I've noticed a trend that I call Do It Yourself. From the Food Channel to Home and Garden TV (HGTV), experts are telling average chefs and homemakers like you and I that we can do it ourselves. The poker championships on TV make us all think that we can play poker like the pros. This is a seductive idea. I could barbeque like Bobby Flay, maybe even start my own southwestern restaurant. I could install those hardwood floors the wife wants. I could win a million dollars in Vegas.


I think this all started years ago when they installed self-service gas pumps in filling stations. Since then, every business has been trying to get you to do things yourself, because it saves them time and money.

But it costs you time and money. I hear people in coffee shops, supermarkets, and businesses whining about how busy they are. Everyone seems to be so busy, because they're so busy doing everything themselves that they don't have time for the important things in life.

The Learning Curve

Have you ever noticed that it takes many repetitions to get the hang of doing a new task? When you first swing a golf club or fix a faucet or write a term paper or bake a cake, it's unfamiliar. It takes time to learn. It takes practice. If you do it long enough, it starts to feel more natural. But the first few times through the process are slow and error prone.

Ask yourself: Would I hire someone with my experience to remodel the basement? Tile the shower? Cook a rack of lamb? Install a garage door opener?

Not likely. I want someone with experience.


If you listen closely to these do it yourself TV shows, you'll occasionally hear one of these experts talk about the early years when they apprenticed with a master to learn the craft that they now consider so simple.

Home Depot tells us that they can help us do-it-ourselves, but do they supply a master to apprentice with? No way, Jose. Here's the tile and the glue and the grout and a picture book about installing tile; you're on your own.


When you watch someone who does things effortlessly, it's easy to think: Hey, I can do that. But you and I don't have their years of experience, beliefs, values, and capabilities to back up that effortlessness. Experts gained that knowledge over time, not overnight. Sadly, most of them have no awareness about the beliefs and values and abilities that they take so lightly.

I will tell you that if you listen and learn their beliefs and values about a subject, you'll be much better prepared to embark on a do-it-yourself project. But you still won't have the depth of experience.

I watch Rachel Ray on the Food Network as she chops up vegetables with a razor sharp knife while keeping a running dialogue about what she's doing. If I tried to do what she's doing automatically, I'd end up in the emergency room with my hands wrapped in bandages.

Learn from the Best

When I was young, I learned how to cook by watching my mom in the kitchen. When you see a pattern of behavior repeated over and over again, it's easier to detect the pattern and embed it into your mind. But I burned or mutilated my fair share of meals over the years until I got enough practice.

Watching experts on TV is a great way to study experts in action. If you watch them repeatedly, you'll start to detect their beliefs, values, behaviors and capabilities. You'll start to discover how they do things so effortlessly. These patterns will serve you well. I've watched how the Food Network chefs use a knife and it ain't the way I use one, so I'm trying to learn how to use a knife the way they do so that I won't lop my fingers off when I'm cooking.

But don't let this fool you into thinking you can do-it-yourself. It ain't as easy as it looks. Experts have ways of doing things and mental rules for approaching a task that may take you years to figure out.

I do a lot of Lean Six Sigma process improvement work. My first few passes through the improvement process were utter failures. Eventually I got the hang of it and now it's second nature. I usually recommend to clients that they let me help them get the first few projects going until they really get the hang of doing it. Some do, some don't. The ones that don't ask for help rarely make any headway.

Here's My Point

You can cut your own hair, but you probably don't. You could sew your own clothes, but you probably don't. You could make your own beer or wine, but you probably don't. You could fetch water from the local stream or generate your own electricity, but you don't. Why? Because it's easier, cheaper and faster to let someone else do it.

I hired a company to install a sprinkler system in my yard two decades ago. It took them less than a day to put it in. With occasional maintenance, it's still working. It saves me countless hours watering the yard. I hired another company to mow it, because I hate mowing.

The lure of do-it-yourself is strong. Ask yourself:

Would I hire someone with my experience to do this job?

What is my time worth? Would it be cheaper to hire someone and use my time on leveraging my existing talents, not developing new ones?

When it doubt, farm it out. Hire someone to do the work for you. Spend more time developing your expertise. Bring more of your gifts to the world, not someone else's. It's okay to learn from the best, just don't pretend that watching TV will make you an expert.

When you are convinced that you need to explore one of the areas, find an expert or a coach. Become an apprentice. Get your hands dirty on the real thing. It will save you time and save you money in the long run.

Be like Tom Sawyer; get someone else to paint the fence for you.

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