The Pros and Cons of Doing It Yourself

I am, admittedly, reluctantly mechanically inclined.  My DIY career started off in a fitful, hesitant manner.  I did things (as many of us do) out of necessity (translation: save money).  I did not always enjoy working on cars, dishwashers or toilets…actually, I still don’t like toilets.

“Uuugh…”

But I work on them.  I’d rather be under one of my kids’ cars, or unclogging the dishwasher, or even up to my elbows in a toilet tank than call a professional.  I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years buying over-the-counter parts and putting them on myself.  Money can be a big motivator.  Let’s see…have a “certified pro” fix it for $500, or buy $100 worth of parts and spend an hour or two on a Saturday getting my hands a little dirty?

It’s A Nasty Job, But Somebody’s Gotta Do It

Fixing things around the house wasn’t always easy.  In fact, it didn’t really come naturally.  Oh, I could figure out what was wrong easy enough.  I could think through how things had to come apart and go back together.  But, this is the great difference between academic and hands-on knowledge.  Knowing and doing are two very different things.  I learned the hard way that, especially with cars, it rarely goes the way you expect.

Maybe you glanced through a Hayne’s repair manual you picked up at the local auto parts store.  Or you’ve watched a YouTube video.  They make it look so easy.  So you think, “ah, give me an hour and I’ll have both front brake discs and pads changed on my kid’s car.”  That, my friend, is fantasy.  In reality, an hour and a half later when you’re just getting the first side put back together, and you’re muttering to yourself, and the occasional wrench goes flying across the garage accompanied by a much louder, far more emotional outburst, you’re thinking, “what did I do wrong?  This should’ve gone so much easier than it did!”  Welcome to the world of DIY.

If you’ve only occasionally tried to fix something around the house yourself and had a bad time of it, you’re not alone.  There are those who are truly gifted with their hands.  They can knock out a repair job like nothing the first time through; they can really “spin a wrench”, as the saying goes.  Then there’s most of the rest of us.

But take heart!  Just like anything, practice makes perfect.  Not that we want stuff to break around the house so we can chalk up more training hours, but it’s a simple fact.  Unless you’re naturally talented at something, it’ll take several times before you’re really proficient at general around-the-house repair.

The Benefits of Doing It Yourself

Besides the money savings, if it takes a while to get proficient at it, why do it at all?  Most people have a budget for emergencies, or car repairs.  Plus, it’s so much nicer to have someone take care of it for you, isn’t it?

Believe it or not, there ARE tangible benefits to DIY.  For one, your problem solving improves.  It also aids creativity.  And, if you find that you like fixing things yourself, it can become a hobby and even a weekend side gig.  Not to mention, you’re learning something new and keeping active at the same time.

A former neighbor of mine is a certified Honda mechanic at a local dealership – he can really spin a wrench – and he’ll take several side jobs a month for a little extra cash.  He’ll even go to people’s homes, if they can’t get their cars to him.  He’s helped me out a time or two.

DIY time can mean together time

My current neighbor, who bought the house of my mechanic friend, is a builder and an expert at home improvement projects.  He spent a couple of weekends helping me rebuild our deck from the joists up.  He just loves to stay busy, and he likes helping people.  Not such a bad thing, eh?

The Co$t of DIY

But…don’t you have to have a lot of nice tools and equipment to do a lot of repairs?  No, not really.  It depends on what you’re doing.  Most plumbing jobs require just a few simple tools.

For example, when I work on our slow, stubborn drains, the only thing I need is a pair of regular pliers or small channel-locks, and a long screwdriver.  Our plumbing is all PVC under the sinks, so I can easily hand-loosen the joints to remove the trap and pipe from the sink drain.  The screwdriver is actually used to shove the paper towel through to clear out all the gunk.  You can use a butter knife or any similar long object.

Now, the garage is another story.  I’ve put some money into my tools for car repair.  But…I still did it economically.  I have hardly any name-brand equipment.  The vast majority of my tools, both hand and power, have come from Harbor Freight.  If you haven’t been to Harbor Freight, look up the closest one to you and go wander through.  It’s a veritable toy store for the DIY-er.

