We're living through the biggest revolution of making stuff since the industrial age thanks to one new "technological" advancement: the internet. And with the internet comes a whole new possibility for a way of life and work, especially for people who like to make stuff. That's the big opportunity. We can make stuff. And we can let lots of people see our stuff.
So now, as always, there are two groups of people. People who make stuff and people who don't make stuff. Some people don't like making stuff, and that's okay. Some people just like watching stuff, and reading stuff, and consuming stuff. But me, I like making stuff. And I can't imagine a future where it won't be beneficial to have been making stuff.
As I look back on my glorious life on the internet I've realized three big things that I keep wishing old me would have doubled-down on more often. I've tried all sorts of things: podcasting, blogging, vlogging, writing a book, starting a movement, starting a business, etc. etc.
And now, I'm recommitting to making stuff. There's no make-money-online master plan here. I just realize that this whole internet thing is one of the best retirement plans I can contribute to each month - even if its just because I know I will enjoy looking back on all the stuff I've made, the journey we've had, and the people who liked my stuff.
1. Teach what you know.
2. Document the journey.
3. Stay relevant forever.
So here are my three new rules, pillars, phrases, and guidelines for what I'm doing as I make stuff, and how I plan to keep making stuff that matters.
1. Teach What You Know
I used to think the only way to make stuff was to teach stuff, especially really really complicated stuff that makes me sound smart and knowledgable. "I'm an expert! It says so in my bio!"
So this new phrase, teach what you know, reminds me to only teach what I know from experience, and not to worry about knowing everything or teaching only things that I have a expert-level knowledge in. I don't teach things I don't know. Even if I would like to know them, or look like I know them.
Teach what you know also reminds me to be quicker to put things I'm learning out in the open. Don't hog it all to yourself and wait for that day you'll write that one book teaching all of these things. Just, as you learn things, teach what you know. That day. Put it out there. People need it. It will help people.
Teaching what you know has a few benefits. First, it helps you remember what you know. There have been many times that I've scrolled through a list of notes or things I've written and been so glad past-me wrote this note for future-me. This website is my virtual desk where I organize the thoughts and ideas.
Teaching what you know also helps you know what you know, but better. Teaching it helps get it out of your head and into real life application. Teaching what you know also helps you commit. You've said it out loud, you've taught someone else to do it, so you better do it.
There is always someone who doesn't know what you know and could learn from it. Don't wait until you become an expert and forget what it felt like to know less.
Take a few seconds to make a list of things that you could teach someone. Then turn on a camera, write a post, whatever...put it out there. Someone needs to hear it.
2. Document the Journey.
The stuff we're making is going to be around a long, long time. We're some of the first people to go "online" with our thoughts, videos, pictures, and stuff we make. We're the great great grandfathers of the internet. And as I look back at the videos, articles, and things I've done online, I appreciate the ability to see where I've come from and what I've accomplished.
It can be tempting to wait until you feel like you've "arrived" to start making stuff. But instead of waiting until its all perfect, just document your journey to get there. Going back to "teach what you know", sometimes there's a lot more value in watching someone try to figure it out, rather than taking a masterclass from an expert you can't relate to.
Documenting your journey helps you learn from your past and appreciate where you're at. It also pushes you to get better and allows other people to join you and encourage you along the way.
This is also a great way to come up with stuff to make if you can't think of anything to teach. Just document your journey towards the goal you've set and you'll make great stuff.
I've recommitted to my personal youtube channel as a place where I document a lot of the journey, and also a place where I teach what I know. You can find my channel and subscribe here. Some of the journeys I'm on include: being a father of lots of kids, working as Director of Evangelization and Catechesis at a Church, and building a Catholic subscription box company with my wife.
3. Stay Relevant Forever.
One of the most rewarding aspects of making things is when the things you make help people. The third pillar is helping people. I don't know how to create stuff in a vacuum. Ultimately we're all making stuff for people. And to forget that we are making stuff for people is to suddenly become irrelevant. This phrase reminds me to keep close connections with the people who see the stuff I make. It can be tempting to come up with an idea for some stuff in the privacy of your own home and rush to make that stuff, not stopping to ask if anyone even wants that stuff.
One of the best tips I'd ever heard was to include a simple question in one of your first welcome emails when someone signs up for your email list. The question is: "What's the biggest thing you're struggling with right now?"
I've never regretted asking this question. I've even started using it right before or after a presentation. I just hand out index cards and tell people to write the biggest thing they're struggling with. Reading these cards gives you a solid grasp on the people you're making stuff for or talking to. If you're only worried about what you want to make or say, you'll miss a huge opportunity to align what you know with how to best help people.
I'm going to be recommitting to listening hard. But this also requires constantly trying new things. New apps, new gear, projects, new ways to do things. So I give myself permission to create without worrying about creation-ADD. Every time I've created something that didn't stand the test of time, when I look back I'm still glad I tried it. This keeps you growing and helps you stay relevant forever.
So get out there and make stuff. Everyone has something to teach, so teach what you know. And when in doubt, just document the journey. But don't ever, ever forget to stay relevant. If you make stuff, let me know! I want to follow you and the stuff you make too! Comment below, I'd love to meet you.
If you're interested in following along as I continue to make stuff, join the super secret group. I'm committed to publishing a new article every Monday. I'm also going to be collecting Stuff Worth Sharing and publishing that every Friday. If you join the super secret group you'll get those things delivered to your inbox by the email fairy.
Thanks for enjoying my stuff.