Adam’s Talk from Boing Boing: Ingenuity

Adam talked about his ten ground rules for success at Boing Boing’s theatrical show in San Francisco last month. Definitely worth watching.

Comments (12)

12 thoughts on “Adam’s Talk from Boing Boing: Ingenuity

  1. Thank you Adam! (and Will for posting this) I sat my 15 year old son down and we watched this together. I think hearing Adam say some of the same things that I have been telling hiim for years, and a lot more, actually registered with him. Great advice and great rules! Thanks again!

  2. More inspiring and motivational than any so-called motivational speech out there. Every point rang so true. I will do my best to work my butt off in my career by these rules. I would almost get one of these quote tattooed if I could pick a favourite..

  3. I have the utmost respect for Adam and what he’s trying to do, but the comment the inventor made about “pop culture detritus” is not without merit. Adam is now a role model for the sole reason that he is on television. There are thousands of kids watching his show and browsing this site who want to be him, but virtually none of those kids are going to end up becoming model makers for the special effects industry or TV presenters.

    In the same way, there are thousands of people out there going to culinary school, not because they want to work in a restaurant, but because they want to have a cooking show on TV. There are thousands of kids who think they’re going to study forensic science in college and be chasing down criminals like on CSI. That pop culture is leading people by the nose down these ridiculously narrow paths when they should be learning to think for themselves.

    I was astonished to see 20 hours of video on this site showing Will and Norm putting together gigantic Lego kits of Star Wars spaceships. When I was little, my folks bought me a box of generic Lego pieces and it was up to me to decide what to build. Now, the kits come with gigantic detailed manuals that you must follow to build the thing exactly the way it was designed. Am I the only one who would rather have seen Will and Norm build something from their imaginations, rather than indulge obsessions they established at age 9, and which they still haven’t satisfied?

  4. Estragon

    I can understand what you’re saying, but I have to disagree.

    I don’t have to defend Adam, but I believe that he’s gotten to where he is, because he is role model material, not the other way around.

    I don’t have to defend Will and Norm, but part of the reason they have gotten to where they are is that they maintain that sense of play. More people should be indulging the obsessions they had when they were young, not less. Play is an important part of the creative process. In my opinion, when you’re having fun doing something, it’s easier to come up with the ideas that are going to solve the problem, instead of being stressed out and not being able to think of anything.

    Also, I believe the point that Will, Norm, and Adam make when it comes to kits is that it’s only ONE way of getting started making. By following instructions and kit plans you can learn how things are structured and the underlying framework and processes involved in making. Some can do this without model kits, but others of us, use kits and pre-existing ideas as building blocks to get us started. LEGO’s are a great example of a building kit that can be done following the instructions, or free-style. Would you say that a LEGO engineer that uses a software program to create the instructions and models is cheating and not using his imagination?

    In the same way that model kits, building toys or LEGO’s can be used to jump start imaginations and open minds to possibility, so can pop-culture do the same. While it’s true that sit-coms, procedurals, dramas and military recruitment videos don’t give a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to do those jobs, they do serve a purpose of exposing people to the fact that these things exist. It’s up to the individual to choose the path they want to walk, and it’s not our task to think that they are unable to discern fantasy from reality. Human beings have agency and free will. In much the same way that cartoons or video games don’t create mass murderers, TV shows don’t create disillusioned employees that can’t think for themselves.

  5. Estragon If I make something from my imagination, I am the only one who can say whether I did well. If I make something from the real world, or fiction, there is a way for anyone to measure my skill level.

    Adam actually talks about this in other talks, about how he sees portfolios of young makers that have a ton of personal projects and fine-art work in them, and that it is useless to him as a potential employer. His suggestion for an ideal portfolio piece was to make a black, shiny cube with sharp edges. A simple object, but impossibly difficult to make to exacting dimensions and finish. If someone could make that, they could pretty much make anything.

    In his Maker Faire talk last year he spoke about the same conversation, about the kids making pop-culture items, and his conclusion was that whatever keeps you motivated, whatever it is you “need” to make, or the thing you really want on your shelf, that is what you need to make. To me, that makes sense.

    If you want to be skilled and successful, you need to know the basics, the techniques, the procedures. And it is much easier doing that when working towards something where you can compare your product to the “real deal”.

    Also, in this talk Adam is specifically trying to address the fallacy of “doing what you love”, one that he has named positively in the past while actually talking to his current points. Instead he is now playing up hard work and taking pleasure in doing any job well, taking a leaf from Mike Rowe’s book (or talk, check him out on TED). How you make the leap from that to people seeking fame and fortune by pursuing stuff they see on tv, I don’t quite understand.

  6. Will and Norm did build something from their imaginations:

    It seems clear that their obsession is geek culture, and they clearly have talents in writing and presenting. That’s sufficient. They don’t have to be obsessed physical object makers, there’s plenty of those. I appreciate them for their reportage, and sense of fun. They’ve made quite a number of videos, articles, and podcasts, with notably high quality. They deserve respect, as does the rest of the Tested team.

  7. Thanks Adam for posting this inspiring talk! Talks like these are a service to everyone. Breaking the “follow your dreams” mold with real solid hard earned advice is so refreshing. I will show my kids this video one day when they are old enough.

  8. Wonderful talk!

    There are three things I’ve always told people:

    1) You can have all the brains and talent in the world but sheer determination is what makes things happen.

    2) You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

    3) My Mom always told me “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing- do it to the best of your ability.”

    What I’ve learned is that when it comes to making things, people tend to not make things because they are either afraid of failure or they are unwilling to commit the necessary time to make it. When I show people something I’ve made they often look at it and say “I could never do that.” And I say “Of course you can- you just don’t know it yet.” Now sometimes people simply cannot make the time commitment because, as the saying goes, life gets in the way- and that’s fine. Reality often rears its ugly head in that regard.

    But what if you can make the time? What holds people back? It tends to be the fear of failure (or fear of the unknown) and the best way to overcome that is to get a small taste of success. As Walt Disney once said “Start small and let it grow.” So you start small, perfecting individual craft techniques as you go, slowly building your skill set. As you increase your skill set you take on bigger, more challenging projects and you learn to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Once you hit that point is when the fun really happens- at that point you begin to look for challenges.

    I’ve often said that making costumes and building props is an outstanding vehicle for learning craft and technology. There are an enormous number of skills involved (problem solving, molding, sculpting, casting, sewing, electronics, mechanics, 3D design, etc.) and the sky is the limit in terms of developing those skills. The skills learned during the process of creating a prop or costume are the same skills that are used in the process of inventing. The reason I like to use costuming/prop building as a vehicle for learning these skills is that it is personal.

    Every young person (and a few us slightly older folks!) has a movie/game/comic character that they associate with in one way or another- people choose to make a particular costume/prop because they are emotionally invested in for some reason. So when someone takes the plunge to learn a craft that enables them to recreate that character it is more than just about learning a process- it’s personal. They’re also recreating something other people are familiar with, which can provide an immediate feedback loop, so when they go out in public or show their work to a community that provides positive reinforcement of their craft it is enormously encouraging. At this point the snowball effect begins and from that small taste of success comes something greater- that same person that said “I could never do that” is now applying their new skills to the challenges they encounter and they realize that they can learn to make whatever they want if they are determined and work at it hard enough. The acquired skill set becomes a springboard for something greater.

    And that’s the goal.

  9. Reminds me of Hitchens “10 new commandments”, and having heard Adam do similar speaches perhaps he should do the Hitchensesque or tweaked video for “Adam Savages 10 rules of life”

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