Ray Deck III

High-Octane Human

Why Make Things

Keely and I just bought a house and a shop. Which means I can finally begin working toward a long dormant goal to become a person who makes more things than I buy.

There are 4 reasons why I want to become a person who makes things.

Practice measuring value by time not money.

My family lives firmly in the middle class of the wealthiest society that has ever existed. I can order virtually any item that I could imagine and have it hand-delivered to our home in 48 hours or less.

Money used to help me calibrate our estimation of value. I could measure a thing's value because in order to get it, I had to feel the lighten my wallet a little. That isn't the case any longer.

Mass production, ecommerce, consumer credit, and cashless payments combine to hide from us the true cost of the things that we buy. I fear that I'm in danger of becoming Lucile Bluth.

But there is another way to measure the value of a thing--time, specifically the time it takes to make it.

How much more will I accurately will I estimate the value a floating shelf if I design, construct, finish, and mount it myself than if I order it from Amazon and have it installed by a TaskRabbit?

Because creators usually have the best understanding of wealth creation.

While I cannot manufacture money in my garage, I can make wealth. Regular people like you and I make and sometimes destroy wealth on a regular basis. But in a job-centric society like ours, it becomes easy to forget that is what's happening.

Paul Graham puts it this way in his 2004 essay, "How to Make Wealth":

"The people most likely to grasp that wealth can be created are the ones who are good at making things, the craftsmen. Their hand-made objects become store-bought ones. But with the rise of industrialization there are fewer and fewer craftsmen. One of the biggest remaining groups is computer programmers.

A programmer can sit down in front of a computer and create wealth. A good piece of software is, in itself, a valuable thing. There is no manufacturing to confuse the issue. Those characters you type are a complete, finished product. If someone sat down and wrote a web browser that didn't suck (a fine idea, by the way), the world would be that much richer.

Everyone in a company works together to create wealth, in the sense of making more things people want. Many of the employees (e.g. the people in the mailroom or the personnel department) work at one remove from the actual making of stuff. Not the programmers. They literally think the product, one line at a time. And so it's clearer to programmers that wealth is something that's made, rather than being distributed, like slices of a pie, by some imaginary Daddy."

Acquire and preserve old and increasingly rare skills.

At the height of the Roman Empire, the aristocracy would slight newcomers by pointing out that, in contrast to most of them, the newcomers parents had worked for a living. There was so much money passed from generation to generation that the skills that built the empire had become optional, even quaint. Why learn a trade when your family has more money that you could possibly use in the next 10 generations?

Spoiler alert: because the Visigoths might show up and take all your money.

When Rome was sacked in 410, many of its greatest buildings and statues laid in ruins for several hundred years because no one living had the ability to do the engineering necessary to repair or replace them.

How many generations removed from that are we?

I have no idea what our equivalent of the visigoths would be. I don't see any apocalypse looming, but isn't that when you should prepare for one--when you can't see it looming?

My grandfather was a diesel mechanic. He worked on semi trucks. When he was done with work he came home and tinkered with (among other things) a VW bus. He understood machines in a way that I understand computers.

My father was also a mechanic until he left that career for the pastorate. While capable, he is a few degrees removed from my grandfather's mastery.

I am more than a few degree removed from him. I generally know which end of the tool I am supposed to hold onto, but my skills start to get thin after that.

Given this trajectory, how capable should I expect my sons to be? Will they be able to change the oil in their cars, hang a curtain rod, or replace a scratched piece of floor board?

I would like to reverse this trend. Preferably, before the Visigoths show up.

Grow my leadership in a way that create collateral damage.

I need to keep growing. The future health and success of the organization I founded depends on it.

If all goes according to plan, Skookum Kids will be a much larger and more complicated operation in 2-3 years. And it will take a better leader than I to run it well.

My reasoning should be more structured, my foresight should be sharper, my emotional regulation should be more consistent, and my self concept should be more honest.

In order to grow in these areas, I need to push myself into new challenges. I need to test my skills in new ways. But I cannot do that at work.

Either directly or indirectly, I am boss to more than 30 people. Together we are bringing about child welfare reform. That is not an arena for me to be growing my skills through experimentation. Too much rides on my performance.

At work, I must keep my head over my feet, so I need an arena in which I can experiment more recklessly without putting anyone in harms way.

What am I going to make?

Here's the fun part. Here's the project list I have so far, presented in no particular order. I have plans for some but not all of them.

For the Shop

Around the house

For the backyard


Sermon: Philippians 4:12-13 & Genesis 22

Work/Life Balance is Dumb