All Decked Out

I’m all decked out and it makes me feel so good!

No. I’m not talking about what I'm wearing. 

I’m talking about something that makes me feel even better because I do it once and it looks good on me for a very long time. That something is the look of satisfaction for a job well done.

A week or so ago, I power washed our backyard deck and then proceeded to restain it. It was a labour of love because it took me hours at a point in time when I didn’t feel I could spare them all that much. (And as I worked, I felt the deck seemed so much bigger than I remembered!)

That said, I loved it. It felt good to do something for our home that both we and our guests would enjoy all summer long. It also made me appreciate Mr. F2P’s efforts in building the deck in the first place so many years ago. He put a ton of effort into that project, including adding some special touches to really make it our own.

It’s been a number of days since I finished the work and I still beam with pride every time I look at the finished product. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I did it and that's what makes it me.

[I]n that strange separation of what man is from what man does we may have some clues as to what the hell has gone wrong in this 20th century.
— Robert M. Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", p. 25.

In this day of oursourcing, we actively keep ourselves from experiencing the pride of a job well done for anything that has nothing to do with what we “do for a living”. And it’s a shame because the pride that comes from doing something for ourselves is materially different from what we do professionally for others because it doesn’t depend on anyone approving of it. And it’s especially powerful when it’s either something we’ve never done or something we don’t do often.

When we step to the edge or beyond our comfort zone and take on a project that’s not “our thing” or a project that stretches our abilities to a new level, the result isn’t just the physical output of our efforts and the potential to save some $$$ by doing it ourselves. It’s the accompanying feelings of competence and gratitude for giving ourselves the opportunity to have at least tried it.

To illustrate that last point, I recently had another DIY experience that didn’t turn out so well but that, given the opportunity, I’d do again. My 2010 MacBook Pro laptop had been acting up because the RAM was just not keeping up with the upgrades to the operating system and the applications I’m trying to run on it now. So, I decided to upgrade the memory from 4GB to 8GB. Well, the $90 experiment didn’t work. I had to put the old memory cards back into the laptop, despite trying it twice. 

It’s still not how it was but I’m grateful to have tried to fix my problem because it’s something I would never have attempted before and I’m now likely to try hardware upgrades again in the future. I’ve mentally filed the experience in the “nothing ventured nothing gained” category of life experiences because I’m now much less apprehensive when it comes to poking around in hardware and learning how it all works.

Increasing our circle of competence in these ways can be transformative. It can lead us to:

  • Ask more questions about more things
  • Have less fear of the unknown
  • Be more curious about what else we could try
  • Look for opportunities to challenge ourselves
  • Try and accept that failing is part of learning
  • Feel like kids again, like we can do just about anything
  • Appreciate the level of skill and competence others possess

In my opinion, there’s something far worse than loss aversion and that is mistake aversion. We’re so worried about doing something or acting in a way that won’t be perfect that we keep ourselves from even trying anything that we’re not accustomed to.

We don’t want to try anything that could wreck, damage or alter an object despite what we could gain in the process. The intactness of objects has become more important than the experience we can derive from attempting to modify them or use them to the fullest of their potential. And that's in part due to the fact that we’ve been lead to believe that perfect is more important than experienced, used, enjoyed and/or explored. 

There's a general misconception that if a thing isn’t perfect when we buy it and as we own it, that it’s automatically ruined and should be replaced or repaired by a professional. And marketers love to support these worries because their profits depend on us solving our problems with goods and services. Not perfect or not the latest model? Get a new one!

Technology presumes there’s just one right way to do things and there never is.
This divorce of art from technology is completely unnatural. It’s just that it’s gone on so long you have to be an archaeologist to find out where the two separated.
— Robert M. Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", p. 147-8.

Hogwash. Trying stuff, taking stuff apart, building, maintaining or fixing something we’ve never built, maintained or fixed before or doing something new that might make us feel goofy keeps us feeling alive, excited and maybe a little nervous and adds to our life experience.

And with the Internet, there are so many how to videos that we can learn to build or fix just about anything!

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.
— Henry David Thoreau

So what if some of the things we try don’t work out or don’t stay perfect. We’re likely better for it and, if nothing else, the activity itself leaves us with a great story to share with others. In fact, the bigger the gamble, the better the story!

Let's keep tapping into our inner MacGyver and keep trying our hand at the unknown. The more we try, the easier it gets.