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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

in The Shop: The Fear Factor

Mar 06, 2011

 Here's the problem, whether you're a professional mechanic or a weekend tinkerer: When you're young and just starting out, you don't know what you can't do, and you don't know how wrong things can go. 

My attitude when I was in my 20s was that I had just as many college degrees as the engineers who design farm equipment, so if they could design it, I could take it apart and put it back together. There wasn't much I was afraid to tackle, which more than a few times got me into situations where I probably shouldn't have been. But I figured things out and felt like Tarzan because of it. (You know, stand on top of the successfully repaired piece of equipment while yelling and pounding your fists on our chest...)

But...age and experience have taught me that I can definitely get into repairs that are over my head. The problem with that realization is that I've lost my "courage." I look at a prospective repair, and instead of seeing a challenge, I see all the potential things that could go wrong. Sure, there are jobs I can do in my sleep, repairs about which I have absolute confidence. But there are days when I wonder if I'll be able to do an engine oil change without cross-threading the drain plug when I reinstall it.

That "fear factor" extends into my personal life. I no longer ride or race dirt bikes because I finally figured out that all the fun on Sunday wasn't worth the pain on Monday. I'm sitting on a meager savings account earning 0.5 percent interest because I got burned in the recession, and am now 'scared" to risk my savings in the vagaries of the stock market. All the things I've experienced in life have made me wiser, but they've also made me overly cautious, timid and borderline paranoid.

I need to take on a major repair I've never done before, and succeed. I need to borrow a race car and make a few laps sideways and WFO. I need to jump off a high-diving board and see if I can still swim far enough to get to the side of the pool.

Yup, that's what I need to do. That's what I'm GOING to do. Right after I check my life insurance policies and ask my wife for permission...

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