Watch, Then Do


There are two types of folks in this world. Those who say, “I can’t do that,” and those who say, “I think I can. Let me try.”

Ever since Dad showed me how to dig with a hoe to make rows and plant corn in his garden back on Flamingo Street, I’ve been of the latter group. From building a tree house (or even a regular house!) to mixing and cooking chocolate chip cookies, as far back as I can remember, anytime I didn’t know how to do something, I’d ask my Dad or Mom to show me how.

As I got older and moved away from home, my parents weren’t there to show me how to do things; I had to find others to show me.

For example, one winter there was a hard freeze for a week, and every water pipe under my house froze and then broke. Dad lived in Florida at the time, so I called him for advice.

He answered, “All pipes broken? Hire a plumber.” So that’s what I did. For the next week I spent hours each day in the crawlspace under our house, freezing alongside our plumber. I watched and then helped as he and I tore out all the galvanized pipe and replaced it with copper.

In that week I learned to plumb water and drain lines and how to solder copper joints. But the most important thing I learned was a plumber’s helper doesn’t get paid anything while he is in school.

Armed with that week of “plumbing school,” I’ve been able to take care of any plumbing emergency since. Luckily for me, there’ve been a lot of folks in my life willing to take the time to show me how to do things.

I was a firefighter for over 27 years, and with a 24-hour shift at work and then two days off, I was left with a lot of free time — time that I used to learn new trades. Most firefighters that I worked with had a business that they did on their two days off.

A firefighter friend of mine is a master electrician. I hired and helped him to run the electrical in our unfinished basement. During the four days working alongside him, I learned how to switch out plugs and light switches, and even change a light fixture. I also learned just enough about electricity to know if the work is done wrong, it could be deadly. If it’s any more involved than a switch, plug or light fixture, it’s best left to the experts. And like plumbers, I now have a high regard for all those electricians out there.

Not everyone has a dad who’s skilled enough to build his own house like our dad did or have firefighter co-workers that will let you work alongside of them to learn a new trade or know a plumber that’ll let you be his assistant for a week under a house. But now you don’t need any of those people to learn how to do things — all you need is YouTube.

Need to know anything about plumbing? YouTube it. Want to change out that electrical switch, but don’t know how? YouTube it. Car broke down and can’t fix it? YouTube it. Anything you don’t know how to do, there’s not just one, but countless experts with videos on YouTube that’ll walk you through everything. (And they won’t charge you anything … unlike my plumber or my friend the electrician.)

I wanted to learn how to epoxy my kitchen countertop to save money and, after watching ten videos and many test boards later, I did it.

You don’t have to be the person who says, “I can’t do that” anymore. And, if your mom didn’t teach you how to make chocolate chip cookies when you were a kid, no worries. There’re about a hundred videos on YouTube that can. And the best part is, you don’t even have to read the directions! Simply watch, then do.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]