Adam Savage’s advice on how to find a job you love, get noticed, and get a better job that you love

Adam Savage at Maker Faire 2013

“What is the practical reality facing young people entering the wider world, and making and wondering what they can do with making? The practical reality is that the jobs market is a tough one. Finding a job that feeds you creatively is even harder. The middle class is disappearing and the competition is fierce. I have no idea how good each of you are individually as makers. I don’t know what skills you have or are capable of learning, but I do have advice. I have advice about how you can improve yourself, be employable, find a job you love, get noticed, and get better jobs that you love, and it’s really this simple: Work hard and work smart”

I have always loved Maker Faire. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to attend anything larger than a Mini-Maker Faire. I’ve also been a fan of Mythbusters since day one. More than Mythbusters I’m a huge fan Adam Savage, the things he does on Tested and all of the education and outreach that he does for science and art. Every year since I first hear about the SF Maker Faire I’ve said “I’m going next year”. After watching this video (and re-watching his presentation from previous years), I am definitely going next year. And I highly encourage everyone to give me a hard time about it next year starting in March, so I have extra incentive to follow through. Below are the notes I took from his speach. You can read them, or just watch the first 15 minutes. Enjoy.

Work hard and work smart means many things.

  • Be present
    • Work on what’s in front of you
    • Most of work is boring. You earn the right to do the 10% that’s fun by doing the 90% that is soul crushing
  • Don’t waste your time or your employers time
    • Know the big picture
    • When you start to ask questions, like when you start any skill, you aren’t going to be very good at it. It is a skill you need to develop by continually asking for clarification.
    • When you save your employer money and time by asking the right questions they will notice.
  • Working hard and smart means collaborating
    • “Jamie and I transfer information through a process we call arguing.”
    • Working collaboratively means having humility
    • It means giving up your idea because a better one came up
  • Working hard and smart means communication
    • Ask: Better to be wrong and say something than to be right and keep it to yourself.
    • If you’re going to surf the web at work, hide, please.
    • Mistakes slow you down far more than slowing down does.
  • Working hard and smart means finishing the job that you started
    • Your goal shouldn’t just be to finish the thing in front of you, times 50; it means finishing all 50.
    • When I find a finisher I make sure to keep them around as long as I can.
  • Working hard and smart doesn’t require actually being smart.
    • Being smart isn’t nearly enough
    • If you lukewarm the performance of your job it doesn’t matter how smart you are, no one will notice.
    • Bust your ass
  • As an employee you might not feel like your supervisors know what you’re doing. If you are working hard and smart they will notice.
    • People who work hard like that are hard to find, inspire everyone around them to work harder, enjoy their work more and enjoy working well with others, save time and money and become invaluable.
  • Some may not notice. Some may not want you to know the big picture; some may tell you to shut up when you ask those questions. Don’t work for those people.

“I’m not saying that any of this is easy. In fact it’s absolutely the opposite, but I’m saying that working hard and smart means that your work will be more satisfying, you will advance fast and you will enjoy the work that you are doing and you will do better work.”

This started out as me taking notes on his speech, I thought I was paraphrasing a lot, but looking back a lot of those sentences are direct quotes. I’m not sure which is which. So the parts I took particular care to quote are in italics. My full notes are here but it would be faster to watch the first 15ish minutes of the video than read my notes. Sometime between minutes 15 & 17 he starts answering questions, most of them are good. One of them I felt strongly enough about that I quote it here with a portion of the thoughts that went through my head when I first heard it.

Q: “Would you consider yourself an artist or a scientist?”

A: “What a great question! I don’t think there’s any difference.”

At first I balked at this a little, but then I realized that aside from how widely “The Scientific Method” is used, I completely agree. My first thought after overcoming my knee jerk reaction, was that the world would be a better place if more artists understood the scientific method. Then I realized the world would be a better place if all people understood the scientific method. The same is true of teaching everyone the same creativity that is nurtured in artists.

* Image at top of page courtesy of Kyle Nishioka via flickr

2013 Goals

So I have spent the last few weeks working on my goals for 2013. They aren’t perfect, but I’ve come to realize (or re-realize) that goals are moving targets. They should grow and evolve as you get closer to reaching them. So rather than postpone this post until the end of the year I figured I would post them now, and then follow up at the end of 2013.

Posting these here isn’t about bragging (especially since I know many friends who will set and achieve higher goals this year). It is an attempt to make myself more accountable for these goals.

Graduate

I am 6 months into an 11 month Executive MBA program at the University of New Orleans.

University of New Orleans Privateer logo

I can’t think of a much better mascot for an MBA program than a Privateer

Graduation is December of this year. So my number one goal, and my largest time commitment outside of work, is to graduate. During my undergraduate career I honestly didn’t care that much about my GPA. I cared about learning (both inside and outside the class), paying for school (I worked at least 2 jobs and graduated with less than $5k in loans), my research, and my social life.  But this time around I care about my grades, what I’m learning, and the connections I’m making. I have a number in my head of what GPA I want to achieve. Lets just say more As than Bs and no Cs.

200 pages a week

My brother Tac Anderson had a goal for 2012 to read 52 books, 1 book per week.

