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How Hard Can It Be?

This question has frustrated and challenged me for years. It has helped me understand new things and showed me how little I understand most things. The question is: “How hard can it be?”.

Whenever I’ve said this to myself I know what is coming. Normally I ignore the impending grief, expense and frustration and go ahead thinking it can’t be that hard. Usually it is hard but only for the first time. Next time it is so much easier!

Today’s journey is upgrading my electric scooter. It’s a beautifully engineered German one from Urban Drivestyle, based in Berlin. However, the electronics in it don’t quite behave as I would like them – the scooter becoming rather jerky when it hits its regulated top speed. I am not looking for it to go faster, just smoother at top speed.

From Berlin Urban Drivestyles Boost Scooter

Peaking inside, it only really has three important bits which are the battery, the controller, and the  motor. How hard can it be to replace the controller with one that doesn’t exhibit the jerkiness of the supplied one?

As it turns out, quite hard. I can replace the controller easily enough, only to discover the plugs and sockets don’t match up. Then I discover the ‘protocol’ used between the display and the controller are different, then the throttle doesn’t talk to the controller either. On and on it goes, frustrating me as the sun disappears, the rain arrives and the bank balance continues to go in the wrong direction. This is a classic case of embarking on a project when you don’t know the questions to ask, so you fumble through finding out along the way.

Whenever you look at someone who does something really well, like the riders of the Household Cavalry playing in the Norfolk waters at Holkham beach, it looks so effortless. The riders just seem to sit on the horse for it to do the right thing. You never see the years of training and bruises and falling off. Watch a plasterer, a brick layer, or any tradesperson do their thing – it seems so easy.

I really should know better that to think anything is easy, but I also know all too well that in the grief of trying to solve a new problem there’s a great deal of learning to be gained. Some of that new learning also takes you in directions that you never quite expected. For example, by upgrading my scooter I’ve also bought a book that taught me how to make lithium ion batteries packs. Really:

When the optimism of the ease of a project is replaced with reality, I tend to resign myself to thinking the next problem to solve isn’t going to be the last. So as a replaced the throttle on my electric scooter. Or I tried to. Getting the old one off was easier than putting a new one on due to its rather unusual design. However, after taking the grip and the brake off, on it slid and hey presto. To my surprise I powered it up and I gave it some beans – off it went  into my Land Rover! I learnt new controllers don’t come with all the safety features official ones do, like having to push off before the motor engages!

People With Skills

I’ve always admired people who can do so many different things. A friend of mine’s Dad could seemingly do anything. He could mend his cars, do the plumbing, weld, build and fix everything. He’d build his own house in between doing everything else.

It can be intimidating to start on a journey of learning something new. Before I qualified in my ‘recent’ trade, I needed something that the every day B&Q didn’t sell. I  was advised to go to the local electrical wholesaler MD Thompson. In the queue, I overheard the person in front ask for what they needed. It went something like this:

“Hi Emma, can I have 20meters of 2.5mil 3 core SWA and glands?”

“Sure, with earth nuts or are you happy with the banjos that come with the glands?” she replied.

“Yeah, earth nuts too as the supplied banjos are crap. Sorry, I should have said.”

It was as if the person in front of me had just spoken in a foreign language. All I wanted was a special type of lightbulb but I had no idea of what language to use. It was one of those ‘how hard can it be?’ moments. When interrogated by the sales lady I confidently strolled away with the wrong light bulb because I confidently made up my (wrong) answer. “BC or ES27?” she asked.  I didn’t know what that meant, so I chose the latter. I actually needed BC (a bayonet cap) rather than the ES27 screw cap. Feeling like a knob, I went elsewhere and got the right one. However, I learnt some new words and added them to my growing electrical vocabulary.

Image 01 - G23/GU10/E27/B22 to E27/E12/E14 Light Bulb Base Socket Lamp Converter Adapter
Got it?

Fear of making mistakes does stop many people from learning something new. It could be cooking, carpentry, mechanics, distilling your own gin or making your own wine. Whilst it is much easier to simply pay someone else, there is a real joy in learning new skills and using them to enhance your life.

That is of course, if you can go through the frustration of getting things wrong a few times! I have set myself the challenge to design and build my next house from scratch. I’ve done sheds and studios and now it’s time to make my own house. Watch this space!