The Art of Tinkering

Happy Tuesday! We have another video today. (This won’t be the case every day; it just worked out that way this week.)

Extra Stuff

• Read: Tinker, the original post Jason wrote on this subject.
• Read: How the Tiniest of Improvements Can Have the Biggest Impact, a neat post from about how small gains add up over time to a massive win
• Explore:, the website of my friend who wears a nametag every day!
• Ebook: Tinker: 20 Tiny Ways to Make Life More Amazing, a cool project Jason did with Snippet that goes into this theme of tinkering even deeper. (Sells for $1.99, but if you want it, use the coupon code esclab to get 50% off.)

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Facebook Group
Don’t forget, you are invited to join a special Facebook group called the Escape Adulthood League. We originally created it for people who attended an Escape Adulthood Summit. It has blossomed into an amazingly vibrant group of like-minded people infused with a sense of community, sharing, and silliness. It’s a swell chance to stay connected with other people who “get” you! Check it out and request an invite here:

Today, share a time in your life when you did something small that ended up turning into a big ball of awesome.

(And don’t forget to keep recording your daily “must be nice” in your Adventure Journal!)

What’s your Tinker success story? Share it below!


  1. Over ten years ago, I was invited by an art teacher at the school where Kim taught kindergarten to come in and teach the students how to make a comic strip. I said, “Sure, what the heck.”

    That led to doing cartooning workshops in schools, to hosting our own workshops, to speaking in churches, to branching out into speaking at conferences for associations and corporations. Not a bad result from starting with a little presentation about comics to a room of 30 kids in Stoughton, Wisconsin.

    • Jason Love Jason Love says:

      That is an amazing story. I have been teaching animation for the past 6 summers at libraries around Wisconsin. This year’s Summer Reading theme is around “heroes”, so I’m putting together a comic creation workshop for teens and maybe one for younger kids as well.

      I’m very excited.

      On a side note, I noticed the “Complete Calvin and Hobbes” box set behind you. I bought that for my wife last Christmas… A wonderful collection to have.

  2. Kimberly McCue Kimberly McCue says:

    One Tinker success story I can think of actually came from participating in the Escape Plan several years ago. I was going to college in Muncie, IN at the time and decided to go to this place called Minnetrista for one of the activities. I wasn’t very familiar with it and was unsure of what to expect – all I knew was that they had some gardens and historical houses there.

    What awaited was actually a museum bursting with all sorts of adultitis-fighting exhibits! There was a section dedicated to health where there was a giant nose and an equally giant Q-tip you could swab it with! And a space exhibit with tons of really fun activities to do! Everything was very interactive and brought out my kid side a lot. I had a blast. And there were very few other people there on that day so I was able to partake in everything whole-heartedly without feeling embarrassed.

    And yes, the gardens were spectacular, too. Flowers of all different colors, and it was springtime so everything was just in bloom. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera at the time so don’t have any photos, but if you’re ever in Muncie, I highly recommend it!

  3. Avatar Dave Timmerman says:

    Back in 1995 I was in my new parish in Bloomington and as I lay in bed on that first morning my radio alarm went off to a new radio station. They were having a contest and I knew the answer to the question. I called the number, got through and won hair care products. Anybody who knows me knows that I don’t need hair care products. Anyway I started talking to the Disc Jockeys on the morning show and within a month I was invited to become a part of the morning show. Every Wednesday at 7:40 I have a 15 minute spot. I am the Soulman on Katfm in Dubuque Iowa. I am starting my 20th year on the air. All because I called, won, and stayed. Over the years we have tinkered with the format but I have always enjoyed just talking and laughing and being real.

  4. Jackie Ward Jackie Ward says:

    In 2010 I was asked by a good friend and national speaker to be part of a larger picture of sharing gratitude . She described her inspiration & I was honored to be part of her dream.
    We began meeting through go to meeting & created a curriculum for early childhood teachers & children on Gratitude. In 2012 Grateful Heart was born.I created a 4 hour training for my staff with a 30 minute spa package at local salon to celebrate their daily gratitude shared with the children they work with daily. Grateful Heart was a success & my drive was to share locally. I have inspired many Early Childhood Professionals across Wisconsin & Illinois at Early Childhood Conferences & Child Care Center on site trainings.We have worked hard to create a full package and will launch April 29 , 2015 Gratitude Curiculum Certification with the hope to create a ripple effect of gratitude into the world for the next generation.
    If your would of asked me 10 years ago to speak in front of a group or even create a curriculum I would have responded “no way!!” I guess this tinker adventure was a success. A true leap of faith!

