ZEN LESSON #9: Rollercoaster?! Yes Please!

A home construction project is an EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER even when it’s going well. This next lesson will help you understand — and deal with — the emotional roller coaster you’ll experience during your home construction project.


My key points:


  • Emotions are the biggest challenge in residential construction, even more so than money and schedules, in part because money and schedules drive emotions. Just like with a rollercoaster: You’re safely buckled in with a reputable contractor, but it still feels scary. It’s all about managing your emotions and expectations.

  • You will experience many emotional ups and downs during your home construction project: The nervous climb to the top of the first big hill, the panicky freefall, the exhilarating bumps and drops and sharp curves, the happy coast into the final stretch. (And yes, there will be screaming at various points along the way!)

  • Get ready for the ride! (Home construction really is like a rollercoaster in another way — you know the rollercoaster is going to be big and scary even before you get on it, but you get on it anyway in part because it is big and scary. Same thing with home construction: big and scary, but nonetheless fun. It’s all about having the right mindset.)


After dealing with homeowners and coaching many, MANY residential contractors over the past 20 years, I’ve concluded that EMOTIONS are the biggest challenge in residential construction. Your emotions will rise and fall, just like a rollercoaster, as your home construction project goes through each stage of the construction process.

Here is a chart that a colleague created and I love it; I give it to each of my clients before we start a job.



And even though I review it with them at the outset, I still have to remind them about it along the way!


For example, I have a client who is building a home in Santaluz and the design review process was so onerous it took us 2 years just to get through that first phase. (It’s ALMOST as bad as it is here in Del Mar!) He is now so excited because after 2 years of design we finally started construction, and 6 months later we’re finishing the framing and he is so excited about seeing all this progress.


So I pull out my chart and I say “Look, Brian, I know you’re really excited because we’re right here, at the top of this big hill, but I just want to warn you that we’re due for big emotional plunge right about now. It’s gonna be weeks of rough-ins and it will look like nothing’s happening for a long time (even though a lot is taking place behind the scenes) and we will end up…


…down here, when we start hanging drywall, and then at that point things will look up a bit as the walls take shape, but then things get messy again as we begin taping and texturing and sanding, and everything gets to be a mess and we will finally end up…


…at the bottom again, alllll the way down here. But then things will start to look up as we begin to install trim and cabinets and finishes and paint walls, until we reach the point when you will want to throw a…


…party! But of course, at that point the project really isn’t complete yet and there still some finishes to install and lots of punch-list items…”


I just love this chart. It explains so much, so concisely. It helps prepare my clients for what lies ahead, and helps them track where we are in the construction process, and most importantly, helps them understand why they’re feeling the way they’re feeling. (Every client is different, of course, but you’d be surprised how often this pattern repeats itself!)


And just remember: Wheeee! It’s all about the mindset!