JUNKYARD DOG: Molly,
shown here, knows the
importance of keeping
amassed junk organized,
especially when battling
Fail Early! Fail Often!
A mental toolkit to sharpen your skills. By Tom Jennings
NO ONE TALKS OF FAILURE AS ANYTHING
but shameful; this is wrongheaded and
foolish. Mistakes are synonymous with
learning. Failing is unavoidable. Making is a process,
not an end. It is true that deep experience helps
avoid problems, but mainly it gives you mental tools
with which to solve inevitable problems when they
It all begins with a mental toolbox, filled with useful items you can’t buy, but can only obtain through
the act of failing again and again. Here are mine.
TOOL: The Dorkifier
You may think that in order to look cool to your
peers, you must never look foolish. Abandon this.
Cool is precisely the opposite of pursuing a project
that taxes your brain and body, and might not even
34 Make: Volume 10
work! Fear of looking like a dork (“You’re building a
what?”) stops a lot of people. Give up any thought
of looking good, and instead make good.
CONCLUSION: Embrace dorkiness!
TOOL: The Troubleshooter
Since roadblocks and failures are a given, how
to proceed? This is the key to all project making:
troubleshooting, problem solving, debugging.
Don’t freak out. Become methodical, or contemplative, or go get a beer. You need your brain in its
best working order.
Troubleshooting really means: what do I have
to learn to resolve this problem? This is true if the
problem is reviving a dead motor or using glow-in-the-dark paint; you read, Google, practice, experiment.
Bob Pease, god-king-emperor of analog electronics
Photography by Tom Jennings