I finished reading Made by Hand by Mark Frauenfelder this evening.  I highly recommend it (I’m loaning it to a friend this weekend, but if you want to be next on the list to borrow it and are local to me, let me know).

The book is about Mark’s adventures in the world of DIY and the lessons he’s learned there.  He doesn’t talk about how to do the projects he talks about, but how doing the projects has changed him.  In hacking the physical world around  him, he found that he himself was changed the most.

I found two nuggets in this book that I’ve taken away or that I’ve found elsewhere and had enforced by this man’s words.

Don’t fear failure. When this lesson was first driven into me, it was during Mark Study in college.  I’m not sure I really began to start comprehending this one until recently, though.

Fear is the absence of Faith was the lesson and it was a good one.  But it was also incomplete as it could easily lead to the idea that continuing to experience fear was a sign of weak faith, which isn’t true.  Fear is inevitable.  It’s how we respond to fear that matters.  Does it incapacitate us to the point of inaction?  Or do we tackle it and turn it into a servant helping us to overcome adversity?

Now it’s one step further, I think: take the thing you fear and learn from it and, by extension, never fear it again for now it is a teacher and welcome companion on the road of life.

In the case of this book, failure is the greatest teacher and is often more welcome than success.  Most times the only thing we learn from success is that we could do a thing, but we don’t often learn to do it better unless we get something wrong.

This doesn’t mean success doesn’t have other benefits or that failure should be sought after.  Failure can have a bigger payoff in the long wrong.  But we live in a society where failure isn’t a good thing and is best avoided at all costs and so this may be difficult to consider.

Amateurs rule the world. It’s the people who tinker and experiment that decide to fly a kite to take air samples and learn that smoke actually carries live fungus over long distances.  This over turns the usual thinking about sterilizing fields by burning old material to kill off the fungal matter.  The experiment was done by a teenager and turned into a research paper.  No training, no years of course work, just a desire to learn and try things and the room in which to make it happen.

Amateurs are people who have learned how to learn and love the act of doing and learn more because of it.  The goal isn’t expertise, it’s the act.  In a world where End Game is what counts and the process is disregarded, Amateurism has the ability to bring Process and End Game into balance.

My best photography happens when I strike this balance.  The nice part is that this balance isn’t the only time I have fun taking pictures.  If I were completely focused on the process or the end game, though, I’d hate it.  The amount of fun I have is in proportion to how close I am to a balance between the two.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, though.

I also now have a desire to build a cigar box guitar.  Just saying.  And maybe consider yourselves warned…