Last Thursday Cory and I were talking about installing windows. (No, not these Windows.) Since we had a Substance First Friday Free coming up (where we have the first Friday of every month off to pursue whatever it is we want to do), I was planning on tackling a home improvement project involving the installation of six windows. I’ve installed windows in the past, and Cory asked me how I learned to do it. My first response was, “I don’t know… I read some books and then put in a new window.” Simple, right? In retrospect, there’s a bit more to it.
1. Learn about it.
I read a lot about installing windows. I checked books out from the library. I looked it up on the internet. I learned as much as I could so I would be fairly educated on how to install windows. The better educated I was about this task, the better prepared I felt to undertake it. Little did I know when I first took on this challenge that reading about installing windows and actually installing windows are two different things.
2. Commit to doing it.
There’s first the financial commitment of buying the new windows. The second, more daunting commitment, is removing the old windows (or cutting a hole in a wall in your house). I call this “the Point of No Return.” When outside can come inside you either need to figure out how to seal this big opening or you’re going to end up with lots of things in your house that you probably don’t want in there. Commit to doing something by putting yourself in a situation where you have no other option but to do something.
3. Doing it.
Here’s where you put what you’ve learned into practice. But it never, ever, is going to be like what you read. There will always be something. The windows will be a different size. The siding will need to be removed. You didn’t know there was an electrical cable in that wall, right where your window will be. You’ll have to take three more trips to the hardware store to get the stuff you forgot. You will need to troubleshoot every step of the way. You take your education and your previous experiences (not just from home improvement) to figure out what to do next. Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There will always be someone who knows a bit more than you do, so use them as a resource to make your job a bit easier. I’ll admit that *occasionally* I feel like I’m asking the guy at the hardware store a dumb question, but each time I ask, they patiently explain how to do something, and usually throw in a practical tip or two that I never would have discovered otherwise.
4. Learn from mistakes.
We have an expression at Substance: Do Better. This also applies to home improvement. You can always do better… cut something more precisely, make something more level, make fewer trips to the hardware store, do it right the first time… there are always mistakes you can learn from. And not repeat them. I say this as a perfectionist: be okay with the fact that it isn’t going to be perfect. You can’t judge yourself for not being perfect. There will always be another opportunity to do better.
Learn about it. Commit to doing it. Doing it. Learn from mistakes.
You can probably apply this to some other things as well.