Making Do

When I started my blog entry yesterday, my intent was to write about “making do” – as in: Make do or do without. Or: Necessity is the mother of invention. It was going to be about the creative game of resourcefulness and all the ways it can be fun and freeing, rather than a grind and limiting. Making do seems to be what’s called for in these trying times, so – not to get all Mary Poppins on you, but we might as well figure out how enjoy it as much as possible, right?

Of course, that distinction is in the mind (as Mary herself says to the Banks children, “It depends on your point of view.”) – so it ended up being a post about mindset instead. Which is all true, but it didn’t really get at what I wanted to share… so here’s Take Two.

Some of the Make-Do-or-Do-Without Games I Am Currently Playing:

  1. In my business, what leads and connections do I already have that I can pursue? What projects are already underway and just need finishing?
  2. Again in business, how can I diversify my current services or repackage my existing expertise (without additional training)? How can I promote those with the tools I already have in place?
  3. Personally and professionally, what services can I reduce or discontinue and not miss (e.g., how long has that Netflix DVD been sitting on top of our TV unwatched? and, seriously, when was the last time I consulted that legal service about a contract?)
  4. If I really need or want it, where can I get it on sale, used or free?
  5. Or can I make if myself from materials I have on hand? (I am of a crafty bent – I have a lot on hand)
  6. Is it available at the library? Is it already on my bookshelf? Can I find it on the internet?
  7. What can I sell on Craigslist or Ebay? What can I donate for a future tax deduction?
  8. How long can I prepare meals from our cupboards or freezer before I have to go to the grocery store?
  9. (If the sun ever starts to shine in Portland this summer) how much produce can I grow in my backyard? How much more often can I hang wash on the line rather than using the dryer?
  10. Can I walk or bike instead?

And so on…
Yet I ask myself: Is all this really more work? more bother? more limiting? Do the little things actually make a difference? Or are the conveniences I give up in playing this game mostly illusions? Does what I eliminate actually free me to do better work, the most important work at hand – to get in right relationship with my work, money, and stuff? In the same way the national economy eventually benefits from what shakes out of a downturn, does my personal economy ultimately profit from similar refinement? The silver lining would seem to be that current circumstances are keeping me from complacency – even just plain laziness. There is a sense of urgency. I have to wake up, pay attention, and do my best work. And that’s a good thing.

They say money is power, and I suppose that’s true if you have enough of it – if not power, then options. At its most basic level money is security from want. But for many of us, money is often about feeling new. Letting go of little conveniences is the easier part. What makes the game of making-do so challenging is you have to find ways to feel new without spending money.

I first learned this from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller.

The thing about new things is you feel new when you buy them, you feel as though you are somebody different because you own something different. We are our possessions, you know. … But the new things become old things so quickly. We need new things to replace the old things.”

During a downturn (whether on a personal or national scale), one quite understandably wants to feel new, to feel a sense of hopeful possibility, to feel that things are different. So being willing and knowing how to create that from existing opportunities and resources, and find satisfaction and prosperity in that, seems a really important skill to cultivate right now, a crucial element of “rich mind” (and one that remains just as useful during an upturn).

From a recent post on Seth Godin’s blog

So, there’s plenty of bad economic news floating around. From the price of oil to Wall Street to bailouts to the death of traditional advertising. Which is great news for anyone hoping to grow or to make an impact. Change (and the fortunes that go with it) is almost always made during the down part of the cycle. It might not be fun, but it’s exciting.”

Being forced out of complacency and into greater resourcefulness may not be as fun or simple as a snap of Mary Poppins magical fingers, but the results are just as exciting.

* * * * * * * * * *

  • How are you making do? How are you doing without? Has either even been necessary for you?
  • If the economic downturn has impacted you, are you finding opportunity within it? Are you pursuing growth and change? or are you riding it out?
  • If the economic downturn has not impacted you, what did you put in place that has protected you? If you have been impacted, and knowing these things are cyclical, what would you do differently to prepare for the next downturn?
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