The only real knowledge is in knowing that you know nothing.

A quick note: I wrote this one back in August of last year, a couple weeks before launching The Gearhead Project. It fell through the cracks and I’ve been waiting for the right time to run it. Nearly a year later, I’m running this one now because I need to keep the right perspective.

It’s always the right time to be grateful.

When should we defer to others, to the experts?

How do we know when we’ve reached this point?

Many of us got our start through necessity. We learned to do things ourselves because we didn’t have the money to pay others to do it for us.

We saw the direct benefits of doing things ourselves. We got more for our money. In my case it all started with a complete bottom end engine rebuild with forged, high-compression internals for what the local dealership wanted to simply replace the headgasket.

Over time, it’s easy to slip into a false sense of superiority. (False equivalence?) Just because we learned how to fix something by reading forum threads and inviting friends over with the promise of free beer and pizza, and go on to improve the overall performance and handling of our vehicles doesn’t necessarily make us superior to the OEM engineers who designed our vehicles in the first place.

We do it ourselves because we can’t pay others to do it for us.

This can have long term side effects, like a resistance to even considering paying others do other things for us.

Why pay a plumber $400 to replace your toilet when you can do it yourself? Well, for starters, is the money you save really worth the hours spent on the bathroom floor working on toilets?

toilet face
It’s a toilet with a face on it. #shrug

Is there anything more valuable than time?

Ultimately, the more we learn, the more we find ourselves running into opportunity cost.

Sure, you can fix damn near anything on your vehicle—but how much do you really want to spend another weekend fixing your daily driver?

Eventually, you get to the point where you’d rather have someone else do it so you can spend your time doing something else. Going to that pool party. Working on your website. Watching LOST again.

If you’re lucky, you find you’ve got skills others need and can “do a little horse trading”, as Brother Keith likes to say.

PS, we make our own luck.

You spend a Saturday in the shop with your friends—building their business website while they change your timing belt.

You’ve done enough timing belts over the years. You know you can do it.

You just don’t want to do it.

Josh and Adam doing timing belt job on Fezzik
Friends replacing original timing belt at 140k+. Still grateful.

And your friends feel the same way about their website.

If you’re lucky, you get to spend the day with good friends you know you can trust to do the job right, if not better than right.

If you’re lucky, you get to do something really nice for your friends in exchange and everyone feels really good about the work they did that day.

And if you’re really lucky, you find ways to improve, market, and leverage your skills doing something you truly love doing for a living that puts you in a position to pay others for their time.

PS, so they can do likewise.

When to defer

It all comes down to knowing when to defer.

Mark, an old boss I didn’t entirely agree with, once shared two pieces of advice with me that I completely agree with. First…

If I’m the smartest guy in the room, I’m in the wrong room.

If I’m surrounded by people who don’t understand what I’m trying to do, who don’t get it—or don’t even care—I need to start surrounding myself with people who do.

PS, this is how you start making your own luck.

It’s taken us a long time and a lot of hard work to get where we are today. Last thing we want to do is start over—but that’s where it starts.

You have to admit to yourself you’ve emptied your toolbox at this problem, the damn thing still won’t come off, you’re at your wit’s end, and who you gonna call?

You call up your friends.

A pair of 1G Monteros/Pajeros getting engine swapped.
Friends helping swap engines between Rocinante and the Dukar back in 2014.

You call up your gearhead buddies and tell them your problems. And they know exactly what to do. They know the trick to removing the intake manifold (in under an hour), the starter (6ft of extensions), the nuts you dropped into the transfer case while replacing the shifter.

PS, human sacrifice.

They know what you need, up to and including on-site mechanical assistance the next morning with zero advance notice. And you know what?

Happy to do it.

They’re happy to do it. Because you’ve been there for them when they’ve needed help.

That’s the second piece of advice Mark shared with me. “Happy to do it.”

Your friend needs your help pulling an engine? Moving? Installing a toilet?

Happy to do it.

We get out of life what we put into it, ya know?

I’m incredibly fortunate to have friends out there who have let me defer to them when it really counts. And I’m sure we’ll get around to all of them in due time. Right now, though, I’d like to mention the ones who let me defer figuring out the future of GBXM to them last year and made this site possible.

(You might say my unpublished gratitude for these folks bubbled up into an entire month of gratitude.)

Scott Gould, who challenged me to focus on distilling my value proposition (and lead me to discover I still had no idea what I was doing).

X, who not only shared an idea he’d always wanted to do himself, but also explained how I might do it.

Eric D, who connected some serious dots. “Here is our problem and our currency and the skills you seem to have that might be of value.”

As I typed up my reply to Eric’s comments on an often disappointing LG G6, The Gearhead Project began emerging from the fog.

And when I retyped it to Michael B, with whom I’ve been casually brainstorming with for years, it all suddenly made sense.

The decision to exit GBXM—something I’d spent the majority of my adult, professional life doing—was suddenly easy.

gbxm landing page
GBXM: Ran when parked. (It’s still up.)

TGP site went from half-baked idea to crystal clear plan in less than two weeks.

I think we did pretty good those past nine years at GBXM—especially considering I didn’t realize what we were doing and was all over the place.

I knew nothing. I know nothing.

I guess you could say The Gearhead Project is all about deferring—deferring to gearheads like us who’ve been at their own things for years and have learned the lessons we’re still working on.

I still don’t know Jack—unless we’re talking about Outlander Jack—but I’m clear about where I’m going now. And I’m talking to people about how to get there.

What’s more, for the first time ever, I actually know what I’m doing with all this.

[ June 2019 edit ] It all started with deciding to take all the skills I’ve picked up and all the lessons I’ve learned—over both my entire automotive and professional careers—and focusing all of it on helping a very small group of people get what they’re after.

I’d like you to come with us. Life is a build thread. What do you want to build?

Let’s get answers to your questions too.

I’ll now defer to the sign up form, below.

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