Back in undergrad, I spent a lot of time reading Thoreau and Emerson.  Emerson’s essays meant a lot to me and Self Reliance was a very important text at that time.  And it still is.  Self reliance is about self understanding and owning your present and future.  The world is filled with people who will tell you their perceptions and attempt to distill a sense of order based on their world view.

If you simply follow what others tell you, in the long term you will wander without true direction.  Different people’s views contrast and naturally contradict.  Following others’ directions continually will ultimately lead to confusion as you find out these contradictions in reality.

That’s not to say others’ advice is not valuable.  Much the contrary, your personal journey of knowledge should be heavily influence from others.  And not just by classical authors either.  Your family, your friends, your peers, your bosses and others can and do offer great advice.

The issue is the blind faith in that advice.  Self reliance is the ability to think critically about others’ perspectives to understand if your perspective is in alignment with those views.  You cannot let others dictate what you are and what you’re capable of–you are capable of anything you set your mind to, despite what others may think.

Part of me is writing this for my unborn children.  We live in a world where many are eager to label others and their capability, let no one tell you who you are or what you can do other than YOU.  Reiterated by Emerson:

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

As a child, it was difficult to fully grasp this concept.  Once the knowledge is unlocked, the world is yours.  I wish I’d realized it in my teenage years instead of when I was 22 or so.  Today more so than ever the knowledge needed to accomplish near anything in your life is readily available.  It used to be libraries, now it’s Wikipedia and Youtube.

What’s required in addition is the perseverance to learn what’s necessary and apply it.  Few have that.

In today’s age the importance of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) is lessening for the masses–finding others to do work for you or apply their expertise is easier and easier due to the information supernova connecting nodes of need and ability.  Yet the capability to actually accomplish necessary tasks on your own will build your confidence and is thoroughly enjoyable–few things today are more enjoyable than a good days work on something that will last decades.

Not all tasks are worthwhile in terms of reward comparative to the time needed to build.  For instance, we need a new deck for our house, but I won’t be learning how to build the deck foundation as the security of those on said deck are prohibitive.  However putting the boards and railings on correctly is something well within my capability.  Building things is fun and there’s no reason not to–it also saves resources and should mean the job is done RIGHT as it’s your work.

Self Reliance and DIY are powerful concepts.  Embrace them wholly.  Captain your own ship; charter your own course.  Do not be afraid of the considerations of those close to you, but ultimately decide what is right for your path based on what you know in your heart.