Trevor Olsen

Professional Trier / Optimist / Mad Scientist

Trevor Olsen

Woodworking, Robotics, Psychology, and Innovation Teacher

I get an itch to do something creative every day.

That itch doesn’t come often to everyone, but it always comes. It’s hard to describe perfectly, but ignoring it can be like trying to sleep on an empty stomach. It’s possible, but unfulfilling.

The hardest part about this is that many people don’t know that they can scratch this itch for themselves. They eventually realize that they have an intense desire to do something creative, but feel like they lack talent, time, or resources.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of people who have told me this or something similar.

There’s a lot of different advice that you can give someone, but at the heart of it is this:

Get comfortable with feeling stupid.

I haven’t always felt this way, though. Growing up I used to love being the first one to raise their hand with the correct answer. I did well on tests, but my ADHD made homework a real struggle.

I went through great pains to know more than my peers did, and I let them know it. Admitting I was wrong was hard, and it certainly still can be. I was like this for longer than I would like to admit.

My turning point came when my furnace stopped working.

It was 55 degrees in our apartment—much too cold for a new baby. I had only been a dad for a couple months, and I was feeling overwhelmed. I didn’t have the money to get my furnace fixed, so I opened up the utility closet and tried to figure out what was going on. As scary as they seem, furnaces are one of the best appliances to diagnose. A lot of modern furnaces have two small indicator lights that blink in a pattern. If something is wrong with the furnace then the pattern will change.

I did a Google search and found a Youtube video that claimed I could repair my furnace with a nail file and cloth. I was skeptical, but since it was so easy I thought it was worth a try.

Do you remember the game Operation? You would use little pliers to pull things out of a surgical patient, but if you hit the sides of the hole the game would make a terrifying buzzing sound. Can you remember the stress you felt when you played? That’s how I felt when I turned off my furnace and proceeded to defuse the bomb.

When I finished I put the piece back and turned on the furnace. It was late and it was cold, but I was sweating nervously. Maybe I was expecting my house to blow up. Imagine my surprise when it worked.

A broken furnace made me feel stupid. That feeling led me to take action and do something different.

At Merit Academy I teach woodworking, robotics, psychology, and innovation (an elective class where we 3D model, create and build). I never would have imagined that I would be teaching these subjects, but they challenge me and lead me to seek out that stupid feeling. That’s the feeling that leads to learning.

I will challenge students to do things that I don’t know how to do. Sometimes this can be hard for them, but you should see the fire in their eyes when they rise to the challenge.

They’ll get that itch one day. They may not get it every day, but they will get it. I want to help them be prepared for when they do get it.