Makers need to make in the real world.

Makers need to make in the real world

Get out of the (electronic) building

Last evening, as the Pacific Northwest sunshine (yes, we do have that here in the Spring and Summer and Fall) was blazing, I was weeding my garden. There were no electronic devices in force. Although I did share this picture when I was done working, most of the time I used was just to move dirt. To get rid of weeds. And to appreciate the garden’s progress.

One of the things we often lose in the tech world – especially in our zest to communicate with each other – is the ability to slow down and see the life around us. I work in a garden with my neighbors because I love the whole process of taking plants from seed to plate. I’m not the best gardener, and I love the end product. I also really enjoy the ability to think less and do more. Working in the garden gives me energy to go back and interact more with people (in person or otherwise.)

This year, we expanded our garden. This is a little like a lean startup, where you take a chance that your idea for your vegetables matches up with what you can produce and what your individual market can bear. Granted, it’s not as bound by market forces, but it does literally force you to get out of the building (sorry for the bad pun, Steve Blank.) We don’t know which of our garden experiments will work yet. One set of potatoes is being cultivated one way, and another in a way that’s completely different.

What can we take away from the garden experience? First, that making things with your hands helps you to make things with your mind. If nothing else, killing weeds with a hoe is therapeutic and useful. (Just imagine that project, client, or line of code that you need to remove.)

Secondly, it’s important to remember that building a garden is a process, requiring resources, diligence, hard work, and persistence. The garden doesn’t get finished in a day, and does follow a work plan that proceeds in a reasonable order. There are some things you can only do in the spring, and there are other decisions cause irrevocable change (don’t buy enough seed, and don’t get enough plants.)

Finally, a garden is a lesson in resilience. You’re not sure what’s going to happen to the ground, the plants, or the vegetables over the course of the year. You simply can tend the garden, head off the problems as they occur, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s kind of like a startup.

(originally posted on Medium)

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