December 20, 2013

Being Enlightened

I’m a California native used to plenty of sunlight year-round. I’m still trying to adjust to the cold and dark Chicago weather here at my first apprenticeship.

So when the sun started setting around 5pm, I asked if we could get some extra lights around the office. After a couple jokes (“Hey California girl, we work just fine in the dark!”), my boss said that we could order some generic lights from IKEA.

I wasn’t a fan of the IKEA lights. “Well, could I maybe make some lamps?”

To be fair, I have designed and built plenty of other things before, from laser-cut greeting cards to hyperparabolic cement shells, but never any sort of lighting fixture. It seemed completely doable though.

“Sure, build us some lamps.”

I got the verbal go-ahead, with a general budget and the minimal requirement that they “have a bulb” and “produce light”. Unfortunately, I got hung up on waiting for official permission. Was it ok to be making office lamps? With everything else I was doing, when should I be working on it? How should I get the budget approved? Who else should I be asking? There was a lot of worrying about approval on every aspect of the project, which delayed the actual lamp-making.

This limbo continued for a while, until my coworker asked, “So, why aren’t the lamps done yet?”

I realized then that I could have spent my time just doing, instead of waiting around for explicit permission.

Now the lamp project is back on track and launched into a pinterest-and-laser-cutting fueled extravaganza that’s gotten other people in the office excited and has slowly been creeping into my nights and weekends (laser-cut sneak peek at the top).

So, I’m learning some lessons from this lamp project (you could even say I’m being “enlightened”).

One of our Ei mottos this is that “You don’t have to be spectacular, just be helpful.” Part of being helpful means finding problems to solve, saying how you’re going to fix them, and then just going ahead and doing it.

Previously, I’ve been taught to wait for permission, especially within the traditional school system. Everything had to be signed, approved, and stamped before beginning. It’s been challenging to navigate out of that mindset, and I’ve been learning to trust my own judgement.

Waiting for approval means waiting for someone else to tell you what you’re capable of. Show them what you’re capable of instead.

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