Throughout my life and career, I’ve been tasked with completing projects with neither the knowledge nor the resources needed.  Growing up without a lot of money, I became accustomed to learning how to do things on my own and always looking for practical, inexpensive solutions to everyday problems.  If something at home broke, I’d ask my parents what to do and they’d help me figure out how to fix it.

Recently, our on-its-deathbed dryer finally stopped tumbling.  It had been making sounds which we should have investigated, but alas, sometimes the saying “if it ain’t (completely) broke, don’t fix it.”  We had been expecting to have to replace the dryer sooner than later and I had planned on finding a working, second-hand one at the local Habitat for Humanity store.  We figured we could get one there for less than $50, which is less than what we’d pay to even have someone come take a look at our dryer.  Granted, our dryer was nice, but not worth spending a couple hundred repairing.

Me, being stubborn as I am, decided to see if we could fix it ourselves.  The thing was still heating and partly working, it just wouldn’t tumble.  Maybe it was a broken belt.  We figured the dryer was already broken, the worst we could do was break it a little more then give it away to someone who knew what they were doing.

I found dryer repair videos on YouTube so I learned a few tips on how to do repairs, and firstly, how to open the dang thing.  Once I got the dryer open and we slowly took it apart, we discovered that dryers aren’t so complicated inside.  We found the problems and less than $80 worth of parts later, our dryer is running in better shape than it has in years.  And we feel confident to make repairs on it in the future.

Had we never made an attempt to fix it, we never would have know how capable we were at doing it on our own.

Self-reliance has been one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned and it is applicable to nearly every situation in life.  When I did have to call a professional for help, as annoying as it may have been, I stayed in the room, watching what was being done and asking questions about the job.  If I had to pay someone several hundred dollars to repair my furnace, plumbing or an appliance, I wanted to know what the problem was, what caused it and how it could be fixed.

The same thing goes for complications that arise at work.  I’ve developed a mindset for requests of “tell me what you’d like to accomplish and I will find out if it’s possible.”  So many people are quick to shoot down ideas, which can actually complicate them more because if you only do bits and pieces of a project, you’re extending the time and energy it takes had you evaluated the request as a whole.

For example, a coworker wanted me to put together an order form in Excel that would allow his customers to calculate full container loads of a variety of products that were not only different sizes, but different designs and categories.  Originally, this had been done by a back and forth exchange in which the customer gave an overall request of what they wanted, my coworker would look up dimensions, minimum order quantities and product availability, consult with the customer about increasing or decreasing items to  fit and so on.  It was about a week-long process and very understandable why an automated order form would be highly desirable.  These were huge, once a year orders.

I spent weeks working on the spreadsheet.  There were so many factors to include, minimum order quantities, case packs, availability of design, products that could not fit on certain containers, etc; it was extremely complicated.  I had to generate item numbers, existing as well as contingent on a customer selecting them.  There also had to be a meter to show the container reaching full capacity and drop down lists that gave options off a previous selection.

I knew that once I completed this Excel order form, ordering was going to be so much easier.  The customers could order exactly what they wanted and do so quickly.  The salesman wouldn’t spend time trying to translate the customer’s order, the order processor wouldn’t spend time trying to determine item numbers or pricing—everything would be consistent and simple for everyone involved.

Every time I think I’m good at a software program, someone challenges me to stretch my abilities.  It seems the more I learn about Excel, the more I realize I’ve barely broken ground.  So I spent a lot of time Googling formulas and have pages of notes on how I performed my calculations.  I used data validation, vlookup, hlookup, lists, if, named ranges and countless other formulas to finally compile a near perfect form for the salesman.

It worked pretty well the first year, but with a few bugs.  It worked even better the second year and was near perfect.  I was even able to start training others on how to make changes, what not to change and successfully passed along my work in progress to my predecessor.  It was a success and because I put effort into making it happen, I saved weeks of work for the salesman, the order processor, supply chain, and most importantly, the customer.

The moral of my story is to never limit yourself because you think you might not be able to do something.  If you don’t try, you won’t know.  There’s a wealth of knowledge on the internet to explain how to do things, so take advantage of it!  Always take precautions and stop if you find that you truly are unable.  But if you don’t try, you’ll never know whether or not you can fix a dryer yourself.