Vocational Callings

Who say’s that any more anyway? No one, I suppose, but it had depth. It had meaning. It had future and it had hope. It mattered. And guess what? It still has all of these things and it still matters whether we use the term or not! What is your vocational calling and I don’t really care how old or young you are?

Sam was with me full time for a year. He’s highly skilled.

My first woodworking project proved I should not become a woodworkers. Everything about it screamed don’t do it. My school woodworking teacher, Mr Hope, left me in with no hope and no doubt. He strongly advised me against it by saying I’d “never make it out there.” But that project alone was the pivotal point when I knew beyond any doubt that woodworking was my future. The rich redness of the grain. Shavings peeling from the throat of the spokeshave and spilling to my feet. These were the things that spoke to me more loudly than any audible human voice. These and my dad’s voice saying, “What do you want to be when you leave school?” I was 14 years old. It was my dad that supported me through times of ultimate decision. It was my dad who covered my living expenses when I was earning my £3.50 a week. It was my dad who looked over my newly bought, one-tool-a-week tools when I took them home and it was my dad who sat with the other men when my indenture as an apprentice was signed. He helped me to answer the inner call, understand an opportunity he never had because of something called The Second World War. He steered me and supported me into manhood at 15 years. My world of working wood began with a poorly made wall shelf that I am proud I made and proud I gave. It hung in my parents homes for decades until it came back to me.

We should never despise the days of small, seemingly inconsequential things. A skinny lad, 13 years old, a slender young woman struggling to find her place, both living to find meaning in a highly complex world where it’s culture shouts ‘You’ll never make it!‘ Even though I designed and made made pieces for prestigious places, it wasn’t these that validated me. It wasn’t any college qualification that enabled me to find or do work. It wasn’t even what I was taught there or in grade school by clever teachers. It was the opportunity to try something i otherwise might never have experienced that qualified me. My designs are in high places. Homes of the wealthy, even The White House. None of this really matters a drop to me. What truly matters is I found a pearl; a gem if you will where I discovered my very personal vocational calling and I believe in vocational callings like nothing else. Oh, it may not come at 13. It might come at 30. You might not be a boy. Could it be you’re a girl? I’m 68 for goodness sake! Sixty eight! How many 68 year olds can say they wake up to work with a happy smile on their face and have done so for 53 years? If I wake up at 3am I can’t wait for the dawn light to greet me. That first gleam of dawn that shines ever brighter ’til the full light of day. Listen. Listen to your kids. Listen for that small voice you young people. Your future hangs on you listening for `your vocational calling and the voice that tells you this is it. Hearing is the pivot. Hearing is the anchor in impossible times when you want to give up but something inside you says you can’t because it’s your vocation. It’s your calling. There comes a point when children make bad decisions and then there comes a point where only they can make the right one for them. The promise of a good degree leading to a successful future is often based on a parent or two who want the best for their child but can’t see beyond the end of their noses. I meet more children very loyal to their parents who missed their vocational calling because their parents thought university and college held the only key to their futures. Fibre, fabric, leather and wood, steel, brass, gold and silver and iron never factored in. They’re not ‘manual trades‘, they’re a way of life. A way for a man and a woman to live. Lifestyle isn’t changed by what you wear, what you drive, where you live or where you go for holidays, lifestyle who you are and what you do in the day to day of life.

John was with me for two years full time. He’s highly skilled now.

I never saw myself as ‘entering the workforce’ or being owned or steered by politicians who often know nothing of individual callings. I just went to work to make things for other people to look at, consider using, to sell, and for them to buy. I never had a ‘robust business model‘ or a ‘business plan‘ others might understand. I never took a business bank loan once. I just did what my vocational calling told me to do. W`hen I didn’t have enough money to start a project I just worked longer, smarter and harder until I did. I chose not to watch the TV because I liked physical work better, more.

Hannah has been coming in since November 2016 and she too has become highly skilled.

This week a whole new world opened up for me to continue my chosen lifestyle in. It’s the brick interior of my own new single car garage with double doors at one end. My dad would be proud were he alive to see it. He’d be as proud as the day he heard me on the phone tell him I was walking in the West Wing through into the Cabinet Room of the White House with two credenzas I had just designed and made, or the day he heard that I was talking to President and his wife. My garage means as much to me as any step I ever took because from it I will continue as a lifestyle woodworkers AND be helping steer hundreds of thousands of woodworkers around the world to follow their personal vocational calling as I have throughout my life. It’s not fancy, the lifestyle, it’s in a garage. It’s a garage. It’s me!

So go ahead, give yourself a chance. That’s all we all need. Just an opportunity to pursue what some now call merely a dream but I call a vocational calling. It will change your life!

20 thoughts on “Vocational Callings”

  1. Paul should become St Paul regardless of your musical abilities, the message you sing brings hope joy and that message that so inspires I can do that, may you continue to inspire for years to come in good health and enjoyment

    1. I’d vote for knighthood over sainthood, but otherwise, I second the notion!
      Cheers to Sir Paul!

  2. £3.59 a week, gosh you were well off, I started my apprenticeship (about 2 years before you) on £2/2/6d – £2.12 1/2 p for those born after 1971. I still have my dreams and vocation 55 years after starting my work.

