Making decisions—Take control

There is no easy start

I realise the difficulties of deciding a future when you are locked into systems according to culture. I’m not sure if people realise what a normal workday for me involves but I like to put in a good day’s work six days a week most of the time. I think it all started with my personal decision to take greater measures of control of the work I do, where I will and will not travel to and from my doing everything I could to engineer that area of my life according to my vocational calling.

Make sure your calling is vocational

Vocational calling is not something anyone should or even can ignore or put off but work and strive to make happen. It may or may not happen overnight, but taking steps towards making it happen can be small and incremental and they can be large strides into the unknown too. Choosing not to waste time driving in traffic and waiting in long lines to get to a workplace wasn’t happenstance but worked towards and I must say it’s worth working for. Even though I never enjoyed those brief periods when bogged down in traffic, the experience helped me to choose not to do it and therefore I worked towards working more for myself. I felt it was worth controlling my life, as much as that’s anyones choice that is. Remember this alone saved me let’s say two hours a day. You know, getting ready, making sandwiches for lunch, filling up the car and things that take away your time to go to work. Living by your work, or within say a mile max, is a good choice a man can make. It means he’s productive and efficient.


I don’t really have an education that helped me at all. Remember that I don’t have any educational degree and never went to university and that I started work full time at age 15 fifty years ago. I didn’t have nor ever wanted a career nor did I ever pursue my vocational calling based on money. Lifestyle was important but we didn’t call it that back then. When I started working I didn’t even know that I would get paid and when my first manilla envelope came with three one pound notes folded over so they could be counted without breaking the seal I was thrilled. I know, I was that naive, but I am glad I was. It had a sort of purity to it; made my choosing my craft solid to me and clearly based.

I say all of this to say not having a degree, never having fees to pay and such things like that was totally freeing. It freed me from the artificial and the pretentious. I am not sorry that I don’t have a degree. I suppose I am glad really. Especially as most 95% of people I meet and talk to feel that their personal higher education was less useful than they thought it would be and a waste of money and, and it’s a big AND, most of them are in occupations they strongly dislike at best and then even hate. Anyway, I decided I wasn’t going to waste time sitting in traffic and for about 4 decades I never sat in a line of traffic to get to work but for maybe four days altogether. Now I know some out there will say how lucky I was, but it’s still based on decisions people make. I became self employed to take greater control of that. I would rather start work at 6AM and have no traffic issues, and work through till 7pm and have three meals at home with my wife and my children.

The culture of making money

Money culture is usually the deciding factor for most people. Can I pay my bills? First world issues once isolated to privileged countries like the UK are now becoming global issues as other countries try to mirror the “better life” when those in the better culture try to dig their way back to gaining a sense of personal control of their lives by getting off the industrial/techno industrial/IT conveyor belt. A friend in Germany for instance cannot sell anything that he makes from wood, I mean a tent peg or a spatula, because he isn’t ‘licensed’ by the state of Germany. Belgium and other EU countries are the same or very similar. Licensing creates jobs and not just woodworkers who love their craft. Somehow, foolishly, the qualifiers today are only qualified by the people they train and yet they teach what would naturally happen and had naturally happened for millennia in the relationship between a master craftsman and his or her apprentice. So the massively over extended training periods that ridiculously encumber and burden people seem to somehow qualify the members of those states. Evermore controlling entities that are democratically voted in soon forget the people’s true needs and freedom becomes evermore eroded as the voice of the people becomes ignored. Remember that democracy is basically the best of a bad bunch and it’s rightly said that “democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on who should be eaten.” I am sure that one day the UK will follow the same path where responsibility becomes mandated by law rather than the individual and common right to take control of your own life for the common good in providing for others.

So, here are some thoughts

Money is not something to be despised at all, just not the centre or goal of work. Now I am talking about the craftsman and woman here; those who have chosen to become woodworkers of some type who may or may not want to earn the whole or part of their living from making.The primary goal is to become serious woodworker and to master the craft. I don’t altogether care if someone wants income from it, but those that do feel called to that will. So I have said in the past that people see selling what they make as validating them. This is a true condition and one that happened to me in my late teens. Now, at 65, I never see myself as being validated by anyone or anything. No entity living validates me. I am valid as a craftsman and have indeed made my living for decades working primarily with my hands, designing things in my head and making them happen. Just like this chair came from my head. This is when you cross the line to become a lifestyle woodworker and this has nothing to do with anyone validating you by your work standards, by the money you make, by where you live and by what car you drive. My family did fit within my earning capacity and we did indeed cut our cloth accordingly. We knew feast and famine and many times of famine if you can call eating three meals a day and paying your bills famine at all. In our 50 years of woodworking we never went hungry, never had a day when we didn’t have work.

