24 Apr 2017

Running The Goat Rodeo: Don’t Assume, prove

Being a maker/small business owner is one of the ultimate goat rodeos.  Making things at a high level, learning new skills, and also running business is a lot of goats to rope. Fixing problems once and for all is essential. Putting some twine on the fence just moves headaches to a different day.  Here’s some problems I’ve solved along the way.

On a list of things I believe at the top is this, “Don’t assume, prove”.  Do this test: vocalize an idea. Count the number of counter ideas, corrections, and tangents you get from those within earshot in the next five minutes.   Is it about a guitar business? Someone who doesn’t even play guitar knows why it wont work.  Etc. And you do the same thing to yourself.  Want to quit your job and start a maker business? It will work because you assume it will.  Looking for a shop space? “What are you looking to spend?”  Fill in a blank and magically that’s the rent for the space you’ll find. Because you assumed.  Don’t assume, prove.  I wanted a 1000 sq ft shop for free.  I went looking to prove that wasn’t possible.  I found a deal (and wonderful landlords) on 1,500 sq feet that would shock you.

If you are encountering a problem in starting or running your business, step back and look for the things that you believe about the situation without any proof, then come up with the ways to prove what’s actual happening.  This  will include numbers, this will include past experiences.  This will include asking people who have been in the game longer than you have.  You want to win the game, not just have the right idea.  Don’t assume, prove.

20 Apr 2017

Origin Story


The most memorable voices are the most unique. There’s a timbre to Dylan’s voice that should make it bad. But it’s not. Maybe it is, but it doesn’t matter. It’s his and he owns it. That’s the sound he wants and goes and gets it.

It’s his voice because of the things wrong with it – it’s nasally, sounds more like he’s talking, not much range- not because of the things right with it.  When “wrong” becomes right you know you are doing important work. Work becomes meaningful because you’re contributing something new.

Part of what makes us makers are the things wrong with us. What’s wrong varies from person to person, and just like Dylan’s voice, varies so widely that’s what makes us “us”. Do you own it? Part of that story is where we come from. Here’s my job history:

8th grade – Summer job at grocery store

freshman year – Burger King

Soph-Senior – Landscaping

Guitar making school

Lived in garage with tools.

3M – rolled tape onto rolls 6 months

MCS- assembled electrical motors  4 months. Called in and said I wasn’t coming in anymore.

Barry Controls- Temp. Assembled pieces onto molds for rubber presses.

Shepherd Extrusion – worked midnight shift running a plastic extrusion machine with one other person. He drank 4 liters of mountain dew an evening. I was there when four other people were injured. two weeks.

Huss and Dalton Guitars – the shining star of my work career

McMaster Carr- Packing and order filling. Got fired after I made 29 errors after 111,000 lines filled.

Wandered and played music – two years

Engine block plant- two weeks, quit after I had 12 guitars on the list

Mule- four years and counting

Those past experiences mean things. If you own it.

Above picture is Pantera.  Before they became, you know, “Pantera”.


19 Apr 2017


Eating is good. Eating too much is bad. Working out is good. Work out too much and you get hurt. When it comes to our physical bodies we understand balance.

When it comes to our minds it’s kind of a free for all.  Sure there’s talk about balance in regards to work and rest, and stress and fun. But are our minds just work and rest and stress and fun?

Technology is great. Too much is bad.  What we lose when there’s too much technology is intention, fallibility, and selflessness. Usually in that order.  Carried along by our impulse and habits we lose the intention that drives us towards where we want to go. Because we can so easily voice whatever thought comes to mind (a credible thought or not) we lose the ability to recognize that most of the time we are wrong or have nowhere close to the information needed to have an opinion. Talk about yourself enough and eventually selflessness is out the window and we are bent and satisfying ourselves.

It’s hard to tell when we lose those things because they are in our mind. We don’t have to buy new pants, we don’t limp around from running too much. Those patterns turn into our thoughts, or are removed from our thinking, so subtlety that  the free-for-all that is our minds think it’s just “us”. And if there’s any doubt we use our adult-sized vocabulary to rationalize the new us.  When you understand the drawbacks of technology you can balance them.  Intention- set your direction. In things that need to be done, and in your interaction with other people. Fallibility- Practice keeping your opinions to yourself, knowing that sometimes thoughts are just thoughts.  Selflessness- Do things for others simply because they are others.

13 Apr 2017

Be Your Own Cake

A few years ago when I got done busking in Chicago I was talking to a grizzled veteran of musician who we affectionately referred to as Crazy Uncle Ken.  I told him that it was a great busking day, as far as they go, where people got into what I was playing and it didn’t feel like I was a nuisance. He listened kindly, said that it was great I had good experience, and then said;

“Be your own cake”