Common Craft and Camping on Tuesdays

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.


Maybe and Sachi in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Maybe and Sachi in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Camping on Tuesdays is a kind of philosophy for Sachi and me that came from running our company Common Craft. It represents how we look at our time, our lifestyle and the sources of our happiness. It’s a recognition that we can choose to live by slightly different rules and expectations.

The idea that became Camping on Tuesdays started around a campfire on a busy Saturday night many years ago. As we settled in for an evening of car camping, we surveyed our surroundings. We were enjoying the great outdoors, but we had little in the way of privacy. With kids out of school for the weekend, whole families were out walking dogs, riding bicycles, and peering into our campsite. At night, we heard waves of laughter and music from sites near and far. It was camping in public, and for a while, we never thought it could be very different.

Eventually, we started backpacking and found that miles of hiking tended to weed out most campers and allow us a bit of the privacy and quiet we so desired. But even long, steep trails could get crowded on weekends in the Seattle area. We knew our perfect camping scenario must be out there, somewhere.

Alongside this search for camping nirvana, we were running Common Craft. To our surprise, videos we started making in 2007 became viral hits and made us, to a small and fleeting degree, internet famous. The attention from these videos led us to opportunities we could never have imagined. We were hired to make custom videos for companies like LEGO, Google, Intel, Dropbox, and Ford. Our original videos were viewed tens of millions of times. I wrote a book and became a keynote speaker. It was a stroke of luck that changed our lives and we’ve been working to build onto that luck ever since.

And through it all, Common Craft always felt like an experiment. It was our laboratory and we were testing what was possible. We decided Common Craft would not grow in traditional terms or pursue traditional opportunities. Despite a lot of demand, we wouldn’t hire a team, find conventional office space and take on more custom projects. Instead, the company would remain intentionally small, home-based, and with low overhead.

At heart, we decided to design Common Craft around our time and independence. We hoped for two things: (1) enough income to support us and (2) a lifestyle that promoted our long term happiness. This decision meant we’d never have employees, investors or an HR department. We’d also never sell the company for a life-changing sum. Whatever Common Craft could become, it would be fit for two people.

Over time, we started selling video files from our website so educators could use them in presentations. This kind of licensing meant we could earn a living, however small, in our sleep. And it was small. But over time, we put everything into making this part of the business grow because it fit so perfectly with what we dreamed Common Craft could become. It took many years and a lot of doubt, but the plan started to work.

As the company changed, so did our perception of time. The 9-to-5 schedule, five days a week, seemed to no longer apply. We worked as much or more than anyone, but that work could happen on a schedule of our choosing. We could take off Wednesday and work on Saturday. We could play in the morning and work at night. We could optimize errands for avoiding traffic or long lines at Costco.

Honestly, I didn’t take to this new schedule as easily as I thought I would. As much as I wanted to live unconcerned about conventional workday schedules, I found myself drawn to it. I discovered a part of me that wants that structure. Sachi was the opposite and became our lifestyle champion. She would say, “We worked so hard to get here, why would we waste it?”

She was right and I slowly transitioned to seeing the beauty in living outside of normal workday hours.

One of the sure-fire ways we could celebrate this new independence was camping. We could camp on Tuesdays, instead of weekends. We could arrive at virtually any campground and find it nearly empty, as if we were lone survivors of a plague. For us, camping on Tuesdays became a symbol of choosing the unconventional route and making our lifestyle a priority.

Today, we’re still camping on Tuesdays and Common Craft is operating in a similar fashion. In fact, it feels like our lives and Common Craft are intertwined more than ever before. It’s the motor that runs in the background, creating space for us to continue experimenting with the business and our personal lives. One day, we’ll get it right.

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