Build It Yourself

Build It Yourself - tips & insight for designing the life of your dreams

A few years ago, things were getting pretty serious between Sam and I (my then-boyfriend, now-husband). We knew we wanted to tie the knot and settle down, it was just a matter of popping that question. Of course being a designer and a bit of a control freak, I insisted on picking out my own engagement ring. It took some serious convincing, but after weeks of persuasion Sam finally agreed.

We stopped at shops large and small. We scoured Jeweler's Row in Philly, but I was looking for a very specific combination of antique style with modern utility. I wanted just the right amount of ornamentation, a simple profile from the top, and to have it fit with a straight wedding band. As it turns out, this was a pretty tall order. Sam continued to be patient with me, even though he admitted at least one nightmare where I looked through an endless wall of rings and still couldn't find the one. Yeah, he's a trooper, my Sam.

A photo posted by Melissa Yeager (@melissayeags) on

After months of frantic searching, I still couldn't find exactly what I wanted. Then, finally, it occurred to me. If I couldn't find the right one, why couldn't I just make it myself? So that's exactly what I did.

Lost & Trapped

Beyond designing my own engagement ring, this approach has extended to so many other facets of my life, most importantly my business. You see, a little over a year ago I was lost. I was commuting several hours a week to a job that wasn't fulfilling me creatively. I started to resent a profession I so love and I felt absolutely trapped by my circumstances.

Sam and I were about to get married and we had already bought a house the year before. I didn't want to trade one horrendous commute for another into the city, and although there were remote jobs that sounded amazing we couldn't very well pick up and move. Our house is here. Our family is here. Our life is here. So once again I came to a crossroads.

If you can't find what you're looking for, build it yourself.

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I wasn't happy in my current situation, and I knew something had to change. Once again I thought to myself, if I can't find it why can't I build it myself? That's when I decided to start my own business.

The BIY Approach

I've begun to refer to this whole concept as the BIY Approach, which goes something like this. If you can't find what you're looking for, build it yourself. This could be a dream ring, a routine, a house, a recipe, a job, or your whole life. This may sound like common sense, but this concept has been a huge breakthrough for me.

Of course, you should consider your expertise in all of this. I felt comfortable designing a ring since I'm a designer, but I left the structural considerations to the jeweler. After all, I wouldn't go try to build my dream house all by myself. I'd get the right people in my corner, and work with the experts to make that dream a (safe and structurally sound) reality.

Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, you will feel uncomfortable and nervous and scared at times. But I say stepping out of that comfort zone is way better than wasting your life on things that don't make you happy—especially when you know you can do better.

Jeff Sheldon & Ugmonk

Let's take Jeff Sheldon as one more example. Around 8 years ago, Jeff found himself in the market for some new t-shirts. He searched and searched, but couldn't find anything with the minimal design aesthetics he was looking for. So what did he do? Jeff designed what he envisioned himself, and that's when Ugmonk was born.

A photo posted by Jeff Sheldon (@ugmonk) on

A photo posted by Jeff Sheldon (@ugmonk) on

Jeff built a whole business around his personal aesthetic, and today finds himself living the dream and designing all kinds of things he dreams up. Of course there's tons of daily hard work involved to make this leap and keep the dream alive. But it's worth it. The point is that Jeff is living his dream because he built it himself.

When You Build It

I'm not telling you to quit your job today or sell everything you own to live a life on the road. All I'm saying is that if there are areas of your life that don't excite you and charge your soul, then recognizing that is the first step.

Of course, your dream job or house or outfit or ring may already exist. But if after months of searching you still can't find what you want, don't get discouraged. You aren't trapped, although it may feel that way sometimes. This may just be a sign that it's time to take that next step and start building it yourself.