Both of my tool chests came from Harbor, as well as my floor jack and my electric impact wrench.  I have an old reciprocating saw that, if you believe the reviews, is cheap plastic junk that doesn’t last more than a few jobs.  But I’ve had that thing for years now…I’ve used it to cut suspension components off of our cars.  And it’s still running strong, for less than half of the name brand competition.

The weaponry of the weekend warrior’s arsenal

Harbor Freight has really increased the quality of their lines of power tools recently, and they have some good quality products that rival Snap-on, Milwaukee and other top brands.  And they’re still much cheaper than the big names.  Everything in my garage was bought at a fraction of what I would’ve paid if I’d gone name brand.

Are there downsides to DIY?  Sure, a few obvious ones.  Such as…

  • You Have To Buy Your Own Tools: If you don’t have many tools, you have to go out and get them.  This is especially true for the car repair side of DIY.  Like I mentioned earlier, this is where my biggest investment is.  And I can’t count the number of times I had to stop what I was doing and run back to the store to get just the *right* sized socket or wrench for something I encountered further in.
  • You Could Make It Worse: Then there’s this elephant in the room – if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re liable to mess it up even worse, which could mean a very costly professional repair (or replacement). 
  • Time Is Not On Your Side: Doing it yourself takes time, especially the first time or two you do a job.  Like I said, you don’t get good until you’ve paid your dues.  I’m much faster now at most around-the-house jobs than I was when I first started out.  But I still sometimes make mistakes that cost time.

Try It, You Might Like It

Despite the few drawbacks, everyone should give some DIY a try.  The benefits outweigh the negatives. The biggest, most obvious benefit is the money savings over having a professional do it.  But the other benefits can be just as positive – learning a new skill, improving problem-solving thinking, even finding a new hobby that’s useful as well as stress-relieving.  You might just surprise yourself and enjoy it.  And, you can use some of that hard-saved cash to spend on something fun.

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Is Reading One Better Than the Other?

TO BE honest, I was surprised at what I found when I first started researching this topic.  By searching the simple “reading fiction vs. non-fiction” query, I was inundated with far more results indicating reading fiction was better for you than reading non-fiction.  Yes, I tried reversing it (“reading non-fiction…”); the results were the same.  It seems public opinion – and a good amount of research – leans more toward fiction literature being better for your brain than, say, a biography or travelogue.

In order to better understand this question, we must first understand what we hope to gain from our reading.  We must also understand what each type of literature can offer.

Not Much Of A Reader?  Pick Your Poison, Then.

Before you click away to something more interesting – “I’m really not much of a reader…”, consider this: reading in general greatly improves your brain function.  Reading helps you sleep better, have less stress, and have less mental decline later in life.

With those kinds of positives going for it, why not?  Many of us will do much harder things for the sake of our physical health: Force ourselves to eat things we don’t really like, go to the gym and exercise (when we’d really rather be home relaxing).  Reading is easy, you just sit there and do it!  It takes less willpower and energy than drinking a green, gross super-smoothie or hitting the weights for an hour…AND it can improve your quality of life.

A Tale Of Two Stories

But back to the original question – to Fiction, or not to Fiction?  For those of you looking to expand your intellectual skill set, reading fiction helps to develop empathy, problem solving, adaptiveness and theory of mind, among other highbrow, academic traits.

But…you can’t beat non-fiction for boosting productive brainpower…here’s where type As rejoice.  From learning valuable life lessons to concentration to you’ll just be flat-out smarter, non-fiction is a fountain of educational possibilities.

Non-fiction gives us practical enlightenment.  Fiction provides the abstract knowledge that we need to be real, well-rounded people.  Sixteen years ago, Daniel Pink wrote in his book A Whole New Mind that we had moved from the Industrial Age (factory workers) to the Information Age (knowledge workers), and were moving once more into the Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers).

Employers are putting as much emphasis on associates with creative and empathetic skills as any technical skills.  I’ve personally seen in my own career journey: the practical skills of the job can be learned, but you can’t provide on-the-job training for people skills.  You either have them or you don’t.

Working in automotive quality for 20 years, I’ve had times where I’ve been able to accomplish as much or more with diplomacy and empathy than with statistics and number-crunching.  A phone call, and especially a face-to-face meeting with a distraught customer can do more to defuse a major issue than sitting at a desk and sending an e-mail with a report attached.  Why?  Because they want to know you care.

