HAM Radio 101

Five Mistakes I Made as a New Ham, Part 2: Having a Lack of Focus

Editor’s Note: Troy Blair, KE8DRR, DX Engineering customer/technical support specialist, enjoys sharing personal stories about his involvement in amateur radio so others can learn from his experiences in the true spirit of being an Elmer. Check out some of Troy’s other articles including, QRP Operation: How Low Can You Go” and Lightening Your Go Kit.” Enter “Going it Alone” to read part 1 of his “Five Mistakes” series.

Mistake #2…Having a Lack of Focus

The second mistake I fell victim to was utterly overwhelming my mind—and bank account—in pursuit of finding the “best” equipment and operating practices available, ranging from the top radio to the ideal operating mode to the best sources of information. One thing our hobby does not lack is opinion givers. When I was new to the hobby, I thought everyone who spoke up with an opinion was an expert.

I soon found that opinions are a dime a dozen, but as a new ham I initially took them all to heart. Some operators get upset when another gives their opinion, especially if it differs from theirs. I learned early on that for the most part, hams are proud of their equipment and want to share what works for them. Keep in mind that if they share with you what they have and how it works, that is great. It does not mean that it is the only way to do the job or that it will work for you.

I would read a review or a social media post about a great operation and get all fired up. I would begin formulating a plan to obtain the exact setup that this person had. Many times it would include homebrewed or repurposed components that were just not that accessible. After my attempt at a project would deflate like a balloon, I would move on to the next great thing. It didn’t take long before I had a collection of partial projects and very little in the way of functional equipment.

I decided to follow the path that many hams take by selling off these items to finance my next project. I took a detailed inventory with good pictures and began posting. I was able to sell most of what I ultimately deemed not usable in the near foreseeable future. I then began looking at what I wanted to do well and took a laser focus on it. For me, it was EmComm. I compiled a comprehensive list of what I needed to construct both base and portable stations for that purpose.

I was able to get those EmComm stations equipped and set up. From there I disciplined myself to avoid my behavior of chasing squirrels in multiple directions and became intimately familiar with the deployment and use of the equipment in my EmComm stations. Having an elaborate, photogenic shack only goes so far. I desired possessing the knowledge, skills, and attitude to use this equipment to benefit my family and community if the need arose.

I encourage anyone getting into our great hobby to decide what they want to do FIRST and learn to do it well. Then you can move on to other facets of the trade. Failure to do so will frustrate both you and your significant other, who has to look at all of the “stuff” you collected and are not using.

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