Most of us, for some strange reasons, were bombarded by phrases such as, “That will never work!” or “That’s so stupid!” throughout our lives (unfortunately, that often starts in our childhood). And then we carry them with us and let them linger on our shoulders, whispering the same to us when we try to write a story, build something totally crappy out of Legos, start a business, say a joke for the sake of it… This, and I feel the general mindset of hustle and bustle for work happiness, can easily prevent us from reaching our full potential. How, you ask? Well, read on!
If you don’t know Simone Giertz, the queen of useless robots, then you should rectify this right now. Seriously, click on the Instagram post on the right and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of her inventions. Let me warn you though: 90 percent of them don’t work. And that’s the whole point for her! Is it a successful YouTube channel? Yes! Is she happy creating those robots? Yes! Did she get a chance to work with some of her idols, such as the inventor and tester Adam Savage from the hit TV show “MythBusters“? Yes! Of course, it really depends on what you want to from life. I’m not saying all of the above was achieved just because of the useless robots Simone Giertz created. But in her case – this is how her life ended up, due to some crap she decided to put together.
So, is there a lesson in this somewhere? Yes, yes there is, a few actually. Not everything that we create must – and will, for that matter – become something (something successful, productive, perfect, beneficial, and so on). There is also time and reason to create stuff that is totally useless. And let me explain why.
Let’s start with a story… My own interest in useless machines that technically have no use dates back to the times of my first computer and a very simple game, The Incredible Machine (which, actually, you can download and emulate on your computer! check out the website Games Nostalgia for this and more old-timey games). The goal of the game: create a way to get the ball through the hoop. Easy enough, but with each level, the obstacles get more convoluted and harder to figure out. I spent countless hours racking my brain on how to use that poor hamster to power up escalators that would move the bowling balls… It wasn’t years later, in my early adulthood, that I found about William Heath Williams and Rube Goldberg, and my mind was blown.
William Heath Williams was an English cartoonist, illustrator, and artist, and he was famous for drawing satirical cartoons where characters used complicated machines to perform simple actions. He was quite active during the First World War, but rose to prominence during the Second World War, when the shortages and the general “make do and mend” attitude prevailed. Due to this more practical nature of his inventions, the term “Heath Robinson contraption” is probably more often used to describe a temporary fix using creativity and whatever is available, often string and tape.
Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor, active between 1920 – 40s. For me, he will always be the father of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts – a cartoon character of an inventor who built contraptions that could achieve simple goals in a very convoluted manner. Machines he invented (in real life, his short movies, or his cartoons) were those complicated contraptions where one element would kick-start the next one, and such chain reaction would lead to the machine eventually performing its dedicated action. His ideas were so popular that the word “goldbergian” entered the language, and such inventions are also called “Rube Goldberg machines.”
The art of those machines is as active today as ever! The ability to create something for the simple pleasure of creation, creativity, and fun; as well as seeking unconventional solutions, is what inspires people to build them.
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“A freshly sharpened pencil is about starting over, and never ceasing to hope for—and work for—the perfect point. While that perfection may never be attained, it is cowardly not to try.” @thisisdavidrees #backtoschool #pencilsketch #rgmc2020 #rubegoldbergmachine #aneasywaytosharpenapencil
BUT WHY WOULD YOU?
The biggest question, looking at such contraptions, is why. Why build something that complicates the process – usually a process or machine that already exists and is way simpler – or doesn’t work, or works in a faulty way? Well, there are several sunny sides to working on useless stuff.
FIND WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT
Dabbling in many fields would be very helpful in finding the one that works for you! And the “works” here is two-fold. Firstly, it refers to the down-to-earth, practical, and more career-oriented work, something you can reforge as your primary income. You can find out where you can work to get the best pay. Secondly, it can also help you find out what makes you energized, what makes you laugh and keeps you happy! This is useful if you wish to lead a satisfying, fulfilling, and mindful life. Simple as that!
FIND WHAT YOU’RE NOT GOOD AT AND LEARN HOW TO COPE WITH FAILURE
I think everyone likes to succeed and the general attitude towards failure is not something that comes easy to us (however, it’s changing, and the new generations of kids are more aware that failure is a part of life, thank heavens). Even if we are aware that it’s a necessary element of growth, even if we know that we can learn from it – acceptance of failure is difficult. But if there is a way to better at something – get better at accepting and dealing with failure, and all the feelings that come with it – is to practice! You probably suspect that creating such cracking contraption takes time and countless tries to perfect it, to make sure the ball hits the Lego block in the right spot for the lego block to fall exactly into a plastic cup, and not text to it… Hours of machines that will fail before we can get to the one that works. Hours to accept that it will fail before it gets better. Hours to study ourselves and become more mindful of how we, personally, deal with failures, and hours to find ways how we can, personally, cope (as those are personal). Having such knowledge makes us better people, but also prepares us to deal with other types of failures in our lives, therefore we can live to the fullest, not being afraid!
EXERCISE YOUR CREATIVITY
Creativity helps in so many aspects of our lives! It’s not only the big invention companies. It’s also us, people who want to make better decisions, more interesting choices, be smarter… And creativity is a muscle, it gets bigger with training! Even the simples goldbergian machine would force you to “walk out of your comfort zone” towards the unknown. Trying to figure out the chain reaction sequences would engage your imagination, support the trial-and-error approach, and help you think in many different ways, engage divergent and convergent thinking, as well as help you think in a parallel way. Results of this are generally indescribable, but let me try: satisfaction, a better understanding of the world and yourself, a sense of achievement, engagement with the world around, a better job, and probably more!
FUN, FUN, AND MORE FUN!
I mean, do I need to say more? Let’s face it, life isn’t only about this great journey inside, it’s not only a good job – all will seem bland and unsatisfying without fun and energy! This is how we reset, this is how we get more fule for the daily hustle. And inventing stuff has always been entertaining, Lego blocks continue to spark joy for kids and adults alike around the world, and making stuff keeps people delighted, interested, and relaxed. So allow yourself to be playful with such inventions, let your brain wander and see where it leads you if there are no constrains, if there is only simple pleasure for the sake of it! Recharge!
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU
All of the above, haha! Knowing yourself, having fun, striving for a more fulfilling life… Working with useless stuff will give you the power to enrich your life!
Having said all that, always use your moral compass for any invention! And maybe watch “Better Off Ted,” it’s brilliant!