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Learn How to Learn and You Can Do Anything

Anna Light

“I think we could install the metal roof ourselves, and save a lot of money.” When he said it I knew he had already made up his mind to do it himself. Except for laying the concrete, we had already done everything else to build this house ourselves. Why would the roof be any different? Had I known at the time what it would require to install a standing seam metal roof I would have gladly paid double the amount to have someone else do it. But of course, I would’ve missed out on the character-shaping lessons that came out of that agonizing two months we spent doing something we had no business doing.

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After putting the kids down for the night, we spent our evenings sitting in our bed watching YouTube videos on how to install a metal roof. We learned the proper cuts, folds, and fasteners needed to ensure water would flow naturally off the roof without leaking underneath. We learned about protective membranes that had to be laid before the metal, and the hundreds of yards of sticky tape needed to secure each panel to the other. It was overwhelming, but little, by little we added to our knowledge, purchased the proper tools and materials, and got started on a cold Saturday morning in February. 

We had extra hands for the first couple weekends, which helped us get a head start on the project, but after the top gable was complete, the job was left to just the two of us. I was in charge of organizing the panels which came in different lengths and bringing them to Cody who would prep the panel by cutting the edges, bending it in on itself and/or trimming off any unneeded metal so that it lined up perfectly with the lines of the roof. In the beginning, the prep for each panel took us twelve minutes from start to finish, but by the end of the two-month project we had brought down the prep time to just six minutes per panel. The roof took hundreds of panels to complete, but by the end of the project, we had invested eleven thousand dollars of sweat equity into the house. 

Technology today has changed everything. Even ten years ago, it wasn’t the normal practice to look up a tutorial on YouTube to teach you how to do something. If you wanted to learn a new skill or find out more about something you took a class, apprenticed under someone, or checked out books from the library and spent hours studying. (Or hire the professional.) And while those things may still be part of your learning process, we can’t forget that today, all the information we could ever wish to have is literally at our fingertips. It just takes a willingness to put in the work to teach ourselves what we want to learn. 

I grew up homeschooled. And though there are many misconceptions about homeschoolers one of the most important lessons I gained in schooling at home was how to learn. 

For Cody, the Marine Corp pushed him to become that self-propelled learner and troubleshooter, living by the motto that if there is a problem or obstacle there is a solution, even if it takes all day to figure out. Having the patience and fortitude to stick with something until it is complete or becomes a new skill is a dying art in today’s world. We want an app for this and an app for that, and while I’m all for using technology to become more productive, we can’t forget the importance of self-propelled learning and plain hard work. 

So what skill stands in the way of your dream or goal? What do you need to learn to make that dream a reality? Are you a self-propelled learner? It may take you longer than you want, but— 

If you learn how to learn, you can do anything.