Thursday, April 12, 2007

Becoming a Jack of all Trades

I work with many PhD's that constantly tell me that they are not "handy" and just totally inept at fixing things in their homes. I don't buy it, I think they are just lazy - both mentally and physically.

I've owned real estate as an investment for about 11 years all together and have done just about every job imaginable in fixing the properties up. Before that I renovated 2 homes. I did not grow up as a skilled tradesman. My father went to school nights or worked and I spent most of my youth either babysitting for my 7 younger siblings or studying. (I attended a Prep school, so we did not have any shop or tech classes.) So I never did nor learned how to do any work that involved manual labor in regards to fixing houses.

These are the skills that I possess today:

  • electrical - any kind of wiring
  • plumbing - done it all
  • furnaces - installed them and the duct work
  • painting
  • kitchens - installed complete kitchens starting from 4 empty walls
  • replacement windows - piece of cake now :)
  • installing insulation
  • carpentry work
  • drywall and mud work
  • gutting - my favorite!

I could go on, but you get the idea. So how did I learn to do all these jobs? I remember the first house I bought. It needed an exterior paint job. After, wearing myself out scrapping old paint, I read about using heat guns to remove the old paint. I ended up catching the house on fire (the insulation under the siding caught on fire). Now I could have given up at that point and hired someone to paint all my houses, declaring myself as not "handy". But I persisted and learned how to do the job.

The same has been true with every job I have done since. In the early years of learning plumbing I constantly started fires when I sweat pipes together in tight quarter. And I am still making mistakes!! I have screwed up more jobs then most people have even tried. Then I fix it. (I see a lot of poor work that homeowners have done that they never bother to fix)

I think that the main difference between me and my colleagues that are not "handy" has to do with a willingness to figure out how to do something and to persist until I learn how to do it well. And this is a lesson for anything in life that I preach to my kids. You've got to be willing to do something poorly until you learn to do it well.

1 comment:

Seth said...

I haven't set anything on fire (yet), but I can definitely empathize with almost all of that.

People seem shocked when I mention refinishing hardwood floors myself or doing tile work, and all I can think is, umm, the fact that I can do any of this semi-competently should be proof enough that you or anyone else can do it, too.

Like you say, give yourself the leeway to screw something up (and fix it) enough times and you'll eventually get the hang of it.