Thirty-two years ago I took my first major step into the world of self reliance, and it was the best decision of my life up to that moment. I was 16 years old and a disappointed owner of a used 1973 Honda CB350 motorcycle with a bad engine. The guy I just bought this machine from had covered up the fact that this bike burned oil like crazy, and I was faced with a $550 estimate from a local shop to rebuild the engine. After a little math, I realized that I could buy all the tools and parts needed for less money, then do the work myself. How hard could it be? Following a Chilton’s manual I got that engine to run perfectly, and gained the confidence to tackle anything on my own. Since then I’ve done many things that conventional wisdom says only trained experts can do. I've also noticed how three myths often prevent people from living up to their full self-reliance potential, and the first step to dispelling these myths is to look at them.
Myth#1: Not Enough Talent
There’s a panache that surrounds people who are good with their hands, and it’s easy to mistake this for talent. In reality, a knack for making practical things happen is nothing more than basic knowledge coupled with hands-on practice. Being capable around the house or on your land is mostly about experience, focus, time management and effort. Natural talent is more or less irrelevant. Sure, some people need more practice than others to catch on to manual skills, but that’s no reason to give up before you even get started. Effective, easy-to-understand videos are available on disk or online for those who have a hard time learning from books.
Myth#2: Not Enough Time
Even allowing 10 to 12 hours each day for employment and commuting, that still leaves most of us with at least four hours of discretionary time each day to make good things happen. Even if you devoted only half of this time to working towards your self-reliance goals, this still gives you more than 10 productive hours each week. Trouble often sets in, however, when distractions bleed away all your self reliance time. That’s where a simple schedule fits in.
Shut the TV off, tackle self-reliance work three evenings a week and it won’t be long before you’ll see how a small investment of extra effort yields a huge improvement in your life.
Myth#3: Good Tools Cost Too Much
Over the past ten years, more and more cheap, ineffective power tools have appeared on store shelves, and this causes two problems. First, it fools inexperienced people into buying tools that makes success difficult or impossible to achieve. Rock-bottom prices for cheap tools also makes good tools seem more expensive than they really are.
Fact is, inflation-adjusted prices of today’s best tools are actually lower than they’ve ever been in history. The quality of internal tool design also varies enormously between tools with the same specs but different prices. I know because I’m often hired to take tools apart to see and compare what’s inside. Besides design differences, the cost of a pro-grade cordless drill, circular saw, impact driver or mitre saw, for instance, is an even bigger bargain when you consider how quickly these tools pay for themselves when you’re saving the twenty five, thirty or fifty after-tax dollars per hour you’ll pay a professional to run them. Self reliance definitely makes practical sense.
Besides all the technical and financial advantages of the self reliant lifestyle, it makes for a better country, too. When citizens can do things directly for themselves it makes for a more stable, prosperous and resilient nation. A little confidence, a little time management and a few great tools make remarkably good things happen.
Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on Google+.