Being a natural born know-it-all, the words “I don’t know” would have been blasphemous to my younger self. There was a time when I literally thought that I should have an answer to any question, or that I couldn’t participate in any project unless I was already familiar with the toolset.

For many years I fantasized about things I’d like to do, only to leave the concept on the floor because I didn’t know how to do it. “I want to make a giant metal sculpture! … but I don’t know how to weld” or “I want to build a robot to feed my dog! … but I don’t know how to code.” These obstacles were perceived as insurmountable, and they killed my idea unless I participated in some training toward those goals.

Then, the internet happened and I suddenly had access to a massive learning resource. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about reference material. Libraries have existed since the dawn of written communication. I’m talking about the connections that evolved into communities on message boards, YouTube, and sites like the Make: blog.

m50_SS_MakerCaleb-3Over the years these communities have grown stronger through shared knowledge. The experience, tips, and tricks have allowed entry into skills I had previously thought utterly inaccessible. I found that not only was the information available, but I could usually find a person whose style resonated with my own, which allowed me to understand their message much better.

Let’s take the example of welding a sculpture. Before internet forums and YouTube, I would have gone to a school or workplace that allowed me to learn the machinery. Then, after establishing some experience with the materials and tools, I’d begin exploring my own interests and developing skills to match my initial goal of making a big sculpture.

Now, I can find tutorials specifically for welding big sculptures. Not only that, I can pick and choose who I want to learn from! If one person isn’t giving me the information I want, there’s a good chance there is someone else who can.

Perhaps the best part is that after figuring out how to apply all this information to my goals, I’m now compelled to share my experiences. Though there may be many tutorials on the same subject out there, my voice might resonate with someone more than others.

I used to hate saying “I don’t know.” Now, I love it. It means the beginning of a new adventure. The futile connotation of the words has completely disappeared from my life.

How am I going to build my next project?

I don’t know!