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)

Looking for perspective? Visit a big volcano

It's bigger than you think

Seriously, go look at a Volcano. Ok, some people might not have the privilege (or the unfortunate nearness) of living near a mountain like Mt. St. Helens, but the next time you are nearby, you should go. But why?

Geologic Time is Long

In the era of “internet time”, where everything changes in nanosecords and it’s tough to remember what you ate for breakfast much less what happened yesterday, visiting a volcano (a still active volcano) like Mt. St. Helens reminds you that our lifespans are very very short in the face of geologic time. The last major eruption of this volcano happened around 1500. The 1980 eruption (which some of us remember) was a blip. Looking at the geologic record provides us with some interesting clues and encourages us to think in much different ways. If you’re interested in thinking about time for the long haul, you might want to check out the 10,000 year clock project.

Nature Doesn’t Care What You Want

Although we clearly influence and change the scape of the planet, the sheer scope, scale, and speed of the changes that can happen in the face of an eruption like the one at Mt. St. Helens dwarf any changes that you or I might try to make on the planet’s course. That doesn’t mean we should give up on our individual efforts – but what it does mean is that the planet can be fickle. In the 1980 eruption, enough material was displaced to fill almost three quarters of a cubic mile. That’s a lot of stuff. See more details about the 1980 eruption here.

It’s Awesome

The sheer scale of the mountain is amazing. You can see Mt. St. Helens for miles on the approach to the Johnson Ridge Observatory (accessed from WA state 504), and yet it still is an incredible site to see. The photo above was taken a Johnson Ridge, about 5 and a half miles away from the Volcano and at an elevation of about 4200 feet (the mountain is around 8,000 feet in height.) Looking at Mt. St. Helens from that distance, you feel as if you’re facing it square on, yet can see the vast influence the mountain had on the surrounding valley when it erupted 31 short years ago.

Of course, Mt. St. Helens isn’t the only interesting natural wonder out there. But it’s a pretty cool one, and I’m amazed to think that I hadn’t been there and had driven past the general area tens or hundreds of times before I decided to go. And I’m glad I did.

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