DIY Lessons for Change

I’m no plumber.

My wife reminds me of that fact every time I go near a plumbing fixture with wrench in hand.

I’ve had my share of plumbing repair successes. Replacing a washer or swapping out a faucet – those are relatively easy DIY jobs I’ve done well.

On the other hand, installing a new shower stall in an upstairs bathroom did not go so well. The family remembers all too well the beads of water appearing and rippling like a tsunami across the seams of the ceiling dry wall in our first floor kitchen. The leaking water also shorted out and damaged our favourite pendant ceiling lights. Right below the shower and right after testing my handiwork! The ill effects of my amateur shower installation job spread to include unplanned dry wall patching and electrical fixture replacement. It felt like an episode out of a National Lampoon movie. And, I felt like Chevy Chase.

I proved that I’m no drywall installer or electrician either. The problem with drywalling is the the degree of fit-and-finish that’s needed. If you’ve ever tried to feather the seams between 2 pieces of drywall, you’ll know what I mean. It took a couple of years of sheepishly glancing at my blotchy kitchen ceiling patch job before we got professionals to redo and refinish it properly. I’m more of a rustic cottage than modern fit-and-finish crib person.

The most recent plumbing issue that brought back all these memories and hard lessons learned was the lack of consistent hot water for our showers. I didn’t have as much of a problem with it as others in my family did. It was good enough for me but not for them. Obviously, my sense of “hot” water is not the same as their sense of “hot” water. The issue was solved when we replaced the aging water heater. And no, I didn’t even think of doing it myself. Now, the “hot” water is good enough for all of us.

My DIY experiences have illuminated a couple of common and generally accepted guidelines for the business of change:

  1. Experiment with a safe blast radius in the event of failure. As the consequences of my failed shower installation job showed, “safe” doesn’t mean no impact. There will be collateral damage that will require remediation sooner or later. How might repeated failures impact one’s willingness to continue experimenting? Apparently changing a water heater is not that hard. My brother-in-law offered to help me. Problem was I had no interest in doing it. What if our desire and interest to experiment and learn ceases? What might we do to keep change interesting?
  2. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. When it comes to what’s considered “good enough”, there’s a range of possibilities and sensibilities. What’s good enough for one may be insufficient, ineffective or intolerable for another. How might we decide what’s good enough for all concerned? Using the lowest common denominator is often a maligned strategy. Maybe, in this case, it’s warranted. Aligning on the definition of what a “hot” shower was definitely kept the peace in my household.

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