My Take on Deliberatism

Hiking Mount Seymour in early autumn
Hiking Mount Seymour in early autumn

Over the past weeks, a couple of folks have sent emails to us. They’ve wondered who’s writing these posts, and have asked about the story behind Deliberatism. I’ll respond to these questions today, and then move on.

I’m Eric. I have a very long last name, therefore, some call me karj. I like making things. Doing so is the one thing I think I was meant to do.

I studied as a painter in the early 90s and worked as one for a short while. I enjoyed this, but missed the experience of working with others. This led me to start a design company with my friend Eric Shelkie.

We sacrificed some comforts to follow this dream. We began without clients or industry experience. This necessitated living on very little. (During our first year, we earned around $7,000 each.) Since then, we’ve learned a lot, and our agency has been recognized for some of its projects.

At times, smashLAB has demanded more from us than we should have given it. At others, it has simply been fun. We employ a group of people I like seeing every day; we do work we’re proud of; meanwhile, we interact with organizations, whose people have become like family. Admittedly, it isn’t a bad way to make a living.

Our company also affords a means of acting on our ideas. For example, we started Design Can Change, an initiative that encourages sustainable design practices. After that, we became interested in content communities and social networks, so, we built MakeFive. (Around 3 million people visit it every year.)

I enjoy writing. Through our venture, I’ve had the opportunity to author the blog ideasonideas and the book Speak Human. We’ve also created technologies like shiftCMS and Guuda. I’m grateful to have had a good partner to work with, and for our opportunity to explore.

Over the years, though, my priorities have shifted—as they do for many of us.

I’m married to a lovely woman named Amea. We have two boys. These three people have affected my life dramatically. I used to enjoy making things so much that it was all I wanted to do; they’ve changed that. Nothing I’ve done professionally matches the profound impact that they’ve have had on me.

Every morning, I have an espresso with my business partner. During this time, we discuss the day ahead, our business, and where we’re headed. We often end up talking about the environment, and how dangerous of a course we all seem to be on. We also ask questions about the lives we’re living, and whether we’re making the right choices.

These themes: how to create a post-consumption society; and, what one is supposed to do with their life; are the ones that led to Deliberatism. We feel that they’re important things to be asking questions about.

Perhaps I’m the wrong person to write this blog. While I’m living how I want to live, I’m not the model citizen for sustainable, or minimal, living. Actually, that’s part of why I feel compelled to write this: in doing so, I have to live up to the ideals I espouse.

For me, Deliberatism is about making clear choices about one’s life. It’s about existing harmoniously in this world. It’s about being connected to one another, and the planet, and acting with these interests in mind. It’s about getting rid of stuff that distracts/encumbers, and instead seeking out things and experiences that enrich our lives.

You’ll interpret Deliberatism differently. That’s a good thing. I don’t intend to prescribe a lifestyle—even when I write somewhat provocatively. I’m just encouraging you to get as much from life as you can. How you do so isn’t my affair.

For the record, I have no intention of writing this personally again. I don’t think it’s what Deliberatism is about. For that matter, I try to keep myself out of these posts (to the point of rewriting any sentences that utilize the word, “I”). There are already lots of bloggers who write about their personal journeys to minimalism, self-discovery, and/or sustainable living. Many of them do so well. There’s little need for me to do the same.

With Deliberatism, I intend to present ideas that result in discussion. In a best-case scenario, they’ll challenge some of the ideas we’ve come to see as normal. My hope is that it is a positive contribution.


  1. Good summary Eric, I hope you keep writing these great series of posts for Deliberatism, they’re a thoughtful read, and reflect ideas that would be worthwhile for anyone to consider and act upon.

  2. Ive been enjoying this a lot, and I’m glad you went a bit more personal. Link this in your about me or something. I think folks want to know background because it gives us a base. Now, we can get back to living deliberately. Thanks for sharing your story a bit.

  3. I love the personal aspect of blogs, thanks for sharing. It makes it a little easier for shy people like me to relate to the writer and voice a comment (which is why you haven’t heard from me before). Also, such great drawings with your posts!

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