10 Life Lessons to Keep in Your Creativity Tool Belt
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10 Life Lessons to Keep in Your Creativity Tool Belt

Understatement of the year: we learned a lot at yesterday’s Re:Make 2014 conference. We heard from industry leaders, listened to panels on the future of the maker movement, decorated cupcakes, painted cork-covered vases and even watched one lucky attendee transform into Disney villain, Maleficent (with the help of YouTube makeup vlogger, Kandee Johnson). Our brains are fully abuzz with inspiring stories and tech-filled future visions. All of our speakers had such superstar advice to give, it seems like a crime to keep all this newfound wisdom to ourselves. Here are 10 life lessons we learned this year at Re:Make that you can add to your maker toolkit stat.

1. Never stop forgetting (and living) this mantra: #iamcreative: Brit opened up the conference with a pretty shocking statistic: 77% of adults feel like they’ve lost their creativity. Whaaat? We watched a video of an adorable little girl slip on a cape and fall into a whole other world. When an adult was asked to do the same thing the result wasn’t quite so imaginative. With 40% of women as their family’s main breadwinner, finding time to be creative can be tough, but keeping that creative spirit alive is crucial to surviving in this realistic world.

2. You never know what your brand really is until you put it out there. Yes, you can do it, too. But it’s just so damn true! All of our Re:Make speakers started with nothing but an idea. And some of those ideas probably sounded pretty outrageous at first. 3D printed makeupA magazine that exists as a store IRL? Our own Brit Morin said it best: “You never know what your brand really means until you actually put it out there.”

3. Use social media as your own personal PR: We live in a world where sharing images of sunsets and sushi is almost second nature. But what about our projects? Do we share those or are we too self conscious? Someone might think it’s silly so you should just keep it to yourself, right? WRONG! So very wrong. Proof: Jaime Derringer of Design Milk told us about the student projects she receives via her website. When they’re great she features them. And you know what sometimes happens? A company sees it, likes it and they get hired.

4. Invest in your hobby and it could become a serious money maker: What you think might start as a hobby could turn into something much, much more. We’re not saying the next time you make something on your sewing machine you’ll magically turn into a millionaire. But we’re saying you might. Case, point: Tina Albin-Lax of Better Off WedTechShop’s co-founder Mark Hatch told us about Tina, who came to TechShop to learn how to use a laser cutter. After she completed the class she went back the next day to practice. Her nephew’s birthday party was that evening and so she decided to make custom cupcake toppers with each kid’s name. She took them to the party and, of course, Tina’s toppers were a roaring success. She walked away with $200 in orders and a business she didn’t even know she had.

5. Get people making (and seeing what you make) IRL: Creativity feeds off creativity. Take a class, join a group, just do something! The web is a great way to learn and interact, but making real world connections is crucial. Eventbrite co-founder Julia Hartz told us that 74% of people felt fulfilled after attending a live event and 70% felt more connected with the community.

6. Tell a story with what you make: It should be pretty obvious by now just how much we love a good story. And we’re not alone. Quirky’s CTO Steven Heintz explained, “people are bored with one size fits all, mass produced products. There’s a market for artisan solutions.” Consumers want to know who is making their product — whether it’s an Italian shoe cobbler or a college student making jewelry to pay her way through school. People want something unique that nobody else will have. Who better to make that for them than you?!

7. Be speedy: On that note, a good story needs to be balanced with the right level of urgency. When asked how big companies like Amazon are still excelling in the marketplace, Shauna Mei of AHAlife had a very blunt answer: speed. AHAlife is a curated destination for discovering and selling goods from designers and artisans all across the globe. Customers shop on Mei’s site because they want something unique. And while they’re probably willing to spend a little more, they don’t necessarily want to wait three months for it.

8. Find a balance between tangibility and technology: At first this idea might seem confusing. We’re living in the digital age. Our life is on our smartphones and we operate through apps. As makers we’re all about taking advantage of today’s endlessly evolving technology, but in a way that collides with real, tangible goods. We saw this (like, saw as in held in our hands and flipped through) with Mohawk’s Maker Quarterly. While reading the magazine you’ll find a small “M” symbol. Download Mohawk’s app, hover over that symbol and additional media like videos, infographics, photos or animations will appear.

9. Stop. Collaborate and Listen. Often makers think of themselves as a solo act. Maybe you have a good idea, but someone else might be able to help you make it great. So goes the story of TechShop and Embrace. Embrace began as a class project by a group of graduate students at Standford. They were trying to design a blanket that would rapidly stabilize the body temperature of hypothermic infants in developing countries. They took their ideas to TechShop, gained access to the tools and technology they needed and developed a prototype. Today Embrace has saved over 87,000 babies.  

10. Don’t be intimidated by competition (and forget what the haters have to say): YouTube sensation and makeup artist Kandee Johnson started tutorial videos when she moved up to Tahoe and needed something to do. Johnson was a professionally trained makeup artist but had never shot or edited videos before. But you know what? She figured it out. And now she has over two million subscribers. When an audience member asked her how she felt about delving into such a competitive market she told us just to go for it, “you can be that different people are going to love.”

What life lessons are already in your maker toolkit? Were you at Re:Make yesterday? What was the takeaway you’ll keep around for life? Share below!