Since then, I’ve carved out this little niche for myself on the internet as an inventor of useless machines, because as we all know, the easiest way to be at the top of your field is to choose a very small field.
I thought I was unconventional for starting my own freelance writing business. As it turns out, the world is filled with all sorts of freelancers. Competition can be fierce and it can oftentimes feel like a race to the bottom. But you know what you won’t encounter very often? A self-taught inventor making machines she fully expects to fail. Her name is Simone Giertz.
You may have seen her on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert about a year ago when the host heralded her as the “Queen of Crappy Robots.” Maybe you spotted her mention on Casey Neistat’s vlog recently. Maybe you don’t know her at all (but you should now). She makes these machines that are purposely bad at solving the problems they’re supposed to solve and hilarity ensues.
Take the shoulder-mounted orbiting ring thing shown above. With a standard game controller, she’s able to spin that thing around like a powered Lazy Susan and get the little hand to smack cookies into her mouth. It’s as hilarious as it looks. Normalcy is overrated, but fun is not.
So I came up with a setup that would guarantee success 100 percent of the time. With my setup, it would be nearly impossible to fail. And that was that instead of trying to succeed, I was going to try to build things that would fail.
Some of my greatest successes are also among my greatest failures. If the objective from the beginning was to fail, then those successes would simply be successes. It seems so simple, doesn’t it?
And this line of thinking leads us to somewhere even more profound.
Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, building stupid things was actually quite smart, because as I kept on learning about hardware, for the first time in my life, I did not have to deal with my performance anxiety. And as soon as I removed all pressure and expectations from myself, that pressure quickly got replaced by enthusiasm, and it allowed me to just play.
Like it or not, you’re going to fail. So you may as well fail often, fail forward, fail gloriously… and have fun doing it. That’s a huge burden you can lift off your shoulders, especially if you can also stop worrying about living up to other people’s expectations. Alleviate yourself of that pressure and do what you love because you love doing it.
Even if means building crappy robots.
Especially if it’s building crappy robots.
Simone Giertz announced a couple of weeks ago that she has a brain tumor and will be undergoing surgery to remove it. Because of this, her YouTube channel (with over a million subscribers) may be dormant for the next little while and understandably so. If you haven’t checked out some of her old videos, you definitely should. She hangs out with Adam Savage, uses a car as a computer mouse, and locks herself in her bathroom for 48 hours.
I’ve embedded the videos of her TED talk, as well as her “behind the scenes” vlog from giving the TED talk below. I encourage you to watch both and send her your love.