is my lack of fear. That I’m willing to just try things to see if I can figure it out. Push buttons just to see what they do. And, in doing so, I can now fix that problem should I ever encounter it again.
I’ve found the more I just get over my fear of trying new things and just dive in, it is more often that I’m successful and learn a new skill. It is rare that I run into something that I can’t find a way to solve.
Perhaps, you’ll find the same thing if you try.