What I Learned from Adam Savage

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Adam Savage’s Tested. If Mythbusters were available on any of the streaming services I have access to, I would have episodes on in the background a good portion of the day. His book, Every Tool’s a Hammer, has been on my to-be-read list for a while now, and I will hopefully, finally, get to it this month. So today I want to take moment to explain what I learned from Adam Savage, and why he’s on my list of inspirational figures.

You Can Build Your Own Tools and Toys

My career at the moment is writing toolkits that can be use to create other things. I’m writing the tabletop roleplaying systems and settings that I want to play. Adam Savage is a maker, and in the past few months I’ve enjoyed watching him built shelves and storage units to house his tools. I did the props and costumes he makes, largely for his own amusement. Creating things is fun. Having something you can keep using and playing with afterward is immensely satisfying.

“The coolest toys don’t have to be bought; they can be built. In fact, sometimes the only way they’ll ever exist is if you make them yourself.”

Adam Savage, Wired (July 4, 2012)

Mistakes Can Be Educational

Nothing is wasted if you learned something. That’s hard to accept sometimes. Yes, you’ve lost time and materials, and that can be devastating. You need to take the long view. If you learn something that makes you a little bit better, and the job a little bit easier, then you’re going to save resources in the long run. Short-term pain for long-term gain.

Sometimes you discover things by accident. A lot of the time I don’t know what I don’t know, and the gap in my knowledge is only revealed to me when something goes wrong. You need to pad your project a bit, in terms of both deadline and budget, to account for that. Besides, if everything went perfectly every time, what fun would that be? As long as everything is safe and precautions are taken so no one gets hurt, give yourself permission to fail.

You Can Find Joy in What You Love to Do

Adam Savage has the energy and exuberance of a golden retriever. When he gets excited about something, he really gets excited about it. That’s infectious, because he’ll get you interested too. There is great power in finding joy in the things you do. It’s better when you already love the things that you do.

A lot of people who land their dream job end up burning out. That makes sense. Something that you used to do for fun is now officially work. When you take the perspective that getting to do what you love is a privilege and a blessing, you being gratitude into the equation. With that gratitude you can tap into the happiness, and use that to make the job fun again.

What I Learned from Adam Savage

Be comfortable being yourself. What you bring to the table, every time, is a perspective and a bundle of lived experiences that no one else has. The tricks is to learn how to use that to your advantage. It means having a lot of different experiences, even if that comes down to being a broad generalist rather than a deep specialist. Being open to experiences and learning new things lets you see things from different angles, in a variety of contexts. Making connections is almost as fun as learning new things, and helps in finding ways to apply the things you already know.

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