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YoM: Make the World

In his latest post, Seth Godin damn near waxes poetic about “craftsmanship,” and how the new craftsman (“craftsperson,” he writes) can be anything from “a blacksmith or a carpenter, a visual artist or even a dedicated teacher.” It’s the last sentence in that line that I think says it best: “Someone to look up to.”

Leonardo Da Vinci was a craftsman (or a “maker,” as I define it here). He did astounding things for his patrons, and used his passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity to reshape the world and invent new things. True, some of these never left his notebooks. But enough did to make him a legend, and even his cast-off ideas have had people exclaiming in surprise and amazement for centuries.

Thomas Edison (why does everyone always throw in the “Alva?” As if there are that many other Thomas Edisons in the history books), was a craftsman with thousands of world-changing inventions to his credit. He had such an impact on the world that his greatest invention, the incandescent light bulb, has become iconic as the universal symbol for “a good idea.”

Bill Gates was a craftsman who saw a way to use the resources at his disposal to build something big. Some may vilify him, but his creation of Microsoft helped build the home computer revolution and opened the door for one of the biggest innovations of all time: the Internet, right in your home.

David Ogilvy was a craftsman who defined Advertising as an industry, creating many of the tropes and concepts still used today. As a novice, Ogilvy was given a small new hotel account with an advertising budget of only $500. He took that budget, which had been beneath the notice of his colleagues, and used it to do something no one had thought of up to that point. He bought $500 worth of postcards and sent them to everyone in the local phonebook. When the hotel opened, every room was booked. Ogilvy had “tasted blood,” and had taken his first steps toward icon status in the industry.

One of the common traits for all makers/craftsmen is their ability to look at the world, consider their resources, and build what is needed. They spend their time and energy considering how things work, how ideas from one category can be applied to another, and how to leverage everything you have to build something bigger than the sum of its parts.

That’s what this  “Year of the Maker” is all about — getting out there, looking at the world, and deciding what you can create to make it better. And the true craftsperson puts his or her time, energy, and care into making what they build the best it can possibly be. Use the resources you have, and build something. Be the best teacher. Be the best artist. Be the best writer. Be the best carpenter. Be the best soldier. All of it is a craft, and all of it requires personal strength and conviction, and a willingness to look at the world and constantly ask questions of it.

Get out there. Build something. Make the world great.


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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YoM: Flea Market Makers

I have this obsession with flea markets.

 You’ve probably been to one or to yourself. You may even be a frequent shopper, hitting flea markets a couple of times each month. Odds are, if you have that level of interest, you’re probably there for bargains on things like antiques and tools.

I go for that kind of thing, too. I like finding a good deal on something useful. In fact, the majority of tools I own have come from the flea market, and generally at this-is-probably-stolen prices.

have been known to buy artful little decorative pieces, like a little brass telescope, a couple of vintage film projects, and even an old Underwood typewriter that weighs more than the desk it’s sitting on. More often, though, my flea market dollars go towards old technology.

I’m going for things that still have a use today, and you’d be surprised how big a cache that is. For instance, many people don’t realize that 20-year-old video production equipment is often just as good as brand new production equipment. Cameras have improved quite a bit over 20 years, but lights, light stands, tripods, and even studio-grade video monitors are pretty much the same as they’ve ever been.

I usually go to the flea markets with my friend Bob, and between the two of us we have built a couple of pro-quality, highly competitive production studios that can produce content on just about any media you’ve ever heard of, and quite a few you haven’t. We can play, record, and duplicate just about anything. We can produce cinema-quality graphics, video, music, and voice recording. And we do it all on equipment that is well “past its prime.”

There is something kind of awesome about putting “obsolete tech” back to work in a professional setting.

I was thinking about this yesterday as Bob and I trudged through the flea markets on a rare Houston day of both cool and dry weather. Halfway through the day, Bob had already nabbed a spectrum analyzer and a Roland US-25EX audio capture device. I had nabbed a Manfrotto light stand and a Rode on-camera microphone (not to mention an awesome angle grinder, a new power supply for my Wii, and a set of golf clubs for a friend). If we had bought these things at full retail, we’d easily pay hundreds of dollars, possibly thousands. Our output? Less than a hundred for everything. And it all works exactly the same as the full-price stuff.

As we pushed our way through the thick crowds, dodging baby strollers and vendors selling knock-off DVDs, I caught a glimpse of a guy soldering a component onto the circuit board of a stereo amplifier. I paused for a moment to watch, and noticed that he had quite a workbench there at the end of his rented stall. He had a pickup truck, with a camper shell, backed up to his space, and inside was a well-organized collection of tools, parts, and test equipment. This guy was an electronics repair shop on wheels.

I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to interview him. But the crowd was so thick, and my purpose for being there was a little more consumerish. Still, it was definitely an image that stuck with me, and I’ll be returning soon just to get an interview with him (or someone like him).