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      WOW! Congratulations, Jackie! Way to tinker, indeed!! I’d love to learn more! Is this something that translates to parent-child relationships also or is it more specific to the classroom setting?

    • Like.

    • Avatar Sally Van Rens says:

      That sounds amazing! I would love to hear more about it. I run a center in Green Bay, WI and my staff and I are always looking for new in-service and training ideas.

  5. Avatar Minette Sternke says:

    In 1987, as a college sophomore, I accepted an invitation for a 6-week sponsored trip to Chautauqua, NY. The group sponsoring me is Christian, and had folks from a number of different religions. We even had 2 people from Canada and one from “Ahngland” (England). Little did I know that the daily faith sharing at morning devotions and a particular experience at the one time in six weeks that I was able to go to Mass would lead to my involvement in church ministry and, soon, an even deeper commitment to Christ. Oh, and seeing Prince Andrew and his new wife Fergie at Niagara Falls was kinda cool too! Grin

  6. Kate Russell Kate Russell says:

    On a whim I applied for a job in Wisconsin (we were living in New Hampshire at the time) and ended up getting the job. Much to everyone’s surprise we moved across the country! It was scary, but led to some positive changes. We simplified our lives by being able to walk to work and are living in a smaller house. That means having far fewer possessions and one less car. It’s great!

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      It seems that most good stories start with those three simple words: “on a whim.” Yours is no exception. Sounds like it was all meant to be!

    • Sounds like you proved the saying, “Less is more.” I find that simplifying things always makes me happier.

  7. Becky Reisinger Becky Reisinger says:

    Wow…I have been sitting here staring at this blank gray space unable to write anything. In recent years life has been so structured, so controlled that I can’t come up with any response. I am going to sleep on it…but clearly, I need some more tinkering in my life. :-)

  8. Heidi Thompson Heidi Thompson says:

    So one day I decided that I was just fed up with working my backside off while others sat back and worked on their social media profile. So I went into business for myself. It was scary and nerve-racking, but now I have the coolest Boss (me)who lets me take a fun day whenever I want! I’m still working my backside off, don’t get me wrong! But I’m happy to do it now! And the proceeds foot the bills for my kids activities and my need-for-sanity adventures.

  9. Angela Dunlap Angela Dunlap says:

    Last year, I turned 50. My sister, in celebration of the occasion, gave me 50 gifts – one gift per day starting 50 days before my birthday. She has done other completely kind and generous things for me throughout the years, and I never feel like I can repay her. She always has the best ideas that I can never beat, so instead of repaying her, I spent 50 weeks in 2014 paying it forward. In the beginning, I thought that I would just do little things – you know bake brownies and take them to a nursing home, buy a scratch-off lottery ticket and put it in a birthday card for someone, etc. In the beginning, I had no idea how I was going to do something kind, thoughtful or generous for 50 whole weeks in a row.
    It turns out I was able to do that. I learned that I didn’t have to have the whole 50 weeks planned before I started. I put my intentions before the universe, and the universe provided in so many different ways.
    At the end of each week, I wrote my sister a thank-you note, explaining what I had done for others that week. It kept me accountable even though it wasn’t a requirement by her, of course.
    So I did do lots of little things, but I also took wedding photos for a couple who couldn’t afford a professional photographer, I bought a St. Louis Cardinals game ticket for my nephew’s friend when all of my sister’s family couldn’t attend the game and she was going to be “stuck” with the tickets, and my 11 students from English class and I went to Lou’s LaGrotto on final exam night and I bought them appetizers and pizza and drinks (they also each got a scratch-off lottery ticket). The week of finals happened to be my 50th week of giving and I wanted a big finish. :>)
    I never dreamed how “must be nice” the year 2014 would be. It’s 2015 and I’ll be 51 on Sunday and I have nothing planned for the year … well, except teaching and running an adult literacy program and spending time with my family and friends and escaping with all of you!

