We are what we make. So what are you making?

We are all “makers.”

At work, at home, in life, we’re making and producing.

It’s written in our DNA to make. We make food, goods, and products in our jobs and at home. We also make reports, presentations, efficiencies, or any number of things. We make DIY stuff we find on Pinterest or from YouTube videos.

We also make the big things. We make our lives and we make businesses, ideas, cultures, and legacies.

We’re largely defined by what we’re making. It’s who we are and how we’re known. In large part it’s our identity.

This hit home for me recently as I was finishing a final paper on one of my Master’s degree classes on communications research methods.

I am back in college after a long hiatus with an emphasis on acquiring new knowledge and skills in strategic and crisis communications. My thought process is with 20 years left in my career — give or take — I want to make them count and do meaningful work for great organizations.

I want to challenge myself, be stretched, and broaden my professional network. But my overarching goal remains to do great work and elevate the organization I’m partnering with.

This particular class had been a struggle for me until one of my older sons, a 2016 college graduate who is working in the management trainee program for a global company, asked me if I needed help.

What a gift. I immediately said yes.

So he sat with me and together we pored over my textbook. We talked through the areas where I was struggling. We worked through the concepts I wasn’t grasping.

He helped me walk through a software program to analyze a survey that was part of the class curriculum. He was my sounding board on my ideas for my paper.

It was illuminating. It was fun. It’s something I’ll remember.

His help was a little thing, but it changed everything for me in that class.

And as I worked alongside my son, I saw with clarity what 20-plus years of “making” can look like. It was a reminder in that moment, at the confluence of my past, present, and future as a father, professional, and student, how essential my values are in what I make.

It’s easy to get blurred vision and lose sight of the big picture in the daily grind of life and work.

We can make decisions and move in directions that seem inconsequential at the time. But they can have big implications down the road.

So I’ll share my thoughts. It’s not a manifesto, nor a mission statement. Merely observations and things I’ve learned. Here we go:

— Don’t settle.

— Don’t cheat just a little.

— Don’t just get by.

— Never let failure define you. Let resilience and grit define you.

— Character, compassion, honesty, caring, commitment, optimism, passion … they all still matter.

— Be dependable and reliable in an unstable world.

— Have faith among faithless.

— Always have hope amidst despair.

— Take initiative.

— Be kind. And respectful.

— No one is beneath you.

— Ambition is good. Just take others with you in that drive upward.

— Lead well, with conviction and humility.

— Serving is leading.

— Listen more, talk less.

— Be flexible.

— Truth and authenticity are in demand.

— Find answers instead of excuses.

— Do meaningful work.

— Be careful what you wish for.

— Being “real” and honest never belittles or maligns.

— Stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other things to add to this list. You know what they are.

And as I compiled this list, I realized how many of these things I aspire to. I’m still in “making” mold.

Now the questions are for you.

What are you making?

What’s your “making” legacy?

J Matthew Sabo

Husband. Father. Writer. Creator.