If you’ve ever read “Makers,” by Corey Doctorow, then you may have a really good idea of what finding something like this at a flea market is like. In Doctorow’s book, a couple of genius engineer types, obsessed with tinkering and inventing, end up surrounded by a growing shanty town. They build the things that they think are cool, and soon inspire the world in a maker movement that the author calls “New Work.” Things like 3D printers and repurposed electronics become ubiquitous. The world becomes a better place, where anything is possible because two guys liked to tinker, and weren’t picky about their immediate environment. No need for labs and smocks and white, static-guard walls. These guys did their best work among piles of junk and hundreds of street vendors hawking all kinds of wares.

 By the way, I’ve given only a really light summary of the story in “Makers.” If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. If there’s any part of you that likes the idea of building, creating, or open source, you’ll absolutely love this book.)

What hit me as I watched this guy soldering in the middle of the flea market was that Doctorow’s vision wasn’t that far off of the mark. In fact, everything he writes about is possible, right here and now. The maker movement is upon us.

You wouldn’t think that the “next big thing” in technology would be born among flimsy makeshift tables made of two-by-fours and plywood, or among stacks of discarded VCRs and broken Transformers toys. But there it is, hiding in plain site.

Something Bob and I comment on more and more frequently is the fact that technology and gizmos we would have sawed our left arms off for just five or six years ago are now so common as to be invisible. Flat-panel TVs, small LCS displays, netbook computers, touch-screen PDAs and media players, marine band radios, and, yes, pro-level audio and video equipment can be yours for cash on the table, and usually a lot less than retail.

In “Makers,” the protagonists have found new uses for old technology because, frankly, there’s so damn much of it. People tend to get creative when they have a lot of one resource but not enough of another. So the flea market is full of innovations that no one outside would ever have thought of. It’s only a matter of time before someone realizes they can take one of those innovations and make millions on it.

This being the Year of the Maker, I’m happy to discover that I can track a maker movement right in the heart of a place I love dearly. You can bet I’ll be back among the flea market stalls as often as possible, doing “research.” And I’m going to keep my eyes wide open for “the next big thing.” It may be hard to spot, since it will be built from all the old “big things.”


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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YoM: I vant to vatch your vlog

Yesterday I posted a Facebook link to a vlog entry by Shaytards in which he and his family announce that they are out of debt. They are making that coveted call to Dave Ramsey to scream loud and proud, “We’re debt free!”

That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment by itself, but what makes it really extraordinary is how this guy did it. He went from being a contractor in the granite countertop business making $45-50K per year to being a vlogger making mid-six-figures.

Whutzitwhozat?

You might remember that I have proclaimed this the “Year of the Maker"(YOM). I bet you thought I only meant tinkering together little bits of hardware and technology, right? Throw in some gears and leather, maybe a little bit of wood and steel? FAR TOO LIMITING.

Being a maker means being a “creator.” And that category can be nice and comfortably broad. For example, I consider it to include not only physical doohickimabobs, but also intellectual property like books, movies, and music. It also includes blogs and video logs (or “vlogs”).

So, whether Shaytards wants the title or not, he’s now officially a Maker. You’re welcome.

Vlogging is an interesting phenomenon. Thanks to YouTube (and, to a lesser degree, sites like Vimeo or LiveLeaks or a few million others), reaching an audience directly, through video, is easier than at any other time in history. You can literally wake up at 8 a.m., sit in front of a camera (say, your phone’s built-in cam?), talk for two or three minutes, and post it online. Then you gently roll back into bed and sleep until noon, when you get up and check your analytics to see how much money you’re rolling in.

Thanks to Google, creating a profit-generating business is as easy as buying a video camera and having a winning personality. Oh, and an Internet connection.

Guys like Phil DeFranco (sxephil on YouTube) not only do this every day, but also turn it into a media empire. DeFranco has spun outward from his quirky, sometimes self deprecating but always funny rants and takes on current events and into celebrity interviews, movie reviews, and more.

Similarly, Natalie Tran (communitychannel on YouTube) has created a quirky and damned amusing show that features her along side … herself. One of her standby bits is to start off with some observation or pet peeve (“You know what I think is weird? People who ask questions but then figure out the answer for themselves and then just leave”) and then create a scene in which she plays all of the characters. This is done through some pretty convincing split-screen technique. It also helps that she’s a very good character actor.

These are two of my favorite examples, but they’re hardly the end-all of the list. Charlie McDonnel (charlieissocoollike), for example,  is a young talent from England who is more entertaining to watch than most of the BBC programming I’ve seen. He’s funny and quirky, and clever as hell. He’s also in his early 20s (though he looks quite a bit younger), and already landing gigs like shooting official behind-the-scenes videos on the set of “Doctor Who.”

The vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green, are a couple of amped up geeks with actual, no-foolin’, interesting opinions on everything from literature to conjoined twins. They tag-team their vlog, trading off days and addressing each other instead of the audience. It’s different — a bit like sitting in on a private conversation between to uber-smart geek siblings. Come to think of it … it’s exactly that. I need to work on my interpretation of “literal.”

