I hate paying good money to service professionals who do not know what they are doing. If I call a man to repair something, I do so because I do not have the time or experience to do it myself. When he stands there and asks me all kinds of questions and drags me into the project for hours as well, I want to stuff him back onto the yellow page I found him on.
A Do-it-yourselfer is a person who tries to repair or improve everything on his or her own. For this person, the freedom and cheapness of not having to pay someone $45 per hour makes it worth all the time spent reading books off the rack at Home Depot, attending a Lowe’s workshop, or watching ten youtube clips of how-to. A classic do-it-yourselfer usually does not know what is wrong but is willing to keeping throwing new or used parts at the project until the thing starts working again—at least well enough to sell to some unsuspecting bloke.
An amateur is a paid worker who knows a lot about his trade. He reads the trade journals and stays on top of all the latest stuff. He’s your typical geek of his field. If he is into auto repair he can talk knowledgably about old-time hot rods and the latest showroom models. His skill level means he can effectively repair or replace defective parts so the thing works again. The best place for this apprentice or journeyman is at the side of a professional. Unfortunately, too many slaves break away from their masters and think they can go it on their own. There is one thing an amateur lacks that a professional has.
The professional becomes known in an area not because of the cheapest price but because of one key skill: the ability to troubleshoot. Not only does the professional quickly replace parts, he can figure out what is wrong. An older professional might be able to diagnose what is wrong with your refrigerator when you tell him about it over the phone. At the very least, a good pro will be able to hook up diagnostic equipment to figure out why the machine or device quit working. For the tough cases, he will at least know who to talk to in order to solve the problem. The professional is an expert in his or her field and can be depended on to find the problem and fix it without needing to hold someone’s hand through the process.
Know who you are
So my pet peeve is the annoyance a self-proclaimed professional who has to ask me how to do his job. I do not want to pay professional labor rates to an amateur or do-it-yourselfer. Taking woodworking in high school does not make you a cabinet maker! If you cannot figure out the problem on your own, you should not hang your name on a shingle. Go apprentice yourself to a master tradesman until you, too, can diagnose and solve people’s dilemmas.
Professional fees do not pay for installation, they buy peace of mind. If you cannot offer that, I want my money back. Too many self-employed persons are amateurs or diyers who mistook their moderate level of success in a certain field as evidence of their competency in the whole field. Just because you can install a car engine does not mean you can overhaul one.
Our medical world has been wrecked by doctors who could not figure out the problem and so prescribed antibiotics for everything until they isolated drug-resistant infections. Amateurs are costing us billions in healthcare because they need professional pay to cover their college expenses but lack the dignity to say they do not know how to diagnose half the conditions they see. True professionals in healthcare would prescribe life-sustaining remedies, not just medicine.
True health comes from lifestyle changes, dietary improvements, and exercise—not prescriptions. At the same time, the health industry has gotten the distinction of being a world of quacks because many health nuts are just a bunch of diyers who have thrown enough whole foods and supplements at their bodies until they cured some major condition. Armed with this one success, they march out to change the world, pushing their one little experience as effective for everyone else. The closest health expert I know of is a five-hour drive from my home.
Be outstanding in your field
I had a Chevy van that has now gone on to the great scrapyard in the sky. During its lifetime, it developed a condition of surging while I drove. If I put my foot on the gas it would sputter and almost stall. I had to nurse it along to get up to speed and even then in would want to go and then want to die. I asked a few mechanic friends and got a few different answers. I tried various suggestions (the cheap ones, like change the fuel filter), but nothing changed. My dad recommended I go see a guy with an auto repair shop back on a lot in an old building I would never have found if he had not pointed it out. The owner was too busy to look at it and said I would have to leave it for two weeks before he even got a chance to peak under the hood. I wondered how he stayed so busy and kept another full-time mechanic without any marketing or publicity. He took a minute to ask me what it was doing and I told him. “Oh,” he said, “that’s your EGR valve. It’s kind of expensive, so if you do not want to replace it, just pull the vacuum hose off of and it will straighten right out.” I did and it drove like a dream again (as all Chevys do, by the way). He is an expert—no wonder he always has more work than he can get to.
I know some areas where I am a professional, others where I am an amateur, and others where I am just a do-it-yourselfer—and a proud one at that. When it comes to auto repair, plumbing, health remedies, and homesteading, I am a do-it-yourselfer. I buy parts and stick them in until the things start working at least at 50% original capacity. I consider myself an amateur—able to upgrade or replace components as needed—in the fields of electrical, computers, parenting, and construction. In theology, editing/writing, and Bible teaching, I think myself a professional, although I am still learning.
Where are you best at problem solving? Those areas should probably be your career or life pursuits. If you are competent in some areas but not able to teach others, these might just be your hobbies. If too many areas of your life fall in the DIY category, perhaps you need to hire more professionals. Andrew Carnegie, founder of a huge business in the steel industry was not an expert in steel, but he was highly skilled at bringing together brilliant minds.
I do not think a person under 30 years old is a professional or expert at anything. A pro does not just do a job well, but can troubleshoot effectively and train others in the trade. Fifteen years of experience mean nothing if they are just one year’s experience 15 times over! You will only be an expert at a couple things in life. Find a mentor and study well.
Self-taught people will probably never be more than amateurs because they cannot think beyond their own limited experiences. Please present yourself properly within your skill level. If you are only good at repairs and not figuring out what is wrong, then let people know. Many diyers would be glad to have your help with the installation if they understood your skill level and why your fees are cheaper.
The best “profession”
Of anything, I want to be an expert at living for God. I want to apply myself to the things of God so that I not only know how to “install” prayer, Bible, and church time, but so I can figure out what not to do and how to fix it. Some days, I feel like a pro Christian, others I am just a diyer trying everything to see what will work. Fortunately, I have a Master to lead me through each project, and I know He’s going to give me a promotion someday soon.