To DIY or Not To DIY

… is a good question.

When you DIY, you can . . .

  • gain a skillset (or two)
  • make mistakes
  • build the experience of finishing a job (hopefully)
  • build confidence
  • save money (sometimes)
  • develop resilience to helplessness
  • really fuck things up, and then have to hire a professional to fix your mess
  • injure yourself
  • erode your confidence
  • waste time, money and resources on a job poorly done or having to be redone or fixed

When you hire someone, AKA don’t DIY, you can . . .

  • provide work for someone running a business
  • save yourself time (sometimes) and (sometimes) money
  • can learn by watching a pro
  • reduce wasted resources of making mistakes and having to do over
  • build a relationship with a professional
  • get a better job done than you would have done yourself
  • erode your own confidence
  • develop a mindset of relying on others to tackle projects you’re not sure about doing yourself
  • spend more money on a job you would have done more carefully

It’s all about context. Some good questions to ask . . .

  • Do you need and/or want to build those skills for future projects, or would this be a one-off?
  • Do you have (or can you get) the financial resources to pay a professional to fix your mistakes, or to do it if you don’t want to?
  • Do you have the time, resources and confidence in yourself (or support of others) to carry the project through to the end?
  • Do you want or need to build relationships with local professionals? Is this a job that would potentially build stronger social networks and greater capacity for future projects

Over the years I’ve learned that in many cases, hiring a seasoned professional is as valuable a learning opportunity as DIYing something that I don’t have the confidence, skills or resources to complete on my own. On the other hand, garnering the support, resources, social capital and skills to embark on a challenging, scary DIY project is something that I could definitely work on. One also gains a ton of value from putting in that time and effort to build the invisible structures around us that would enable more and bigger projects to get done. Relying on myself hasn’t gotten me very far in the past and isn’t likely to improve much in the future without the help and camaraderie of others.

Some of the projects I’d love to be able to complete in my lifetime include:

  • build a natural swimming pool, both from scratch and by conversion of an existing pool
  • build my own cob house
  • train a horse
  • complete a long-distance endurance ride (>100 km)
  • learn to drive a team, and do a backcountry long-distance driving trip
  • build my own furniture – a bedframe, outdoor (patio) furniture, and living room furniture

That’s a start. It doesn’t include much data entry, GIS analytics, spatial data analysis, statistics, or lab work. That list involves a lot of hands-on skills, power tools, hand tools, dexterity, confidence, humility, and patience. It involves seeking the knowledge (and wisdom) of others that have done those things first, which is scary and humbling. I’m betting, though, on the first list — the confidence gained, the resilience, and the developing of better and more useful skillsets — to get us through.

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