Jason Kotecki

Practice the art of ‘tinkering’

Break free from unwritten rules and focus on ‘little moments.’

May 6, 2018

If you’ve ever felt like you need to escape the daily grind—that human hamster wheel we call adulthood and work—and that you need some changes in your life, just try tinkering.

“Sometimes to make a change, you must do something big or crazy,” says Jason Kotecki, an author, artist, and “professional reminder-er.” “But most of the time, you just need to practice the art of tinkering.”

Kotecki says tinkering involves “repairing, adjusting, or working with something in an unskilled or experimental manner.” It’s also a way to break free from those rules we believe we have to follow but don’t really exist—such as not eating dessert first.

We often follow those rules not because we want to but because we’ve always done it that way, says Kotecki, who spoke at the CUNA Young Professionals Conference Thursday in Madison, Wis.

“Tinkering is like an escape hatch for someone who feels like they’re stuck,” Kotecki says. “Tinker, ask questions, and try things.”

When tinkering, Kotecki says people should:

• Be willing to try. You won’t always succeed on the first attempt, Kotecki says, but even if you fail, you’re not a failure. That just makes you human.

• Do the work. In his book “Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell says that to be an expert in a subject, you must put in about 10,000 hours of work.

• Get real with risk. Take chances. When Netflix started, the company took chances and broke two rules: That they must charge late fees and they had to have a brick and mortar location. Netflix has been successful, while Blockbuster, which adhered to those rules, has gone out of business. “Staying safe is usually more risky,” Kotecki says.

• Make ugly Christmas cookies. Kotecki tells the story of a father and son who were tasked with making Christmas cookies for the annual family gathering. Their guests always ate all the cookies, leaving none for the family, so the father-son duo decided to make the ugliest cookies possible in hopes that no one would eat them.

The guests still ate the cookies, which tasted the same. The lesson is to think outside the box and not do things the same way because you’ve always done them that way, Kotecki says.

• Be curious. Being curious and asking questions you valuable to your credit union. Look for rules at your credit union that don’t officially exist that you can break, and in the process, make things a little better.

“Just focus on one thing,” he says. “Ask questions daily. Everything may not work, but it’s worth asking the question.”

We often get caught up in big-picture concerns, such as the latest international news or the economy. While those are important topics to be aware of, Kotecki says it’s the little things that matter most; those moments when you help a member secure a loan for a new vehicle or assist a member who was locked out of their mobile banking app because they entered their password incorrectly too many times.

“Create little moments,” he says. “Those are the things that end up making the biggest difference in the long run.”