Introduction from the book How to be Handy

This post is the second in a long series as I release my latest book here online over the next few months…  (search for the category “How to be Handy” to read them all) or head over to Amazon to grab a physical copy (or eBook) to read with your coffee or give to a significant other!…

Today’s excerpt is the introduction, to motivate and inspire you to have a go at this DIY lark… 


simplest tool for learning is doing more how to be handy from handycrowd

 ‘Only a third of people actually feel confident in their ability to carry out DIY repairs and maintenance around the home,’ according to a AA Home Emergency Response study.

I want to get you into that confident group of DIY’ers by sharing with you a simple approach to learning practical things which will, over time, automatically develop your handy ability. I’ll show you how real handy people approach new practical tasks. How to kick-start your own learning process, and build up your handiness. You’ll be able to get your house sorted; your car fixed, or even start your dream project.

You’ll start slowly, you don’t even have to lift a screwdriver until you’re ready. And when you’re done with reading and are ready to try a little practising, we’ll start with something simple, because early success is essential to boost your confidence. I’ll be gentle, so don’t worry; plus, I’ll be here to hold your hand if you’re a bit out of your depth, so keep in touch okay?

You’ll notice as you read on, that this isn’t your normal step-by-step DIY manual. Nope, instead, consider this book an introduction, an attempt to explain common sense and gumption, to show you a way of looking at the physical world around you so that it makes sense, and above all I want it to inspire you and motivate you; to give you that gentle nudge into handiness.

It’s also a bit eclectic, maybe even a bit of a jumble of thoughts sometimes, but that’s me, practising what I preach, teaching myself about writing, battling with my tenses, learning about fonts, line spacing and playing with images etc. I hope you’ll forgive me if I fumble a word or two, as I’ll forgive you when you drop your screwdriver or cut something too short.

We’re in this together, just me and you, no one looking over our shoulders, no one judging us for what we know or don’t know. No one taking the micky at our attempts to learn new things. Me as I expand my learning about bookish things and you as I show you how to connect your head, hands, and heart to create something wonderful, fix something you treasure or maintain something you want to keep. I’m looking forward to the journey and I hope you are too.

Now, we’re going to spend some hours together (and I don’t want us to fall out), but to be honest, I don’t know you very well, or what you’re capable of. So please forgive me if you think I’m patronising you, I’m truly not. I’ve written the book from a simple standpoint, so be thankful for the bits that are obvious to you, and learn from the bits that are not.

To add to the inspirational flavour, I’ve liberally scattered some of my favourite words of wisdom throughout the book, so you’ll know you’re in good company as we head down the path to your handiness (I hope you don’t mind this indulgence, but I do so I love inspirational quotes!).

The Story So Far…

You’ve probably said, ‘I can’t do DIY’ in the past, but let’s stop and ponder that for a second. Why do you say that? Or more specifically, what exactly went wrong on your last project? I talk to people every day who consider themselves walking DIY disasters and I hear three common complaints; see if you recognise any of them…

I Don’t Know Where to Start…

They, (whoever ‘they’ are), say ‘if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ and in this case ‘they’ are right. Planning and preparation is vital (so I’ll show you how to do it properly a bit later on).

I’ll show you how to find out what materials, skills, or techniques you’ll need for your project. Help and advice is out there, and I’ll show you how to find it, in books, on the internet and from the folks around you. Armed with facts and knowhow, you can prepare for your project properly and avoid failures. You’ll learn how in the Developing Practical Knowledge and Preparation and Planning chapters.

I Always Make a Rubbish Job…

Practice on scrap materials first (yes really, practice. I know, I mean, who knew?!). But seriously, I’ll show you how to use some tools and how to practice. Everyone goes through this ‘apprenticeship’ where they make mistakes, (yes, even me!) Be smart and make your mistakes on scrap materials. Practice will make you consistent, improve your accuracy, and reduce the likelihood of mistakes on the real work.

Be fussy about your results and aim to produce good quality work (it’ll look better and last longer) and the only way you’ll achieve this is to practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. Learn how in the Developing Practical Skills chapter. Did I mention you’ll need to practice? Yes? Good.

It takes Me too Long…  

No worries, going slower is actually BETTER! Because getting a step right, makes the NEXT step that much easier. Each logical step on a job is inextricably tied to the previous one AND the next one (like a chain). Rushing creates small inaccuracies which compound; they get bigger, they get complicated and they swallow loads of time to fix or overcome. But most importantly, they often lead to failure or poor end results; (i.e. the chain snaps…).

Time and quality are inseparable. Many people rush into jobs believing faster is better, even tradesmen, (I blame DIY makeover TV!). Sure, professionals look like they’re working fast, but speed plus accuracy takes years of familiarity and experience to master. Remember; you don’t need to work fast, you’re not making a living at this, (well not yet at least!), fight the urge to rush, dig deep to find the patience to carry out each step carefully and care about the quality of the finish.

