Boredom, depression, lack of job satisfaction are things that too many people deal with. There are many ways to fight this, but one of the best is to simply go build something.
There is something immensely satisfying to most men about building something. Taking raw materials, bending them to your will, and ending up with something that you want and/or need is food for the soul. It’s one of the reasons that tradesmen have such high job satisfaction when compared to denizen of the average cube farm. Pointing at a something and saying “I did that” is better than any trophy.
The barriers to doing any given project have never been lower. Mid-grade tools are well within the reach of most working class people and makerspaces are available around most major urban areas. The internet is crawling with tutorials on how to do just about anything. The good news is that the choice of your projects has never been wider. The bad news is that determining where to start can be overwhelming. So where to begin?
Deciding what you want to do is 100% up to you, but you need to honest about your capabilities. Completion is your goal, not getting started and letting it fall to the side. Here are some tips to help you get started.
First and most important, be honest with yourself. Take an assessment of your skills. When, if ever, was the last time that you did something that involved that skill? Skills not practiced become rusty at best and may be lost completely. It might be best to start with something to knock the rust off if its been a while. For beginner projects, start simple. “I want to build a 600HP mid-engine tube frame street legal race car.” Great goal. But if you live in an apartment, don’t have any tools, don’t have access to a shop, have never designed anything, can’t weld, don’t have any machinist skills, and have a budget of $25, this might not be the place to start. However it can be a great long term goal. In fact having a goal that is right now out of your reach is great way to determine what skills and projects you need to complete to get there. Picking simple projects help you build skills that will help you complete bigger and better projects. A master contractor builds a spice rack before he builds a mansion. Start small and build from there. Don’t be ashamed to use kits.
Second, be honest about your budget, both money and time. These are the two biggest killers. No project ever goes right the first time. You will have to buy new parts and components as mistakes are made and things get broken. Give yourself a 25-50% cushion on cost. Its far better to come in under budget than over. Make sure that you give yourself enough time, and can dedicate time to the project on a regular basis. If something is going to take 8 hours or so according to the instructions, and it’s your first time, give yourself double that. If it’s not something that you can get done in a single day, make sure you can come back to it. Work, family, life in general are all going to pull at you. Just make sure that if you have to leave your project you can come back to it. Time is more important, and harder to come by, than money in most cases.
Third, find a mentor. You will run into problems, and a mentor can help you over hurdles quickly and easily. If you don’t have one locally, there is a good chance that you can find one on an internet forum. One of the great things about the internet is that it allows people to come together and finding someone to help is easier than ever. You may have to deal with some dumbasses, but there are experts out there who love helping newbies. Also remember that no one is a master of everything. We all have someone that we ask for advice when the problem is outside of our experience. Mistakes are nothing but learning opportunities. Figure out what you did wrong, learn from it, and move on wiser than you were before.
Fourth, involve others. Some projects are one person jobs. Others can be done by one person but 2 make it so much easier. It helps build both friendships and communities. It also helps to keep you on track. Social media is a blessing and a curse, but publishing regular status updates will help motivate you to stay on task. Involve your kids if they are old enough. Much of my education involved working with my father, uncles, neighbors and such. As I look back, much of me helping them as a young man involved me doing all the work while they looked over my shoulder and made sure I was doing it right. It annoyed me at the time but they became memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. These sessions became the basis for much of my professional education. I wouldn’t be able to do all that I do without the basic mechanical skills I learned building and fixing things with my dad.
Make a plan and follow through. Show off what you have done, and then move on to the next project. You will be amazed at how much just doing tangible things will make you feel better and improve your outlook.