It can get harder as you grow older

I do understand when people are more mature that lifestyle change becomes difficult. Usually it’s not altogether based on decisions so much as circumstances arising from being carried forward on a current trend or wave of the era. Today almost everyone is placed on a conveyor belt at birth. Educate to around 21-23 and then grow up.By then maturity is usually marked by taking on a mortgage, car payments, daily bills and commitments to a relationship of shared life. In today’s more modern world of course both spouses are independently earning their own money. We never went that route but all of the money that came in went into the same pot. Probably not too PC these days, but I don’t know that.

The cancer of control

The crux of all things for me is this one factor. Are you called to be a woodworker. If you are, nothing will stop you. If the UK felt that it was indeed a part of Europe, and 21 miles of sea seems to make the difference here, then the kind of legislation in some EU countries would spread like a cancer to other countries as it’s doing now because it is at the end of the day about economy, controlled economics, polity and education. All three bed partners rely totally on one another. What is happening in global economics is the result of exporting the commonwealth idiom to continents that were in and of themselves contented and perhaps more contented than those considered privileged. It seems funny to me that the pursuit of happiness for many seems always to revolve around about how much money you have or make or will make in the future. It’s rarely ever mentioned that finding peace and contentment is the greater pursuit.

In my retiring years

I still enjoy working 14 hours in any given day and that takes 6 days at least to cover all of the things I hope to do in passing on all I know to my friends around the world. This is not necessity in the sense that I need the income, but necessity because my sole ambition now is to make certain I leave the legacy left to me in the remaining time allotted to me. Much of what I have developed is for woodworker everywhere regardless of who they are or where they are. This is the first time in the history of woodworking when a single craftsman with the help of friends and family, volunteers and so an, can reach untold thousands in any given month. Some of the things I pass on took me years to master and in a few minutes via YouTube hundreds of thousands of people can glean from my shortcomings and failures to make sure their work is indeed successful.

So how is your exit strategy progressing?

I encourage all of you to plan your exit strategy and do it carefully and methodically. If indeed you do have a calling, then you will never be truly satisfied until you fulfil it. It’s no good to sit and wait for such a thing. Start digging the tunnels and building the bridges, build the tracks, and clear the pathways. Pull down the mountains of fear and build up the valleys. It may not be quite as hard as you might think, but even if it is, it’s worth working for.

It’s important to create a way to exhibit who you are as a crafting artisan, but make sure you have indeed become a crafting artisan. That doesn’t mean you have developed a mass manufactory, but that you have standards of workmanship you will never compromise.

It’s 10PM and I have avery full class of nine-days starting in the morning. Bless all of you who take the time to read this, and thank you.

25 thoughts on “Making decisions—Take control”

  1. John Tandberg

    Brilliant, Paul. Well written. I fit perfectly I nto your thoughts @ 66!
    Hope to participate in your master class next year.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I only wish that wood shop had been a choice in high school for me because I would have went that route instead of the military. That decision was made after my parents told me there was no way they were going to help me with college (I did 4 years of drafting in high school). At 50 and just starting my woodworking passion I find it more gratifying ti build something than the 20 years of destroying things in the military. Again thank you for sharing your personal thoughts.

  3. Blessed you should be Mr Sellers for passing on your “poor man’s tools”, “your ways and workings” as you do! 🙂

  4. Thank You Paul for all that you do! The principles that you live and work by are admirable. I got off the hamster wheel of life by paying off all my debt which gave the option too pursuing being a Lifestyle Woodworking and You Paul are one of the people that have greatly inspired me! Thank You!!!

  5. Paul,

    Thank you for all you. I hope the master classes are around for another 10 years.

  6. A man’s life is a story one of millions and yours is a most encouraging one, thank you Paul.

  7. Thank you Paul. Those thoughts of yours do help. Have a good time with your class.

  8. Jim Williamson

    I’m 72 and still get excited reading your blog and thinking what lies ahead for me, my children and grandchildren as we find contentment in or work life and thru our spiritual growth … THANKS PAUL!

