You Don't Need New Stuff to Start New Things

The Barrier to Entry is Lower than You Think

July 11, 2023

I recently acquired a hand forge and have been looking into what other tools I’d need to get to start blacksmithing. It is a bit interesting that I stumbled into a forge because it is the sort of craft that I’ve felt myself wanting to get into but have always just assumed the barrier of entry was too high, and admittedly I still haven’t reached that barrier of entry since I still lack an anvil, a blacksmith hammer and decent tongs but those things aren’t really that hard to find these days.

But the more important thing to realize is something I heard during my research for these other tools which is that for hundreds, if not thousands of years, blacksmiths have gotten by without a lot of the stuff that us modern folk couldn’t imagine engaging in the trade without. The coal powered hand forge that I have is vastly inferior to the propane forges that are common today but it is still much better than the stuff being used five hundred years ago. The people who went before us did a lot more than us with a lot less.

Notice how I didn’t include a chisel or punch in my list of tools that I lack above, they are essential blacksmithing tools since there is a lot that you can’t do without them and I don’t have them, but through my research I’ve learned that I can easily make them out of common materials once I have the other tools listed, it would be a good first project. I’d be willing to bet that back in the day an apprentice blacksmith’s first project would have been to make his own tools with his master’s equipment, first chisels and punches and soon later tongs and a hammer. I’d bet that the blacksmiths of old would have had great pride in the fact that they themselves crafted their own tools with limited resources.

This general principle can be applied to a lot in life. Of course blacksmithing is rather unique since it might be the only trade where you can craft almost all of your tools simply practicing the skills of the trade; a software developer can’t type better computer hardware into existence but the barrier to entry isn’t all that high. If you have access to a computer you can learn to code. If you are reading this article you have all the tools necessary to start a website, I’m writing this article on my phone.

Fitness is another area where people often think they need more stuff than they really do to get started. I was stuck in that trap for a while, I’ve been meaning to get into better shape for a while now but I don’t have any exercise equipment and I don’t live near a gym. I was trapped in the modern mindset that so many others find themselves in of thinking that if I wanted to work out every day I’d have to get a gym membership then drive to the gym, likely change clothes at the gym, figure out what I want to do once I’m at the gym, wait around for equipment at the gym, then shower either at the gym or at home. When all of that is over a simple thirty minute work out could have easily cost an hour and a half of time which isn’t something everyone can manage every day.

But of course gym equipment is not necessary to get in better shape. Running, walking, and body weight exercises are all common options that people know but chose to ignore. Rucking is something I decided I should get into since walking around with a heavy backpack is a simple yet effective form of exercise, and yet I still find ways to over-complicate it.

If you look around the internet for rucking information you’ll find plenty of people with fancy backpacks and fancy weights and you start thinking you can’t do it because you don’t have all that fancy stuff, but that just isn’t true. One day I got tired of thinking like that and realized I already have plenty of backpacks and I looked around at all the junk I had lying around and found an old brake caliper and wrapped it in foam so I could use that as a weight.

But even then I still found ways to complicate things, where would I walk? Walking around my neighborhood wouldn’t be fun or ideal but going to a trial would also take time and put me in the same sort of situation that going to the gym would. I decided to lower my barrier of entry to getting in shape even further and got two five gallon buckets. Carrying things is an incredibly effective yet forgotten form of exercise, one can burn a lot of calories and build a lot of strength and stamina by simply filling two five gallon buckets with water and walking back and forth in their yard with them.

Contrary to popular belief you don’t need a lot of stuff to learn new skills, start new projects or improve your life in other ways. Tools aren’t that hard to come by and entry level equipment comes with entry level prices, you can get a decent welder, forge, or vehicle lift for cheaper than you think. If you want to start a new coding or writing project you probably already have a computer, just get started. If you need to start eating healthier, exercising, or growing closer to God there is nothing stopping you from doing it. There may come a time when you need to get fancy stuff to progress in these things but if you are just starting out that time is not now. You don’t need a whole bunch of fancy stuff before you can start something new most of the time you just need drive and desire, things which modern culture is taking from us.