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Knowing how to do it vs Learning how to do it

By February 14, 2011asides, building, misc.

I’ve always had this saying..  “How hard could it possibly be?”  I’m pretty sure that I didn’t make it up, but I sure do use it a lot. It’s the saying that leads me into trying all sorts of things, some of which actually ARE pretty hard. But it’s also helped me try things that seem tough from an outside perspective, but are much simpler when you get up close.

I tend to just give stuff a shot, and figure it out as I go along ( then the second time, I’ll plan more, use the knowledge I gained to try to do it better.. but for the sake of this post.. we’re talking about “first times”.. mmm-kk?)

Case in point..  last week, the thermostat housing on my car cracked… dumped all of the coolant, making the car undriveable (unless I wanted to do serious damage to the engine).  So I looked around, found a forum and a YouTube video and decided to give it a shot.

Now, I’ve NEVER done any engine work on my cars..     BUT, a few minutes of research, $50 worth of parts on ebay and I was ready to go..

It took me 20 minutes to get the old parts out.. 10 minutes to get the new parts IN, and it completely fixed the problem, first try.

I forgot to mention that in that forum I was reading, someone had just gotten the same problem fixed at a shop for …. (wait for it…)   $900 — holy crap.  I saved $850 just because I thought I’d give it a shot.

So, this goes a bit deeper (and seemingly, a bit off track, but stick with me), past the car.  I’ve had some really interesting conversations recently with some people close to me about what they’re trying to accomplish. And I’ve seen a lot of frustration and anxiety in those people. Also, these are BIG things.. not making things/fixing things.

In one of the discussions, someone said “I hate the saying ‘Life is a journey’.. I just want to get there.”   I completely understand this.  It’s tough to think that RIGHT NOW is just a small piece of the final outcome of things. But, when RIGHT NOW isn’t what you want..  it’s actually pretty comforting to know that it’s just a small step in a larger path that you’re following.

Another conversation was with my wife, about our kids.  Unless you’re a parent, you may not understand the amount of weight there is in raising a child (or 3). The responsibility can be daunting.. trying to predict the needs of this tiny, future adult.. and lead them accordingly.  Well, neither of us really feel very good at it a lot of the time. But I realized today that everyday, we get better at it. The more we try, the more we learn.. both from success and failure.

I mean, if you think about it, no one waits to be a parent until they’re good at parenting. So, it’s completely unrealistic for us to think that we’re unprepared, just because we have no idea what we’re doing. (I had to read that sentence back to my self a couple of time, but it DOES say what I meant.)

The fact of the matter is, that whatever the “thing” is.. programming, sculpting, parenting, drywall finishing.. you weren’t born KNOWing how to do it. You’ve LEARNed everything that you know, one way, or another. So, why do we stifle ourselves by only going after things that we already are good at..things that we already understand? Is it because we’re THAT afraid of failure? Really? Because I’ve failed at TONS of stuff, and it’s really not that bad.. just try not to make a habit of it, and you’re fine.

Just try it, fail if you have to, but eventually you’ll get better at it.. someday, you may even KNOW how to do it.