One of the two main functions of this blog is to show men that self-change is possible. And not just a little change. Complete, one-hundred-and-eighty degree change. Turn your life around, from the bottom to the top kinda change. This is the kind of change that I have brought about in my own life through years of practice.
The second function is to show that this change can happen at any point in your life. Age is no barrier to change if you want to do it. All you really need is the patience to negotiate the land-mines of personality disruption. You need, at minimum, a five to ten year plan to see permanent and visible change.
Self-change has immense potential for surprise. I have completely surprised myself by finally becoming something I didn’t even know I wanted to be: a handyman.
I almost failed woodwork and metalwork at school. I had no patience. My father only wanted me in the shed to hold stuff for him, and had no patience for me to learn the skills I needed. Most of the tools completely mystified me.
It wasn’t until I was thirty that I started thinking differently about fixing and building. The great motivator was my father-in-law. He had (and still has) a fantastic attitude to fixing what’s broke: give it a go, and if it don’t work, take it to the shop.
Once the engine blew up in my Subaru wagon. Unbeknownst to me, he bought another wagon from the wreckers, called me to his house, and told me that we were gonna swap engines.
I was aghast.
“But that’s a mechanic’s job! We’re not bloody mechanics!”
His confidence won me over and despite not knowing an alternator from my asshole, I decided to trust him to get it going. Two days later, we got it running. I asked him afterwards how many engine swaps he’d done.
“That’s my first one” he replied.
To this day it’s was one of the greatest “fake-it-til-you-make-its” I’ve ever seen. It educated me to the power of doing stuff yourself, giving things a go, and throwing shit against a wall until it sticks.
Many men reading this will have read Jack Donovan’s The Way Of Men. As he states, mastery is part of what makes men manly. The drive to do things over and over again until mastered is innnate to many men. The great thing about the shed is you don’t have to consciously “practice”. There’s no need to sit down and practice planing or drilling. You just try stuff out and do things, and the practice comes from that. I’ve spent years just mucking around here and there, fixing something every couple of weeks, doing something around the house, and I’ve finally reached a confidence level where creativity can happen. I’ve been learning the rules so I can break them occasionally.
So I’ve been collecting tools and materials and building my shed into a handyman’s paradise. My goal has been to get to a point where I no longer have to go to the hardware store to complete a job. It is such a ball-ache to stop halfway through a job to get a pack of screws or oil or some tiny thing. A one hour job turns into several hours, and your momentum get all screwed up.
I’ve been on holidays for ten days now and I’ve done a bunch of stuff:
I laid a rock wall.
I built a timber box.
I built another box.
I got this motor running and only almost electrocuted myself once.
I put together an old old table saw and considered running it with the above motor. I then decided against it when I found the motor runs at 16000 rpm. Just slightly too fast.
I fabricated a battery-powered cut-off saw from an old grinder and drill-press.
I ran power to my shed (fuck yeah!).
I put a new bench top on my bench.
I cleaned and consolidated my tools, only keeping the ones I use most often on the board and shelves.
I planed, sanded and finished some fascia boards.
My compressor that wasn’t building pressure so I broke it down and repaired it.
I fixed the power steering pump in my car.
I have never enjoyed myself so much. I’ve spent a couple of hours every day in ecstasy, using my tools, getting better at them, revelling in my own sense of mastery, and watching my property approach the picture in my head. Those days of frustration in the woodwork shop are gone.
Part of my satisfaction come from rejecting the need to do everything today. Impatience and the focus on getting immediate results destroys the enjoyment. The happiness in building comes from the time it takes, the journey rather than the destination. Patience is required, a lot of it, and as I get older, the more patient I get. There is no need to rush. I move one mile at a time. One step, then another, then another, until the job is done. It is a truly beautiful and satisfying feeling.
Boys, go get yourself a shed, and experience mastery for yourselves.