There is just something great about building things. Putting something together, something that is functional and improves your life and/or the life of others. Sometimes building can be fun, sometimes it is a chore, often it is a challenge but almost every time it is rewarding in the end.
Building, creating, is part of what attracted me to a career in IT. Coding supplied that challenge element. Build something and try to run it. Most of the time it would require some tweaking, bug fixes, or complete changes in approach to make it work. Build, run, change, run again, change again, run again – over and over until finally, it worked! Many times the feeling of accomplishment after getting the code to run as planned outweighed the hours (sometimes days) of fixing issues and slapping yourself on the head at simple mistakes. What developer hasn’t spent hours tracking down a simple typo that they have looked over thousands of times thinking it was all good.
Building something physical, like a structure, isn’t as forgiving. While code development benefits from good planning (unless you subscribe to the fail fast approach), building something physical almost always requires plans. You can’t just launch into building a house or a shed or most any form of construction without a good idea of what you are doing, proper measurements, appropriate tools and the right materials.
I recently purchased a SnapMaker 2 “3-in-1” (3D printer, laser engraver/cutter and CNC milling) machine. It required assembly as many 3D printers do. The instructions were impressive (in a good way) and the parts and tools provided were well organized. It was a little tedious to assemble but in the end, it was fun and gave that feeling of accomplishment. I had to go back and undo a little of my construction at one point as I realized I had installed the Y rails backwards (the cord was coming out the wrong end) but that was my fault, I should have read the instructions a little better.
As a side note, when we got our first 3D printer I specifically picked out one that did not require assembly. I thought it would be easier to have the unit just work. And it was, until it didn’t. These printers require some maintenance and I found with the second printer (an Ender 3) that by assembling it you learn more of how it works and can more easily maintain it. The effort to build comes with some extra, not always obvious, benefits as 3D printing is a hobby that includes maintaining the equipment, not just printing plastic Baby Yodas.
Part of the build of something physical also involves the hard work. The “sweat equity” you put into the project. I am not all that handy but have helped with various building projects from decks to sheds to even home expansions (mostly as an assistant to my father-in-law). Given the right guidance and proper tools, I have been able to provide some value over the years. One of the unique feelings of these projects is the feeling at the end of the day that you did something, that you accomplished something, and that you put in a full day’s work. The “Miller Time” feeling.
Lately I have been feeling a little soft. Feeling like I haven’t put in a hard day’s work for a while. I workout, I run and lift and do some HIIT routines to work up a sweat. In doing that, I am building a better me and I certainly see that as a big accomplishment. But I feel the urge to feel exhausted at the end of the day. To put in hours of work and be able to sit back at the end and look out over what I created. More of that to come as I am sure I will find some projects to fulfill this desire.
Another area of building is relationships. Friendships, work relationships and more personal, romantic relationships. Throughout our life we constantly work on the social areas and building the proper relationships with those in our life. This is an area that is perhaps the most important. When we grow old and look out over what we have accomplished, we aren’t going to apply the same value to the code we have written, the decks we have built, or the toys we have assembled compared to the friends, family and partners we have.
Relationships may be the most fun to build and the most rewarding to enjoy once built. And in many ways, they are never done. Like other types of builds, we can constantly tweak and tune them. Improve them. What is good can be better. They require maintenance and sometimes a lot of work, patience and even some luck. But they can provide happiness and joy like no other element of our life.
Physical builds will fade over time. They will break down, collapse, be replaced by something new. But the stronger they are, the better they are built, the longer they will last. Relationships can also fade over time and breakdown. They require a strong foundation and a lot of care. If the care is lacking, they can fade, break down and be replaced.
Recently I was reading one of those articles on what really matters in life. They brought up the “tombstone” principle. What do you want to have on your tombstone? What do you want to have as your legacy? What builds do you want to be remembered for? Do you have strong relationships that make you happy and will stand the test of time? Do you have old relationships that haven’t had proper care in a while? Is something breaking down? Perhaps it is time to focus on the non-physical builds.