    • Angela, I cannot even tell you how incredibly inspiring this story is. Just wow. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      My jaw is on the ground, Angela. I love it all. I especially love how you sent your sister a thank you note every week letting her know what you did… you two are quite a force for good in this world. Way to pay it forward! :)

      • Debbie Green Debbie Green says:

        Love your story, Angela!! Having been told this year by my sister that I do my good deeds ” for show”, I really appreciate what you have with your sister.

    • Kristin Hoehne Kristin Hoehne says:

      Wow~ So, so WOW!

  10. Lora Klitzke Lora Klitzke says:

    I gave a girl my number, now she’s my sister in law! She has a beautiful little boy with my friend and I’m married to her brother.

  11. Kimberly McCue Kimberly McCue says:

    I like to write fantasy fiction and a few years ago was experiencing a lot of frustration and burnout over this one story I’d been working on for several years. I loved the story but had really limited myself to just that one because it was my biggest one and just felt like it should be the main focus. Finally I decided to try something called Freedom Week, where I tried letting those creative limitations go just for seven days and see how it would go. I ended up starting a new story that I really enjoyed and I finally got to feel energized about writing again. I still write both stories (and more!) to this day, and also have begun to allow myself to branch off and write other smaller ideas as they arise, even if they don’t end up turning into anything permanent. It feels a lot better to have that creative freedom.

    • Sounds like a great strategy for getting unstuck, Kimberly! I think we all could use a “Freedom Week” now and then. Is there somewhere people can read any of your stories?

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      Just today I was explaining (per her request) to our 6-year-old, Lucy, what the word “freedom” means. She associated it with the Genie from Aladdin! We have a piece of artwork on our wall in our living room with the word on it (from Jason). My (off the top of my head) definition was: when you get to choose what YOU want. Why do we make rules for ourselves that keep us from simple freedoms, right? Good for you, for identifying this rule that doesn’t exist!!

  12. Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

    Twenty years ago I said a simple “Yes” to an invitation to go Christmas caroling (my first time ever) with a group of people from a retreat program I had been a part of. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I decided to have a little fun with my wardrobe. I wore red tights, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer boxer shorts and my (then, in style – it was 1995) black combat boots, and of course a Santa hat. Little did I know that I would meet my future husband that night! Yikes! Would I have worn that if I had known? He STILL talks about his (good) first impression of me in that crazy outfit! Glad I said yes and decided to just be me. Apparently it got his attention! :)

  13. Mary Eickemeyer Mary Eickemeyer says:

    The closing of my favorite local exercise hotspot a year ago this month gave me a reason to try out a new form of keeping myself in shape. I decided to try out the 30 day challenge series online. I mean, who would really know if I did the program of the month or not? And who would care? I found out that it was very interesting to see how far my body would go, found out that I felt better than I thought possible striving for a Clean Diet, and am in much better shape right now that I would have thought possible. I still miss the camaraderie of a local group of women; however, the online group is more diverse and has some very good ideas as how to modify the exercise/ program if needed.

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      Good for you, Mary! I’d love the link to what you’re talking about. I have a feeling that I’m not alone when it comes to the NEED for doing more tinkering in the area of exercise and nutrition!!

  14. Katie Heruth Katie Heruth says:

    In 2008, I took 16 classes (it was about a month or two of my life) for web design and development. Those 16 classes changed what I do everyday at work since then. I would have never thought so much would have changed because of those classes but it did and I never have a day thinking I would rather just stay home today. I love my job and the people I work with!

  15. Debbie Green Debbie Green says:

    Mine is about my hobby… In 2001 I went into a store and saw beautiful jewelry only to find out it was all handmade. I looked at my daughter and said, let’s learn how to,do that. So after many videos, books trials and errors, it’s my favorite escape and hobby still to this day.

    Attached image:

  16. Sarah Tipperreiter Sarah Tipperreiter says:

    I’ve never been able to stick to an exercise program but I’m *very* good at whining about how I want to stay in shape. When my husband suggested I just “try” a personal trainer for a bit, and then the next day, I got a card in the mail for a discount at the park district gym, I took it as a sign. I tried it and LOVE strength training, LOVE my trainer, and try to get in 4 times a week! No one is more shocked than me!

