Can you make a candle out of earwax? Is the end of Jaws even possible? Which bathroom stall is, like, actually the cleanest?*
Some of life’s most important questions can be answered thanks, in part, to Adam Savage’s decades-long career as a special effects designer and fabricator, TV host, author and overall maker of things.
Savage says that while holding down some of the world’s coolest jobs (who wouldn’t want to run R&D at a toy company?!) he learned the power of a pretty simple premise: sharing.
“When we share things that are important to us, we make ourselves vulnerable,” he says. “All of our hobbies are weird! When you share your interests, you reach out and find your people.”
Because being weird, vulnerable and finding your people is hard, Savage points out a few things to keep in mind as you practice the art of sharing.
(*No. No. And the closest one to the entrance, it turns out.)
1. Giving away the knowledge you have is not a zero sum game.
“I’m a big believer in sharing what I know,” Savage says. “Giving away the knowledge you have is not a zero sum game. You gain! Because you’ve actually helped somebody else with your institutional knowledge.”
Totally worth it? Sure! Easier said than done? Usually.
“To share your vision, you have to be able to communicate it. And it’s hard. That’s why we put the A in STEM,” he adds, highlighting the importance of developing skills in artistic expression right alongside those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Savage suggests to tech professionals that the more they practice sharing their vision, the more employable they become. “When I’m thinking about hiring someone, I’m looking for someone with skin in the game. No one’s going to know what you can do unless you talk about it.”
2. Share the love with whoever helps you get to the apex.
“We live in a culture that’s obsessed with the idea of a singular creator,” Savage says. “This is a damaging myth, and it’s not true! We all have to work together to get the things that we want to get done done.”
Any member of a technology team can attest to the truth of this statement. Savage says sharing kudos with everyone involved in a success actually broadens the impact of the thing you create, so keep those shoutouts coming.
“When you share the credit, you’re widening the scope of people who can benefit from the thing you’re working on.”
3. Share the good, but also the bad and the ugly.
Perhaps more impactful than sharing your wins? Sharing the pain points along the way. Savage illustrates the power of sharing the things that make you go OUCH! by recounting, in detail, the time he hurled his body over 30 miles per hour down a 250 foot-long slide toward a water target, wearing a latex suit (as one does) and slicked up with powdered animal birthing lubricant… all in the name of physics. Every cringeworthy failure during that experiment led to another lesson learned.
“It felt so good in my body,” he says, sharing a photo of himself suspended in thin air at just the right angle and velocity to meet his target. “But,” he adds. “I was overconfident. And every time I’m overconfident life has a way of whacking me back into humility.”
Luckily, he says, Ibuprofen is the patron saint of stunt work. And in sharing his pain Savage shows us that a) laughter really is the best medicine and b) we can all lighten each other's load by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly in equal measure.
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