I like the idea of setting a reading goal, because reading good content is a great stretch goal for any individual. If you read/learned something new every day of your life not only would you know a lot by the end, but you would stay forever young by ingraining the openness and collaborative nature of learning in your character. But with my MBA, work, etc. I felt like a goal of 52 books was ambiguous because of the drastic difference in length of the books I read. I also fear that I would finish or select books based on the goal. So after much thought the idea dawned on me to set my goal by number pages. That way whether I read a 7 page scientific journal article, a 1-2 page blog (actually read, not just skim), text for my MBA course, or science fiction, the total number of pages I digest in a week from any source would add to the goal. To help make this goal more real, track it better, and hopefully get more out of it, starting next week, I hope to have a weekly blog post of the 200+ pages I’ve read. It will hopefully be a brief (1-2 sentences per source) digest of the pages I read during the week.

I hope the weekly digest of the 200+ pages/week I read, will be useful to everyone as I hope to summarize dozens of blogs, a handful of science articles, and large chunks of fiction and non-fiction in a sentence or two each.

Run a 5k 

History:

You may or may not know that in September of 2008 I as hit by a car while ridding my bike.   In the accident my the bike frame was thrown into my left knee dislocating it, and worst of all doing bone damage to my the femur at the joint. Since then I have had two knee surgeries. The first to replace my torn ACL, micro-fracturing of the bone in an effort to induce new cartilage growth to cover the damaged bone, and repair the meniscus and MCL. The second surgery a year later was to repair a bucket tear in my lateral meniscus . Because of the location and size, removing it would have left me with almost no meniscus.

When I was hit I was training for a triathlon and hoping to work up to an Ironman before I turned 30 (I turned 30 this last year). I ran cross country in high school, swam my first 2 mile competition when I was 14, and have always been and avid cyclist (usually mountain biking). So it has been hard to not run. Both of my doctors have told me that I will eventually need a knee replacement. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. And that the more running I do the sooner I will need it. My first surgeon said “you should save running for the sports you do”, when I responded that “running is my sport” he recommended that I “find another sport”. He suggested cycling, but as you can imagine a month after getting hit by a car I wasn’t too keen on getting to heavy into that sport. Currently I cycle more (not as much as before the accident) but I am still weary of any and all roads, especially now that I live in the south where the apparently don’t believe in bike lanes. I currently can’t run faster than a jog and for more than a few dozen strides at a time. If I run pushing the stroller to stabilize and support I can currently jog almost a mile. But that is progress that I’ve made within the last year.

Goal:

My goal is to at least run a 5k by the end of the year. There are several training methods I have in mind to help me reach this goal, it largely depends on the progress of my knee as I go through strengthening, pre-running, and other rehab exercises. One of my biggest problems with training is not pushing myself too hard. I know there are athletic people out there who are shacking their heads and possibly yelling at there monitors that you have to push yourself, let me clarify. I have found out that I either have a high threshold for pain, or I have a neurological block. I’m don’t want to give examples for fear of sounding like a on-upper, so let me just say that I have a history of pushing to the point where I do more bad than good, I’ve been told in those instances that what I was doing should have been painful, but for me they weren’t particularly painful.

This goal includes several sub-goals. I have more specifics in writing right now (including a training calendar etc.) but as it is a living goal I will list just the higher level stuff.

  • Achieve and maintain weight of 170 pounds or less than 12% body fat. I hope to further reduce that, but for this years goal I think this is sufficient.
  • Exercise 5-10 hours per week. That is both an upper and lower goal. I don’t want to work out more than 10 hours in a week for fear of getting burnt out and/or interfering with my other goals. When you are training for long distance running it isn’t that hard to put more than 10 hours in in a week. If I start getting to that length of training I will re-evaluate the goal, but I honestly feel that if I am spending 10+ hours/week running that; 1) my knee is obviously feeling better, but that is still probably more running than is good for it, and 2) I need to rethink how I am training.

As time goes on I hope to post the things I am doing as part of my training and knee rehab. Not sure if I should start a separate blog just for my knee, but seeing as I don’t even blog here often enough I don’t think I’ll keep up with two blogs any better 😉

give up single player games

As much as I love Angry Birds, Sugar Crush, and Lego Lord of the Rings, playing a game by yourself is an addictive waste of time. There is so much more I would love to do when I manage to get a spare minute to myself. Between my MBA, work, a startup (shhh it wont launch for a few months still), a 2 year old, and a loving wife, I have to dedicate a lot fo time to the things I love; leaving fleeting few minutes to myself. So why would I spend them doing something that doesn’t matter? Of all the things I will wish I had done more of on my death bed, Angry Birds will not be one of them.

– List of things I’d rather do with my spare time:

  • Read books.
  • Make things. (the 201 & counting Instructables I’ve bookmarked in hopes of doing later)
  • Watch Battlestar Galactica. That’s right, I’ve never seen it. I’m almost ashamed to admit it openly, hopefully they won’t deny me tickets to comic-con, or revoke my engineering degree. The good news is that Haley and I started watching it, we finished episode 2 last night.
  • Write
  • Do any of the numerous things I’ve been putting off… or maybe I’ll just continue to postpone them in favor of something else on this list.
  • Watch all the movies I want to see but I know my wife doesn’t want to. Including Will Ferrel’s last two movies Casa de mi Padre and The Campaign 

There are a few more goals, but these are the big ones.