Personal Learning Environment (PLE)

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I follow several email lists that filter out the noise and use curated content resources like Flipboard to discover new authors. Online learning from, and on site conferences are best for more expansive topics.

Building a garage, twice.

When I was young the thought of failure was an inconceivable notion. If I needed to do something, I learned and then did. No fear. I had never experienced failure, at least in terms of doing something I was interested in. So when it came to building a garage my thoughts were “How hard could it be?” Well it turns out it is complicated and hard work. And it is a lot easier the second time around. More on that later.

Get the skinny.

Step one in the construction process is understanding what it required. The city has requirements for every aspect of a structure and the process in which you obtain those requirements is shroud in half documented obscurity. At least it was in the time before the interwebs. I spent hours, nay, days researching regulations and rules to make sure I was prepared.

Plan it out.

When building a structure it turns out a plan is not only a good idea but required. I know this seems obvious, but the level of detail of not only the structure but the surrounding environmental factors was an eye opener for me.

  • Ten feet from any power line
  • One foot from the property line unless you double apply 5/8″ sheetrock for fire stop and have water control measures
  • Cannot be taller than the original structure
  • Cannot exceed x% of the total square footage of the property
  • Eighteen inches below grade to the bottom of the footing
  • Cannot be over 20′ span without an engineer signing off
  • An on and on and on

I had drafting experience in school but in the real world the level of detail required on the drawings was an eyeopener.

Build it.

Being a (self evaluated) resonance man, I was going not only plan, but build this building. I was going to learn all of the phases and trades involved. Which turns out is a lot of work. A lot of work.

  • Footings poured
  • Foundation block in place
  • Slab poured
  • Walls built
  • Trusses in place
  • Roof sheeted
  • Shingles on
  • Windows and doors in
  • Power strung
  • Water plumbed
  • Air lines installed
  • Insulation
  • Sheetrock
  • Exterior stucco applied
  • Eaves and gutters installed
  • Finish electrical
  • Paint
  • Storage system installed.
  • Done

What doing all this work taught me:

  • Construction work is hard work
  • Concrete work is the worst
  • You can give yourself tennis elbow if you are too cheap to buy a nail gun
  • Everything takes three times longer than you think
  • The best laid plans need to adjust on the fly
  • A garage should always be built twice as big as you think you need

Watch it burn.

Shortly after I spent nine months of my life building this monument to myself, I got to watch it burn to the ground. Two lightning strikes hit the structure while I was in bed, igniting an inferno I cannot begin to describe. There are life lessons one can take from an experience like this. Your emotional strength, relationships, financial wherewithal, and attachment to objects all get tested.

Build it, again.

Nothing is more depressing than knowing you need to start all over for no other reason than an act of god. The first day, or night after work, working on the second building was the hardest day to put into motion. The notion of all the work that needed to be done was truly overwhelming. It was truly the most difficult part of the project. But it was also the most important lesson.

Lessons learned.

The process of building my garage taught many lessons. Lessons about technical skills. Lessons about follow through. Lessons about the value of your time. Lessons about being prepared. Lessons about the fragility of circumstance.

When I look back on the two years of my life this project and the resulting emotional rollercoaster took, I am proud of my preparation, hard work, and the technical skills learned. But what I am most proud of is the fact that I stuck with it and built it, twice.

The ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again is the most important lesson anyone can learn.