My 10 Commandments for Makers

Adam Savage's Maker Faire 2014 speech.

[Editor’s note: Adam has given an address at every Bay Area Maker Faire. In past year, he’s talked about why makers have a need to make and how to work smart when making. This year’s talk was framed around Adam’s top tenets for makers–the commandments he lives by and the advice he would give to makers of any age. The full video is also below!]

1. Make something. Anything. Weld, carve, cook, sculpt, sew. Make something in the world that wasn’t there before. As humans, there are two things that make us truly unique: the ability to use tools and the need to tell stories. Making things is both. Everything made has a story embedded in it. When you make something, it becomes part of your story. Humans are natural storytellers, and when you make new things, you join in the most ancient and important story of all.

2. Make stuff that improves your life, either mechanically or aesthetically. It doesn’t matter which. Nothing cements a feeling of utility than using something you’ve made in the course of moving through life. Make useless stuff too, because that’s fun and fine, but you’ll cement your satisfaction by improving your surroundings.

3. Don’t wait. You can start now with what’s in front of you. As Goethe [may or may not have] said, “Begin it!”

4. Use a project to learn a skill. I don’t know about you but I need a goal to learn a skill. I can’t deconstruct and just learn welding for welding’s sake. I need to have something that only welding will bring me. Look around and find something you need to build. Something you can’t help but build.

5. ASK. Ask for help. People who make things love to share their ideas and knowledge. Makers love to talk about their work. Any husband or wife of a maker knows this is true. Learn how to work well with others and it will give back to you tenfold. Ask questions. Ask for advice. Ask for feedback.

6. Share your methods and knowledge and don’t make them a secret. Take lots of pictures and make notes. Make noise. You will forget key details unless you do. Recognize that no matter how esoteric the build or the process you’re working on, somebody somewhere is interested in the same thing and will benefit from your experience, no matter how young you are. Nobody has the monopoly on being you. No one can steal that. Don’t keep secrets!

7. Discouragement and failure are intrinsic to the process. Don’t hide from these. Talk about them. They’re not enemies to be avoided, they’re friends, designed to teach your humility. Go easy on yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others; go ahead and be envious of others’ skills, because frequently you can’t not. Use that.

8. Measure carefully. Have some tolerance. You know what tolerance is? If something fits tightly into something–that’s a close tolerance. If something fits loosely, that’s a loose tolerance. Knowing the difference between tight and loose tolerance is perhaps the most important measure of a craftsperson.

9. Make things for other people. Nothing feels better than expanding your making beyond yourself. Make no mistake: you make yourself vulnerable when you give something to someone that you made, but the rewards are incredible.

10. And if I could go back in time and tell my young self anything–any specific thing at all–it would be this: Use more cooling fluid!

Comments (13)

13 thoughts on “My 10 Commandments for Makers

  1. Well, this might just be the inspiration I needed to finish that one nagging project, that has been on my list of things to do for literally years now.

  2. The thing that stood out to me with this is almost all of these are true for computer programming (and I’m sure many other fields) as well. Young programmers have a hard time with 4 and 5, oh do they have trouble with 5.

    And don’t think that just because it’s technical 1 doesn’t apply either, programming is an incredibly creative process.

  3. And don’t think that just because it’s technical 1 doesn’t apply either, programming is an incredibly creative process.

    Programming is a type of making, and certainly in this context. It’s a creative and technical task to accomplish a specific projected goal.

  4. regarding commandment 8, the importance of measuring and knowing what to measure, i had concluded a good while ago that “measure twice, cut once” is incomplete advice.

    it needs to be “think thrice, measure twice, cut once.”

  5. I actually just made an account here to comment with pretty much what you said there. Though I’m fairly new to programming (namely game development), I can appreciate the effort put into the software we use everyday and take for granted. Programming is as much making as is civil engineering, yet it’s often overlooked. However; you weren’t entirely true about young programmers having problems with 4 and 5 – I know a good few people who’ve learned all their knowledge from projects and seeking help, myself included, though it was in an environment that encouraged it.

    I should probably stop typing now. I need coffee.

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