Jake Nickell

I'm a bit late with this recap from the Chicago Creative Mornings lecture for September. I just finished up my last week working full-time for John Marshall, and things have been a bit hectic. The September talk was given by Threadless founder Jake Nickell at their headquarters and warehouse over on W. Madison.  He talked a bit about the history of Threadless and the process they went through from a basic website run from his apartment to the t-shirt juggernauts they are now.  I always find it incredibly inspiring to hear about someone taking an idea from a very simple first execution through to a really amazing product.

He then went on to talk about making stuff.  I couldn't help but to be motivated and moved by his passion for making things.  He strongly advocated for just getting out there and making something.  Make something new everyday.  Make things with your friends. If you have a great idea, just get out there and start making it. You don't need a business plan, or anything fancy and formal.  Just grab a friend, and start making.  In fact, the company recently changed their slogan to "Make Great Together". This could be seen painted in neon colors in a large t-shirt framed t-shirt art piece on the wall above him.  It's so clear once you enter the building, that the employees are encouraged to make new art to share within the space. I really took a lot away from this talk.  I recognize in myself that I have the tendency to try to over plan a project, or wait for things to be perfect to get started.   And it's a good reminder that it's not the case.  Take an idea and just start making. The video for this lecture has not been posted as of this blog, but you can see past Chicago CM lectures on Vimeo here.

What made this so perfect is how it really ties in with another one of my passions, learning.  I truly enjoy learning new skills, programing languages, techniques, and trends. And I've always found the best way to learn these new things is simply to start making with them.  I have recently started learning how to build web applications with Ruby on Rails.  After going over some tutorials, I dove right in and started building a project.  It's slow going at first, and I still have to look a good number of things up, but having a project to work on keeps me motivated.  The more I work on making this project, the better I will get at the skills I'm trying to master.  For another example: I was presented with a potential contract job by a creative staffing agency.  The client was looking for someone to build out a mobile website using jQuery mobile. While I am very proficient with HTML and jQuery, I had never used this new mobile library that had recently been released.  So I read up on the software, and went right to building a mobile website for my company utilizing the library.  It took me a couple of days, but when I was finished I had a lot better grasp on the software than I would have just reading the documentation. While I wound up not getting the gig, I was extremely happy to have been prompted to learn this new skill.

So to summarize: Stop waiting, start making. Everyday. You'll probably learn new stuff along the way. And chicks dig smart peeps.

Also, if you are in/near Chicago, you should definitely go see their space. They have a store up front where you can buy tees. Totally worth the trip.