When you call and they hear a reassuring voice; or better, when you show up and they see your kind, understanding face, you’ve just taken the world’s weight off their shoulders.  You sit down and talk it out with them.  The problem solving is secondary; it happens as a natural part of the conversation.  But it’s the conversation, the contact, that matters.  And reading fiction can help develop those intangible, abstract skills that have become so highly sought after.

My Recommendation

When I was younger, I devoured fiction.  I thought non-fiction was too stuffy and boring.  As I grew, I developed an affinity for “realistic fiction” in the form of Michael Crichton.  If you’re not familiar, think Jurassic Park.  He wrote some amazing novels, usually backed up by real scientific research.  He work was really a fusion of the two genres.

Since about 2017, I’d switched course and read almost exclusively non-fiction.  Now, as of 2021, I’m consuming a balanced diet.  I’ve typically got one to two non-fiction books going, and then I relax before bed with a good work of fiction…currently, a Dean Koontz novel. The non-fiction is educational, for my own benefit. I love learning new things, always have. The fiction is to help me relax, and to (re)develop those intangible skills that make us better people. The world is sorely lacking in creativity and empathy, and we can all do better at developing those traits.

What’s In A Blog, Anyway?

This is my first official blog post, so…

“Please excuse the crudity of this model.”

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Bill Klubeck

Personal

Introduction (a little bit about me)

I have wanted, needed to get into this amazing world of freelance writing and online blogging. I’ve been working and dreaming of this off and on for years now. I’ve loved writing since I was young – I attended a Young Author’s workshop in sixth grade. But as many childhood dreams go, I tried – and failed – to make a go of it. In high school, I snagged a spot on the school newspaper by getting into the Publications class a year early…they generally accepted sophomores and above, but with some clout from my big brother, the teacher let me join as a freshman.

Problem was, I didn’t know what to write about. Oh, I had a great grasp of the English language, people teased me about my extensive vocabulary. But the creative juices just weren’t flowing yet. My brother was the creative one, I was more technically minded…although I didn’t know that just yet. I bombed the Publications class, set that dream aside and took up other side-track pursuits until I ended up in college for engineering. And so I’ve worked in an 8 to 5 quality engineering role for the last 20 years. A few years ago, beset by stress from my position at a former company, I rediscovered my love for writing. I didn’t jump in right away. Years as an engineer, especially in the quality field, taught me the importance of preparedness and doing it right the first time. I didn’t want to jump in chock full of passion and excitement, but empty on the knowhow. That’s a sure way to bomb out, and if you’re not prepared for rejection and failure, my dream could’ve very well died a second time, for good.

Ready, Set…

So I prepared. I studied copywriting, and have a couple examples of that work on the front page of this site. I even went out and hunted for some freelance gigs, pitched my craft to several local companies. Didn’t get a bite, but that’s part of the deal, I know. And I wrote. I’ve written a couple of articles that I published on LinkedIn (they’re also on this site). I started keeping a Word file journal at the beginning of 2010. I kept entries fairly steadily for about two years, some rough life stuff came up, and I set it aside for several years trying to get everything back on track. I started up again in late 2018, and it’s only increased since. My journaling, up until a few months ago, was nearly daily and between 200 and 300 words per entry. I’ve been writing daily since mid-December, hitting a 700 word average.

Go!

So now it’s time. I know it is. I’ve felt something inside that keeps stirring, not the typical come-and-go fits of inspiration that can fall off as suddenly as they hit, leaving you with days, even weeks of writer’s block and no ambition. I try not to ruminate, play the “what if” game. Sure, I wish I’d done this ten, fifteen years ago. But I didn’t. I was busy working and supporting my family, raising five kids. I am not going to waste time and energy regretting the past, only looking forward.

I’m already doing pretty good. I’ve got a lot done in the last month. I’ve had the WordPress site, but now I’m making it more legitimate with my own domain name (and blog posts). I got the final project of my copywriting completed, submitted and reviewed. Now I’m ready to take the certification exam for that. And reading, learning. Never stop learning.

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll be getting more content posted soon. Finding my niche, settling in. Peace.