Use It Or Lose It

Over the past week and then some, I’ve been actively involved (read: getting on my hands and knees and doing the heavy work) in landscaping a very large chunk of my side yard. In case you’re thinking my posts from the past week have been somewhat spaced-out, it’s because I’m a dirt-covered, gibbering mess by the time I get to writing them (pre-scheduling blog posts just didn’t happen, between the pre-arranging of mulch, topsoil, heavy equipment, and various flora required–I just could not get to it all). Long story short, I’m now in recovery mode, with the heavy work done, and the bruises, aches, and pains to prove it. And I have learned something very keen about my joints.

You have got to use them, or lose them. And after you use them, you’ve got to baby them like precious, precious, fragile pop divas, or else they will rebel and go on narcotics benders in front of the paparazzi, shave their heads, and trash their wholesome family-entertainment reputations, ruining your career in the process (or in my case, the ability to get back up).

There’s a lesson in that. About a year or so ago, I read an article in maybe Wired magazine, or possibly Fast Company (I can’t seem to google specific enough to find it) about Radio Shack reinventing itself to be “The Shack” and taking more of a consumer electronics-slash-cell phones approach. The article had a business slant to it, about saving the well-known store from the violent contractions going on in smaller retail stores of all types (thanks to the Wal-mart-ization of big box stores and the rise of online sales), but it didn’t neglect the other side of it–a short section near the end remarking on the loss of old-school Radio Shacks around the country that have long been the go-to place for makers, tinkerers, and inventors with a mechanical bent (or a bent mechanical that needed a straight part).

The lesson here is that Radio Shack, just by virtue of its customer base, was gearing up to lose a big portion of the products that made its name in the first place. Electronic and mechanical components. Many folks in the maker community felt disappointed, bitter, and betrayed. Not enough people were using it, so we were going to be losing it. But aging companies need to reinvent themselves or risk going out of business altogether. The world does not stop changing once you’re established. And that easy down-and-up motion of your twenties isn’t guaranteed to come back to you after almost a decade of infrequent use.

Fast-forward a year and we heard recently that “The Shack” was headed to Maker Faire in San Mateo. Radio Shack, after seeing not only how its old-guard faithful customers responded to the switch in focus, but also saw the writing on the wall regarding the economy, renewed its commitment to the makers and fixers of the nation. Whose ranks, in turn, are swelling with new converts who either no longer have the resources to “chuck it and buy a new one” or who no longer have the patience to put up with all-but-disposable consumer electronics and mechanical equipment with a life span measured in months.

Of course, what this also demonstrates is that, like my joints, sometimes all you have to do to get it back is to start using it again. My knee isn’t happy with me this week, but some Aleve and stretching are beginning to mollify it, and I’ve promised a nice, long soak in the rehab that is my bathtub. In the meantime, I’ve got the giant silly band Thera-band out and the strengthening stretches video up and ready to roll, because I am not losing it again!

Athena Grayson Written by:

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