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The Owner-Builder Book Downloadable MP3's
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Author: Mark A. Smith
The MP3 version of the book is finally here! About 8 hours of valuable listening. (1st edition of The O-B Book)

Click here for a sample.

We think you can learn a great deal more by listening than by just reading. Reading addresses the left side of the brain, and listening goes to the powerful right side. You'll find yourself saying "I've never thought about that before..." or "I need to try that..." even though you've already read it.

Listening makes it easy to get in several repetitions, which greatly increases your learning as well. See the essays below on learning and repetition.

Read by author.

 

5-7 Repetitions

by Mark A. Smith

Recently, I indulged a hobby and took a part in a community theater production. I was the Modern Major-General in "Pirates of Penzance" by Gilbert and Sullivan. I had to learn a song that went along at a dizzying, breathless pace. Because I would be in front of people, and sing by myself, I had to learn it well beforehand.

I had to refresh skills of singing, breathing, projecting my sound, dancing while singing, etc. There was no chance that I could become proficient by just listening to a "Pirates" CD. So I practiced a lot. I sang while running on the treadmill to increase my lung capacity, and timed myself to get my fast song up to speed.

I didn't get paid to perform, but I probably put more into rehearsal than I did into planning my house. I got paid handsomely for building the house, but could have been paid more and performed better if I practiced the needed skills in advance.

Glenn A. Overton says that we become proficient at a skill after a minimum of 5-7 repetitions. An owner-builder can profit by practicing the skills needed to succeed before the "performance" of breaking ground.

I regard the major skills of owner-builders to be budgeting, scheduling, featuring, and buying. Recently I observed an owner-builder friend break ground before ever practicing the first skill - budgeting. The spreadsheet budget he submitted to the lender was the first time he had ever tried to make a budget for the project. It turned out incomplete and misleading. Better to make 5-7 attempts before show time.

Same goes for developing a schedule of construction and written features for the house. Do and redo until you are proficient. Develop written RFQ's (request for price quotes) to buy materials and services for the project 5-7 times until it's easy for you. Use your skill to get multiple bids in every category before you break ground. You'll save a lot by doing so.

You could theoretically practice the skills after you break ground, but that's when the unprepared seem to get lost and bog down. Most people find that it's too late for practice when it's showtime.

 

How Do You Learn?

by Mark A. Smith

When you plan to build a house, there are many things you could learn that will save effort and money and create more quality, convenience, and value.

The trouble is, most of us forget the things we learn. There is a theory called the "Half-Life of Human Knowledge" that says we forget half of what we learn in a day, half again in a week, half in a month, and we have only 2% left at the end of a year. As my high school French teacher explained it, "Then it's a question of whose 2% is bigger."

In an Owner-Builder Workshop session, we challenged our students who had read our book to recall the "Ten Commandments of Owner Builders," the most important money-saving principles we know on the subject. Half the class could recall one commandment out of ten. Three people knew two, and one person could recall three of the commandments.

Management guru Peter Drucker said, "When you get a new boss, first decide how he or she likes to communicate. Some prefer written communication, some prefer face to face." You may be like that. Some learn well by reading, and should read everything they can before building. Some learn best by listening and can benefit from audiotapes or disks. Some learn best visually and should watch lots of videos on the subject.

According to Confucius, whoever we are, we learn best by doing. "I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand." Unfortunately, by the time you "do" a house, it will be too late to take advantage of your learning for that house. And you'll learn plenty.

Elaine and I have tried to take advantage of all the above in preparing for our next building project. We read copiously, search the Web, listen to tapes, and watch videos. In addition, we help others who are building, which consolidates our learning. You might make a friend by helping another owner-builder or by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, for example. It all helps grow your 2%.

 

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