    1. You are welcome, Jim. I think we all inspire one another, but I appreciate you encouraging me and everyone here behind the scenes that make things happen for the common good.

  9. Mike Ballinger

    I completed a degree in Computer Graphic Design which doesn’t mean a whole lot really but it did give me a foundation of sorts. I’m happy with that choice even though it took years to pay off my student loan. I think the problem with our education system is that it doesn’t mirror the real world. My real learning started when I was working in a design studio on branding projects large and small. Learning the craft as such. It’s very difficult for a studio to employ someone who can’t use design software and lacks the basics of design. That said I love helping out where I can with new designers as I was so fortunate to learn from good people myself. I would love to transition into woodworking and I guess I am on a small scale by building anything I can with hand tools – it’s very satisfying work.

  10. I’m very glad that I got to meet you at the Woodworking Shows and then take your classes in New York. I so look forward to your videos and posts every week. Your knowledge of woodworking and your views of life in general have changed my way of thinking on a lot of subjects. Thanks for everything.

    1. Hello Scott, Good to hear from you and glad you are still feeling inspired. We continue growing the future of woodworking as an alternative reality and I must say everyone has been very supportive and now on an international level. I of course always miss the US and all of the friends I have made there, but this helps me keep in touch and continue my work so I feel contented.

  11. Hello Paul, I like what you write and you write very well. I’m 77 and I’ve been woodworking most of my life, mostly making things for myself and my family. I got serious about 20 years ago and began to sell some of what I made. I did OK with it but I did keep my day job. I’ve been retired for 15 years but I’m still in my shop almost every day. I don’t have the stamina that I use to have and I’m a little shaky but I’m still able to put out a little work and sell some of it and give away a lot. Thanks Paul for sharing your skill and knowledge, I am enjoying the Woodworking Masterclasses and follow along with all of them.

    1. Well, you are an inspiration to all of us. I currently have a 72 year old in my class and then a 20 year old at the other extreme too, and about all the ages in between. Woodworking is a marvellous equaliser isn’t it.

  12. Everytime I read your inspirational posts I want to quit my job and start a career in woodworking. However I need more of a plan, so first I am finishing off a proper workbench so I can improve my skills and start to make more pieces, and transition careers.

    1. Working wood as a hobby is quite different than working wood as a means to earn an income. You should examine yourself in great depths before leaving a job that is providing a steady and healthy income. I’m not in anyway trying to discourage you but go into it with open eyes.

    2. Cutters do generally fit but I had one misfit cutter that needed extra and simply filed the inside of blade housing to receive the extra thickness.

  13. Thank you. I agree that it would be a big change and something to not take lightly. I have been self employed before and went through a recession during that time.

    BTW \it was the other post I asked about 45 cutters. 🙂

  14. What an enjoyable and inspiring read. I relate a lot but it’s so good to hear similar thoughts from someone I admire. Thanks for writing this.

    I did follow a university education till I was about 22. But during the rest of my 20s I did not pursue money at all (I felt great just covering rent, bills and food). During that time I had some wonderful jobs making stage props, working with fashion designers and various other jobs where I made things with my hands and my mind. At 29 I was feeling the stress of not knowing when the next paycheck was coming from and I was offered a position learning software development for a large publishing company. This was 6 years ago now and I see software development as a craft, just like I’ve at times seen woodworking.

    However, I have a vivid memory of one particular day working for this publishing company when I remember thinking – if someone walked in right now and said “there’s no more money to pay anyone” I am 100% sure everyone would have immediately stopped their task and walked out. Compare this to another memory from a previous job, working on a costume for a performer in a large production. Had someone come in and said – “the performer can’t pay anyone, there’s no money in this project anymore” I’m 100% convinced we would have all finished the costume anyway.

    So now I see software as a craft, and some software really does make the world a better place (like your access to thousands of students through the internet). I currently do not see any value in the work I produce, beyond it gives me enough money to be quite comfortable. But I think all the time about getting back in a position where I can control the value and values I put out into the world. The most satisfying work I’ve ever done is making things by hand and I miss it a lot.

    Finally, following along with your online classes has really become one of the best parts of my life since I discovered them. Thank you for all the effort making them, I know from reading some of the comments it’s deeply meaningful to many people, certainly including me 🙂

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