    • Good to know! It’s something I’ve considered from time to time. I, too, am pretty good at the whining part, Sarah. :)

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      AWESOME!!! Yay, for giving it a try. It sure seems like the accountability of a trainer would be super helpful. Go Sarah!

  17. Jen de Ridder Jen de Ridder says:

    I began “tinkering” with cooking about 5 years ago. I always loved the idea of cooking but I tend to be a play it safe girl (I’m a work in process). I tried a few recipes I found and discovered something I now love. It brings my family together around the table and in the kitchen which is an added bonus. It helps me remember to go for it when other ideas come along. Thanks for the visual reminder of the art work!

    • I started tinkering with food about six years ago, too. Now I am the primary chef in my family! It’s a fun way for me to be creative. My mom reminded me that I always wanted a kitchen set when I was little…I guess it took a while to simmer…

  18. Lynn Carter Lynn Carter says:

    This just happened. The ball of awesome landed in my lap five minutes ago! Last year, I decided to be magnanimous and manage a group registration for a professional conference in my field. It is an online conference, hosted out of Canada. Nearly all registrants were from the USA and mailed me USD checks, after I had monitored exchange rates for a few weeks to give them the USD price. A couple sent paypal in CDN. Well, after collecting money from 20 people, I watched rates, and made the $4000+ payment via Paypal. I should have made about 1% on the transaction, about $40, which I figured was a fair reimbursement for doing the paperwork. Well, the payment did not complete on the bank’s end on that day (maybe someone else was playing the numbers game on the other end?), and I took a hit of 5%, about $200. I sat and cried when I realized what had happened. A couple days later I emailed the group, apologized for the inconvenience, and asked everybody to send me $10 USD. That was an utter mess. Maybe half paid something, but a bunch used paypal and sent it so that I had to eat fees. I’m a single mom, so that much money was a real hardship. The conference was great, but I decided then and there that I would never handle a group like that again. The currency exchange was just too much of a wild card. Fast forward to this evening. A gentleman with this year’s conference just called. I was on the list of people who handled a group last year, and would I like to do it again? NO, no, and no. I explained what happened, and also let him know that since I have all the continuing ed credits I need, I couldn’t justify the expense to register even just myself this year, as fabulous as this conference is. He told me that he wished I had called and let them know what happened last year (never would have occurred to me!), and they would have absorbed the loss. Wow. Never would have imagined that was even a possibility. And then he comped me the registration for this year’s conference to make up for my bad experience. !!!! After I got burned, all I could think was that no good deed goes unpunished, and here I had made a fool of myself in front of some pretty important colleagues. Maybe stepping up to the plate was a disaster, but it turned into a lovely thing today.

  19. Avatar Sally Van Rens says:

    About 12 1/2 years ago I volunteered at a childcare center where my sister worked. A few months later I found myself looking for a job and turned to childcare. With no experience or education in the field, my boss hired me. I now have a degree in Early Childhood education, went back to school and finished my human development degree, am the director of our center, and was just offered a job teaching teaching part-time at our local technical college. Never in a million years did I see myself in this career field, but it has been amazing for me and my family.

  20. Avatar Ron England says:

    I was a youth pastor in a former long ago life. I was in charge of “Fun Time” for our Youth Camp… it turned into being asked to do “Fun Time” at a national event… it was a lot of fun! :)

  21. Sara Gast Sara Gast says:

    In November, I showed Jason’s “Once Upon A Time” presentation to a group of about 35 customer service reps I work with. We only had time for the first 25 minutes of the video, but it got lots of laughs and rave reviews. So today I was hoping – at the staff training I was hosting – to have our group finish the video. Well, other work-related material went long on the agenda, and instead of doing the rest of the video, I talked for a few moments about the Escape Lab and the “must be nice” mug and concept. Everyone nodded their heads and several stopped up to me after the training and said they love this material I am bringing to the training from Escape Adulthood….they find it very motivating…and as part of passing along the message, I “donated” the DVD and the “tinkering” artwork that Jason gave in the treasure box as door prizes. The woman who got the artwork was elated and said she is putting it by her desk to remind her to “tinker more” on the job, and the other gal who got the DVD was so excited and said she had several people in her life that she wanted to watch the video with her and her Jason’s message. All THAT just makes this all worth while…to help spread the message and get more people on board with our cause to squash Adultitis…that I was happy to part with those items to make an impact on them and others who they share their good fortune with.