  3. A modern profit for sure. At 48 I have been fortunate to be able to make a living at everything I have tried. But I wish I would have read and taken to heart Paul’s words as a teenager. Paul also makes me question how I have guided my children.

  4. Finally a voice of reason. I am also a tradesman, school was never a strong point with me, but I was encouraged by my parents to complete my high school education as they thought it important. When we emigrated to the US I was able to get work immediately being a tradesman. I could never understand why the school system here is so adamant that kids go to college even those that have zero interest in it or don’t have the academic skills for it.
    I really can relate to your blog and hope more people see the light.

  5. Fantastic article. It gives hope to anyone, who has been discouraged, to follow their dreams.

  6. Martín Morales Valenciano

    simplemente le le doy las gracias, Sr. Paul Seller por sus Anecdotas y por compartir sus conocimientos

  7. Paul, another great read.

    I was talking this week with my father in law about the image of trade schools and lack of people entering a trade. I do believe I see a small change happening with employers seeing less impotance in degrees and more in experience,and hope people as you pointed out follow their dreams or some thing they have an aptitude or passion for rather than chasing the golden egg which has been the case for many years now.

    Your article also reminded me of the day my dad sat and signed my indentures ; it was a big commitment: every bit as big as going to college as it needed the signed support of your parents.

  8. At some point when I was a young, I decided to rid the world of a problem or show it something amazing that was always there but hidden, taken for granted of, or simply misunderstood. Feeling that feeling when the lightbulb comes on and new skill or rather a new sense of competency about the world in myself, and how empowered and yet in humbled awe of the natural world.

    So 20 near 30 years later…of giving up on it, indulging other passions, but always finding my way home, my starting point. A torch bearer in the wilds to light flames where I may so that others may follow and as their own spark of light into the world.

  9. Munroe Scott

    I have just read your blog and wish to say that, as our family gathered last Saturday to say goodbye to my father and scatter his ashes in the field in front of the house he built, one of my brothers reflected on the word passion. At 97, my father still had passion for the things he was doing. He said he wished he could live to 120 because he had too much still to do. My brother, at 73 and still working, reflected on how he was wondering what would be his own passion once his ‘work’ was done. I sense he was still searching. I believe I have experienced a vocational calling twice in my life. First, as a woodworker for 26 years of my life (and still at it in my spare time) and then again as I entered into the ministry as an Anglican priest. As I now consider retirement, I know where my time will be spent. I am in the middle of making my second violin and also creating my first real woodworking bench. I can see myself spending another 35 years there until I get to the age my father did. A vocation for sure.
    God bless,

  10. As one who has had a passion for both education as a teacher and woodworking as a hobby all my life I agree totally that everyone should be allowed the space to hear that call and march to there own drumbeat.

  11. Jim McCarthy

    Well said as always. Your classes are on my bucket list someday. But first I must build a boat to row across the pond!

  12. bob hutchins

    As ever, Paul, very important information you share. Thank you!

    At the age many were making lifetime decisions, I was woefully unprepared to make mine. I allowed others to convince me to go to uni. I had no passion for it then and would have been much better served going into the building trades (carpentry, cabinet making, et al). I allowed others to convince me that I would give up too much income in making that choice.

    I tried different paths between 18 and 25 before returning to uni where I received a degree in business administration. While doing so, I worked part time in a bank which placed me in their computer operations center which led to a career in systems analysis and design, software engineering, and IT management for which I did have a passion.

    I still regret, though, that I didn’t follow my youthful dream of becoming a carpenter and home builder. In the few projects of that nature that I’ve done, they were among the most satisfying in my life.

  13. The world will never tire of those that have and own a craft, weather it be writing, woodworking, or any other activity that requires mind and body to produce. Well said Paul, just now starting my woodworking journey at 67 years. My skills are rough but my mind is at peace.

  14. Jose Jaime Saldarriaga

    Thank you mr Sellers.
    Yor words had me in tears, I am in a point in my life that i feel lost, but iften i find my self watching your and your teams works and find relief and determination.

    Thnk you Mr Sellers

    1. Paul Sellers

      That’s mostly what the main part of my work is about, finding the lost and the weary in what is becoming a very confused and difficult world to live in. I thought about this today. I thought that an overly large percentage of parents live in dread that their children might end up working with their hands rather than their brains, believing for some weird reason mostly that brainwork is success and hand working manual labour is some kind of direct opposite. So a vast percentage of working people end up striving for success that meets the criteria of some other or others who seem to see their version of success as the only success and that most success is money-based. What happened to vocation and a sense of calling???
      It’s important for you and thousands upon thousands of others to take some steps toward working with your hands even as an avocation. You DO NOT need to be good at it, just enjoy diving into it, learning, discovering. This my friend is the beginning of therapy for you and anyone. It will lift your spirits every morning you wake. And it will lead you on a pathway of discovery–discovering a type of work culture and then, equally, discovering yourself. It NEVER fails.

      I will be thinking of you and any and all others looking for a way out of depression and pain through whatever kind of struggles you have. I’m glad you had the courage to send this message and there are a lot of supporters out here who want to help too because you are not on your own, Jose.

      Kindest thoughts,


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