That word means a lot to me. You may have seen it on the home page: “It takes confidence to be handy.” To me, it means knowing I can do something even if I've never done it before. I never bought a house, until I did. I never had a baby, until I did. I never jumped off the railing of my second story deck into a 4-foot pool as a kid, until I did. And thankfully, I didn't break my back.

Confidence is learned from role models. I learned confidence from my parents.

My mom was a nurse – a natural extrovert – an outgoing, take-charge kind of person who could talk to anyone. My dad was definitely an introvert who, according to my mother, would never have had any friends if he didn't marry her. He never went to college, but he was born in Brooklyn, New York, and lived a while in Newark, New Jersey, so he definitely had street smarts. And he could do just about anything that needed to be done around the house where I grew up in Old Bridge, New Jersey.

41 Shirley Blvd, Old Bridge, NJMy parents didn't have a lot of money, but they lived like they did. We had a really nice, 2-story bi-level house with an immaculate lawn and pristine landscaping. They bought it brand new before I was born and lived in a construction zone with dirt streets for years until the development was finished. It was marketed as a “raised ranch” with three bedrooms and an unfinished basement. I think that was my dad's first project. Although they hired a guy to frame it out, my dad did all the electrical and finishing work, complete with plumbing a second kitchen and bathroom downstairs.

Vacations were important to my mom but they were usually modest. The farthest we traveled was to Disney World in Florida in 1972 – just a year after it opened. We stayed in the Contemporary hotel and it was my first time on an airplane.

Ok, so what does this have to do with confidence? Well, I'll tell you: I never heard my parents say “I can't.” They accomplished everything they put their minds to.

My mom never said, “We can't go to Disney because we don't have the money.” She wanted to take us so she saved the money.

My dad never said, “I can't build a 24-foot deck on the second floor of our house.” He got my Uncle Eddie (who was even handier than my dad) to help him.


My parents were fixers.

My mom, the nurse, was everyone's go-to person for all things related to health. Including mental and emotional health, because people didn't pay for therapy in those days. They just called Irene over for advice on everything from in-grown toenails to nervous breakdowns.

My dad was the neighborhood go-to guy for everything related to physical situations. He worked in janitorial supplies and hardware, so his garage was full of tools and his head was full of know-how. He was always willing to lend a tool or a hand to anyone in need. If we broke a faucet or a toy or a window, my dad knew how to fix it. Same for cars. We always had the biggest Chilton's Manual available – the one that had practically every car in it – and anyone could borrow it if they needed it.


From a young age, I always wanted to know how things worked. I loved taking things apart, especially things with motors and gears. Toys, record players, and tape recorders were my favorites. Anything with screws was fair game. There was no “How It's Made” on TV back then; I had to figure it out for myself. Believe it or not, I usually got things back together in working condition when I was done! Perhaps a spare part left over here and there, but they obviously weren't needed anyway.

I grew up doing my own car maintenance too. I never paid anyone for a break job or an oil change. I got a job in an auto parts store and learned how to do a tune-up, change my carburetor, and even changed my own clutch. The books weren't detailed enough to show me exactly what to do, so I usually made mistakes and had to do something multiple times to get it right. But that's how I learned.

Thrifty, not cheap

Perhaps that's how mom could save enough money to have nice stuff and nice vacations: they never paid someone else to do something they could do themselves. And, Lord Jesus knows, that's me in a nutshell. It pains me to hire a contractor. Not just because of the cost, but also because I am usually disappointed in the quality of their work. They can't possibly care as much about my house as much as I do so their work will never be as good as mine. If I touch the ceiling while painting a wall or install a tile just a teeny bit off kilter, it's my mistake that I can fix or decide to live with. Sloppy mistakes made by a contractor just gnaw at me forever.

Confidence Mantra

Learn these two words: I CAN. Repeat them often. Let's practice:

I can own my own house.

I can build any project I can visualize.

I can have nice things.

I can have the job I want.

I can take nice vacations.

I can travel the world.

I can do anything a contractor can do.

If you're the type of person who says “I can't”, you never will. You'll either pay a contractor, or sit there wishing it would magically get done on its own. Don't be that person.

Be this person:

I can do anything.

I can do anything.

I can do anything.

I can do anything.

I can.