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?
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.
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.
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!