  22. Allie Henke Allie Henke says:

    Okay so this one is a little silly but this is thanks to Kim and Jason. One day at work I came up with the idea to leave a note on my coworkers recycling bin, Pink Pig Tuesday coming soon with a picture of a pig on it. This has led to some crazy fun at our place of employment. We now have Pink Pig Tuesdays which involves our pig mascot and tons of random fun. Our offices have accumulated a TON of pigs as everyone gets us pigs. We now do a pink piggy bank campaign where the children at our center get piggy banks to collect change to raise money for our center. Almost everything we do is some how pig related. It has just become a silly thing that can brighten anyone’s day and makes our job so much more fun! I am lucky to have such great people to work with that do not care how crazy any of the ideas are that come out of the office and an amazing co-worker that is just as crazy (and I mean that in a nice way and know she will attest to that :) ). I will upload pictures a little later of some of this craziness!

    • Kim Kotecki Kim Kotecki says:

      You guys are AWESOME! Petey Pig even has his own Facebook page. Way to take something simple and silly and make it into a movement of intentional fun (and FUNdraising, no less). Seriously, you guys are AMAZING!!!!

      • Avatar Krista Sobieski says:

        Okay…I LOVE this to as Petey has become a wonderful mascot for our center and is NOW on tour and goes many places to learn about the world around him. I admit I am the slob who still does not empty my recycling bin often enough but look at the fun that came out of it!! I am attaching some photos too he is so much fun!! Allie & I do have some good fun! We laughed so hard when Petey went to Piggly Wiggly to have his photo at the store with the statue!!

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  23. Wendy Whitney-Scherer Wendy Whitney-Scherer says:

    Today, 1/20/15, I am applying for a new job. Maybe I’ll get it, maybe not, but the prospect of a change have filled up my kool-aid! Please send me some extra powers today Escape Adulthood League!

  24. Avatar Krista Sobieski says:

    Took a chance, bought a daycare, transitioned it to non-profit and in a sense reorganized…met Jason…followed some of his ideas…now all kinds of crazy fun…see Jason…we do have fun!!

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    • Avatar Krista Sobieski says:

      This really is truly one of my great imagine ideas which was not sparked by me but in reality by my daughter. It started out a project to keep a very artsy girl busy and developed into Lakelyn’s (our daughters name) Holders for Hope! She started weaving potholders or hotpads on a loom. She finished two small ones in about a half hour when the idea was sparked that she should sell them. I told her that she should make them for family & friends unless we could find a cause she could donate to…when the idea sparked that many children in Africa do not have art supplies (she remembered this from preschool as we did a pen pal exchange with some school children in a poverty stricken area). This idea to make and sell these was inspired. It is dear to my heart as though there is poverty everywhere I have always been intrigued to learn more about the people of Africa and how to help them. I was excited to learn through a friend of an orphanage we could connect with and provide art supplies too…interesting how those connections work out. This was one of the pictures of the holder we sent to the children so they could see how we were helping them get supplies. Notice some of the supplies as well. Anyways, this is something my daughter and I now do (hence she is 6) to support and give to others…one of our wonderful ideas that I hope lasts a life time!

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      • Avatar Krista Sobieski says:

        The orphanage is The Lords House of Hope in Kenya, Africa. We also have a facebook page Lakelyn’s Holders of Hope…

  25. Lynn Carter Lynn Carter says:

    This is a littler on the smaller scale, but my daughter wanted to share something she made! She likes to tinker with paper and other things (which may or may not be traditional art media) and today she made this little park/garden, complete with a fountain and a tire swing. So I suppose I could also post this under the Lab entry for an ideal day, because hanging out in this little piece of paradise would make for a pretty great day.

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    • Avatar Krista Sobieski says:

      Awesome, I love it when kids just create with what they have!! Great place to be…

    • Jason Love Jason Love says:

      This is really cool. I am never surprised how creative kids can get.
      Not to mention they are willing to do things they’ve never tried before.

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