Today my new apprentice Dano came over and as we worked we talked, a new phenomenon for me, mostly. One of the things we talked about was, what is the long term plan beyond just making more stuff?
It wasn't phrased quite that way, but I will repeat it, because it is a question I think we don't ask enough of ourselves as makers.
What is the long term plan beyond just making more stuff?
This is in the context of making a living. If you are making stuff just to make you happy, great. If you are at the stage (and really you never leave this stage) of learning a lot from the process of making stuff, also great. But it still bears asking, what is the long term plan for you to make a living doing this things other than just making more?
Sometimes making more works. If you have some way to scale up production, hire people, build a brand, then that's one answer. Sometimes making more works just scaling up your own time doing it, because it's something more lucrative like clock repair.
In my case, however, I can increase prices a bit, I can improve how much I make each day, I can improve the demand by building a strong customer base, but I still need to ask myself what the longer term plan is.
The answer, I think, is to shift the paradigm. Instead of asking how much of something I'm making, I should be asking how much value I'm bringing to the world.
Some of that value is in making a beautiful object for someone. Some of that value is in making spoon blanks available to people who don't have ready access to wood. Tool collaborations also fall under this umbrella. Those sources of value are limited by my time and energy.
More scaleable sources of bringing value are sharing what I know, both deliberately and through the process of making what I make. This can be teaching, and the @spoonesaurus account, and through posts on my home feed, and just answering questions.
Another way to bring value is to inspire people by sharing my path. Hence the blog, much of my feed, the book, the magazine.
The final, and most powerful, way of bringing value to people is to help build community. This is the Spoonesaurus Gatherings that Matt and I host, and this is the goal of much of how I interact on social media.
Some of these forms of bringing value are easy to monetize. You sell the spoon, the tool, the workshop. Some require more strategy. The magazine only exists because of the free content we share that serves as a proof of value.
So my plan? My plan going forward is to both work as hard as I can to support my family by doing all of these as much as I can, while at the same time recognizing that the scaleable parts are what will allow me to enjoy the non-scaleable parts for the rest of my life. I grew up almost fetishizing manual labor and turning up my nose at business as a mindset. That has been hard to change.
But I also recognize that I need a long-term plan that is more than just me carving spoon after spoon for the rest of my life. Love of that process is a huge part of why I do what I do. But I want something more, some connection, some value that I've made possible.
I want, when I die, to have achieved more than the sum of what I've made.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.