Getting it right and making a good job is your first priority (sorry, that should be second priority, safety is first, remember, but I’ll get to that in a bit!). Seriously, ignore the time it takes; a year from now you’ll have long forgotten the time it took, but the end results are right in front of you. If you make a good job you’ll be happy, if you make a rubbish job, it’ll annoy you every time you look at it. Not only do rushed jobs look bad (to you and others), they’ll knock your confidence too.

The only caveat about allowing plenty of time is when it interferes with daily living. Being without a kitchen or a bathroom for a week is doable, just. But if it’s going to take you a month of Sundays and then some, you might hear some grumbling from the ranks. Tackle bigger projects during time away from work so you can put in some long days to finish in a reasonable time. Alternatively, try collaborating with friends or even hiring in a friendly professional to work alongside you to shorten the timescale.

Can you see how these three things tie together? Preparation, good quality work and time are the basic building blocks for success on your project. Be honest about what your weaknesses are and focus on improving them. Next time you feel or hear yourself shutting down and saying, “I can’t do this”, stop. What are you really saying? Find the real reason behind your fear and read around it to find a solution. I sometimes spend hours reading up on a new material, technique, or skill before going to get my tools and if I need to do it as an experienced professional, why shouldn’t you? At the moment, I’m learning how to climb trees via ropes, to carry out pruning and to fell difficult trees from the top down. It’s technical, physically difficult, and potentially lethal if I get it wrong. I’m spending many tens of hours reading up… (just sayin’).

Remember also there’s no such thing as easy or difficult, because we’re all unique, with lots of different experiences; what one person finds easy, another can find difficult. See what I mean with this joke…. Yes?

rocket scientist vs brain surgeon how to be handy from handycrowd

I’m Really, Really Hopeless at DIY…

Okay okay, I hear you. But fear not apprentice handy one, because here’s the secret; you don’t need to learn all this stuff overnight. Your DIY abilities will develop just as you learned all your other skills; slowly. Remember, you had to learn how to use a spoon once…

Many everyday items are actually quite simple to assemble, maintain or even repair. Even complicated things fail in spectacularly simple ways sometimes. Remember, most of the hard work’s done by the designers and manufacturers, leaving you with a much easier job (maintenance or repair).

 And don’t believe the rubbish that you’re not a handy person because ‘it’s just not in your genes’. Being handy is not about your genes, or what your father did, or how clever you are. It’s time to kick that can’t do it ‘troll’ out of your head pronto!

Nido Qubein, (an extremely successful businessman who started with nothing) once said; “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” Clever chap…

But I’m Not Clever Enough…

Rubbish! Some of the least academic people I know (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) are brilliantly handy. To attempt some little jobs around the home doesn’t mean you need to come from a long line of practical folk or have a genius IQ. Albert Einstein once said it’s imagination which is the true sign of intelligence, not knowledge. So, don’t worry about how smart you think you are, you can do this stuff I promise you, I’ve never met anyone who’s not amazed at how easy some DIY jobs are once they’ve started…

Willing to Learn and Have a Go

nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm how to be handy from handycrowd

Being handy is not particularly hard, learning how to use a few tools is not particularly hard, what is hard is having the right attitude. So of course, it’s not enough to be a little bit interested, I mean you’ve got to want to learn this stuff; enthusiastically ideally! Half-hearted, ill-prepared attempts will destroy your confidence as well as your project. Like learning any other skill or hobby, you need the inspiration and motivation to try, to commit to the learning process and enough time to persevere and make progress, (even when it gets difficult or complicated). As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Energy and persistence conquer all things.’ Another clever chap…  

notice your surroundings if you want to master DIY how to be handy from handycrowd

Finding the Confidence

I understand you’re probably new to DIY, but as I said, I hope the approach outlined in this book will inspire and motivate you to ‘have a go.’ I totally understand if you feel you’re not capable of great things just yet, but remember what Napoleon Hill said; ‘If you can’t do great things; do small things in a great way’. That sounds doable, doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter how big the first thing you do is, just that you do it. For example, do something as small as making your tarnished front door knocker beautiful again by polishing it up with a metal cleaner/restorer. Don’t discount how important such small successes are, because they will give you the confidence to try other things.

start with what you have and do what you can how to be handy from handycrowd

So, don’t let fear of making a mistake prevent you from starting. Remember Samuel Johnson’s words; he said that “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome” …

Perseverance vs Life

Learn to persevere, but don’t be a slave, because you have a life too! DIY is work (even if you enjoy it) and it takes time. So, it’s important to develop a strategy that works for you and fits into your lifestyle. Don’t let the project take over every aspect of your life. Create a sanctuary, somewhere that you can retreat to if necessary to escape the mess and recharge your batteries. This can be a room you’re not working on in the house, a place in the garden, or even a place nearby, like a park or the beach. Take your favourite drink, grab whatever it is you like to do to relax and take an hour or two if need be. Put the chaos behind you for a little while. Like I said, time rarely matters; (if only I could convince some of my clients!) because it’s all forgotten in the end.


common sense is learned how to be handy from handycrowd

Next time: What’s Different About this DIY Book? and What’s in it for me?

If you don’t want to wait, you can, of course, buy the whole book! Available at Amazon… How to be Handy [hairy bottom not required]

Stay well


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