Five years, nine months, and fifteen days ago, I willingly jumped out of an airplane with no parachute.
Five years, nine months, and fifteen days ago, I abandoned a prestigious position at a world class university with almost guaranteed security for the rest of my life to instead chase the wild horse of one’s own dreams.
Five years, nine months, and fifteen days ago, I decide to make; I decided to make two things at the same time.
The first of those two things was an object I would come to make with my hands about 1,000 times: an object I believed was sorely missing and direly needed by another group of Makers, not exactly like me but quite like me. The object I’m referring to is a crochet hook and the group is crocheters. More on both of these in a moment.
The second of those things that I decided to make was a company.
To call a company an object or a thing misses the point a bit. In a word, a company is an organism: a living, breathing entity inspired by a single purpose.
Five years, nine months, and fifteen days ago, I started Furls Crochet. This organism, which started out as a seed, has grown into a group of 20+ master Makers who have handcrafted over 125,000 beautiful crochet hooks for that very special group of Makers I mentioned earlier, crocheters, in all 50 US states, and 97 countries around the world.
Why am I telling you this?
One: I need you to jump out of your airplane, too
By some great gift, you and I, and everyone else reading this, have all been born into the greatest time in human history, especially for Makers. Creatives in 2018 have unparalleled technological power to ideate, organize, and produce beautiful things.
We’re also on the verge of a time where the nature of ‘work’ as it’s known is fundamentally changed. For our grandparents’ grandparents, ‘work’ was often intense, grueling labor – a matter of just providing food and shelter. For our grandparents, work was no longer a strict matter of survival, but more what you had to do to support what you really loved to do.
Now, ‘work’ is becoming what you have to do because you love it.
Everyday, employees become entrepreneurs; rat racers become freelancers; ‘workers’ become ‘makers’.
Why? The channels for distributing content have become completely democratized. Your phone has a camera your grandparents couldn’t dream of, and it’s connected to the attention of hundreds of millions of people who, just like you, love to see what great Makers make.
Everyday, more and more humans realize that they can provide themselves a life they love by creating.
There are two caveats: (1) in your creating, you must create something that someone else loves and (2) it’s most likely going to take you take a leap of faith.
Furls has created an incredible life for me, but only because first it makes crochet hooks that crocheters adore. And this is why I need you to take that leap, jump out of that plane, and craft your own existence – because it will force you to change other people’s lives.
It’s terrifying. I know. I’ve been there too. I have an assurance for you, though, and it’s the second reason I wanted to talk to you today:
Two: It will work, eventually
Shortly after jumping out of my plane, I realized I had no idea what I was doing building a company from scratch. I had dreams of impacting crocheters all over the world and I had a vision for what the most beautiful crochet hooks on earth could look like – but otherwise I was entirely lacking in business savvy and general confidence.
I would wake up every morning, stare into the mirror, and convince myself that I was 10 years older than I actually was. Someone 10 years older would know better, communicate better, and work smarter, I thought, so that was who I pretended to be.
And in a way, the ‘fake it until you make it’ motto is true. At the time, the reality was that I was a kid in a garage with cheap tools –not awe-inspiring by any means. But part of being a Maker is ignoring what’s in front of you and, instead, working and recreating the raw material of reality into a new reality.
As a Maker, you’re capable of crafting both your product and your own life.
At first, the inertia of the universe will push back. Your artistic vision is not the status quo of the universe; it requires change, and it will be entirely an uphill battle at first.
Anything is possible, if you work hard. It’s not hard to find that little platitude on the internet so I won’t repeat it for you again, but I’ll tell you about the four other types of often forgotten work:
Anything is possible, if you work smart:
Analyze the problem and create a solution that addresses the core issue rather than the symptoms.
Anything is possible, if you work long:
“Overnight success” is an illusion – understand that on a long enough time frame, small streams of rainwater carve canyons out of stone. This is a great story about a man that sold a pen for a house, it just took a while.
Don’t despise your small beginnings. Imagine it, whatever it is, is going to take 5-6 years.
Anything is possible, if you work fast:
Do you fill up your to-do list with enjoyable smaller tasks to avoid critical work? Prioritize strategic action then get it done early in the week and early in the day.
Anything is possible, if you work together:
This isn’t to say that everything you do should be communal. Some of us are meant to be introverted and develop our contributions to the world in isolation. HOWEVER, the ‘degrees of separation’ phenomena contains every opportunity you could ever want. A little story as an example:
3 months into starting Furls, sales were depressingly slow, maybe a hook every other day. On a whim, I went to a friend Paige’s house one night where I met Merrie. Merrie was a crocheter who told me about a yarn store in Jonestown, outside of Austin, TX. At the yarn store in Jonestown, I met the owner, Misty. Misty told me about the CGOA conference in Reno, NV. I took Furls to Reno. We sold 20 hooks in 3 days, which was enormous. When I got back, Misty ordered another 12 hooks. I increased my sales by 1600%, but I wouldn’t have if I didn’t decide to go to Paige’s house just a few weeks prior.
Sometimes, the friend of a friend you don’t know yet has the solution to your biggest problem. All you have to do is meet them (p.s. this is why the whole “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” thing is true. You don’t have to solely rely on other people, but they’re damn helpful)
The best success will come to you if you work hard, smart, long, fast and with others all at the same time.
If your Maker dreams are at all worth pursuing, they’re going to take a while. Do not stop. It’s going to be difficult and the process of wrestling with the universe to make your great vision come true will change you as a person – but it’s entirely worth it.
You’re going to spend the next 5-6 years doing something, so it may as well be fulfilling, enormous, fantastic, wild, challenging, and everything you could ever want.
Which takes me, and you, to the last thing I’d like to tell you.
Three: I’m jumping out of another plane.
Five years, nine months, and fifteen days ago, I decided to make two things at the same time and, for the most part, it worked out. Furls Crochet, the beautiful organism that it is, has some independence apart from me and I’m putting some of my creative energy towards a new project: making jewelry.
Jewelry poses an incredible question: if you had 4”x4”x4” of space and could design anything inside of it that someone would wear, what would you design and how would you make them feel?
For a product designer, I’m fascinated by this open parameter and I’m exploring the rest of this year with a resolution: to design one new piece of jewelry every month.
No, I have never designed jewelry before.
No, I do not have any contacts in the jewelry industry.
No, I have not experienced what it’s like to run a jewelry business in any capacity.
But if I had, this wouldn’t be so exciting.
Watch me design my first piece, Sun Goddess, here and stay tuned – we’re making this piece right now and I’m going to give away the final.
If you want to read more about Furls and our story, visit us there or watch how we hand make all of our hooks with Vickie Howell here.