All of these vloggers have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of followers. They all produce their own shows, and they all started right where you are. Sitting at a computer, showing an interest in something. They became makers when they first turned on the camera and then uploaded the result to YouTube.

Now … monetizing their makery … that’s quite an accomplishment.

What I love about their stories, though, is the fact that they have crafted for themselves a niche in a new market. They have created something powerful and world changing. And they did it with just the resources they had at their disposal.

Good on all of them. It makes me want to try it myself, which I think is also a Maker’s accomplishment. We’re like vampires that way. We recruit from those we have in our thrall.

If you would like to start your own vlog, let me know. Fire off some questions, and I’ll see if I can get you some answers. I’m working on nailing down some interviews with a few of these folks, and you’d make my life that much easier if you did all the work of question writing for me. I’m empowering myself through laziness.

Seriously … send me any questions and I’ll will find you and me some answers.

 

Until then, keep on Making.

 Wow .. that’s the lamest sign off ever.


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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YoM: Steal this idea

Ever get one of those ideas that just sticks with you? You’re in the shower or driving to work or playing Angry Birds and PONK! There it is again. And then you spend hours noodling with it, writing out a business plan or drawing up a sketch or just talking about it with your (really, really bored) wife.

I recently got infected with an idea like that. It’s a humdinger, too, because it’s more than my typical, “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone would invent that?” It’s more of a “Wow … that could really, honestly change the world.”

An idea like that is bigger than an entrepreneurial opportunity. I mean, sure, I’m thinking it over and wondering, “How can I make this happen in such a way that I am fabulously wealthy in the end?” And that is the goal, of course. That’s always the goal. I like money.

But this particular idea is actually about community. Specifically, it’s about a community of “makers.”

You may remember from my last entry that I’ve proclaimed 2011 as “The Year of the Maker.” This year, I’m all about focusing my energy and efforts on building things. I want to create new inventions and products, and I want to start new movements. But I don’t want to do it alone.

Last night I met with a friend of mine, who also brought along and introduced me to one of his co-workers. Our whole goal was to get together and talk “product.” We were going to discuss ideas for things we could build and sell. But a funny thing happened during the two or three days leading up to this meeting. I got The Big Idea.

What if I could start a Maker Community? What if I could create a community of people who all have the same goal: Create products and generate wealth?

So, for about three days or so I spent all of my free moments writing a sort of business plan/manifesto for this idea. I’ve been outlining exactly how it could work, and how members could profit from being cooperative, and being a part of a community.

I think this community angle is the key, because communities tend to be self-regulating, living organisms. The community, unlike a corporation, takes care of its own.

Corporations tend to do what’s best for the company. So, you have a hurt back, a wife who is eight months pregnant, and your car needs four new tires … that’s a shame. But this has been a really bad year for the company, so we’re going to have to downsize your ass. Take care!

Communities, on the other hand, tend to be about throwing together to protect the individual. You just lost your job and you need someone to make meals for you and your wife while you recover and she has a baby? Count on your community! We have your back, bro.

So when I think of being a part of something, what I want is to be a part of a community that looks out for my interests and encourages my growth. And if that community is dedicated to especially looking out for one interest in particular — wealth for each of its members — then fun times are ahead.

That’s what I want to form. I want to build a Maker Community, and center it on building financial security and prosperity for each individual member. I have a lot of plans and ideas about how that could happen, and how to protect the community from the odd snake in the garden.

Now, you may be saying, “Kev! Are you nuts?!? You’re telling everyone your plan! What if someone steals the idea?”

Holy crap, if only someone would! Because, frankly, I think I’m setting myself up for a whole lot of work. I’m taking on the role of the founder of this thing, trying to put down on paper all of the basic ideas that I, one man, have. And then I want to outsource it to people who have brains I respect, who can look at it, maybe pick parts of it apart, and help me shape and mold it into what it’s meant to be. And then I want to take it to people and, somehow, explain it in such a way that my passion and energy for it shines through and they see that it’s a good idea, and want to be a part of it. I think I’m setting myself up for a job of work with this. So please, TAKE IT. I will be just as happy to become a member of this once it exists.

And that’s the whole point.

The thing is I freely admit that I want to be wealthy and famous. Hell yeah. And I will be. But this idea, this Maker Community, is something bigger. It’s a chance to build something bigger than me, bigger than fame, bigger than wealth, and involve a whole lot of people so we can do a whole lot of good. This is me trying to build something I can belong to, where all of my needs are met, and people care enough about me to make sure I succeed. And in return, I do the same for them.

So steal this idea. I’ll even give you my business plan/manifesto to work from. And as an extra bonus, I’ll be the first member of your new community.

Otherwise, get ready. The Maker Community is coming, one way or another.


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Tip in any amount you like, safely and securely via PayPal (no PayPal account requred). And thank you in advance for your generosity!


____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
____________________________________________________________

BECOME A SLINGER

Get updates on new books, new posts, and new podcasts, plus be the first to hear about special offers and giveways. And pants jokes. Lots and lots of pants jokes.