Duct Tape and a Paperclip

From the time I saw MacGyver use candlesticks, an extension cord, and a rubber mat to create an improvised defibrillator to save a man’s life, I was hooked on the show. Whether it was creating a makeshift bazooka out of a muffler, gear shift knob, seat cushion stuffing, and a cigarette lighter to escape a car chase or the time he used a magnifying lens, watch crystal, and a newspaper to craft a telescope, MacGyver has long been one of my all-time heroes.

Unlike Sylvester Stallone’s aggrieved soldier in Rambo or Bruce Willis’s tough guy in Die Hard, MacGyver relied on inventiveness rather than brute strength to save the day. Who needs military explosives when you can get the job done with chewing gum, a rubber band, and a flashlight? Instead of carrying a gun, he never left home without his trusty Swiss Army knife and a folded roll of duct tape. “Any problem can be solved with a little ingenuity,” the TV character famously said. No matter how tough the bind, he always figured a way out with the limited resources at hand.

In tribute to his resourcefulness, the Oxford English Dictionary now includes the word “MacGyver” as a verb: “to ‘MacGyver’ is to make or repair something in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand,” e.g., “He MacGyvered a makeshift jack with a log.” The Urban Dictionary, my personal favorite, defines a MacGyver as a noun: “someone who can jumpstart a truck with a cactus.”

MacGyvering speaks directly to the heart of being creative, scrappy, and resourceful. Everyday innovators MacGyver their challenges, threats, and opportunities. They figure out how to do more with less, wielding inventiveness as their weapon of choice. The next time we’re facing a tough situation, let’s MacGyver our way out of the jam. Let’s use our ingenuity – and perhaps a paperclip or two – to claim victory.