I’m trying to remember the last time I actually physically touched something that I sold. Besides retail (FML), I used to build ventilation hoods and air duct systems when I was in high school. My uncle and grandfather ran a pretty successful sheet metal fabrication business out of some converted garages behind the property where I grew up in Worcester and I got schooled on the art of bending and welding (well, I sucked at welding, just being honest) sheet metal and installing commercial vent pieces in restaurants all over Worcester County and beyond.
I used to throw ventilation fans that weighed 80 lbs on my back and hike them up to blacktop roofs on 100 degree days, get left alone in the shop or at the job site for hours, by myself, kicking around wishing I could do something more creative, be out playing with my friends, etc. Nowadays, I get to work from home everyday, take my bike downtown to the cafes and work or shut down and bail on everything for a few hours while I go on a hike. Sounds great!
But, I miss shop talk. I miss the very distinct sights, smells and sounds of working in a shop, building things out perfectly to specifications and then bringing them to the customer and making whatever they were building complete. As a kid, I probably said “this sucks, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life” more times than I could count to my grandfather and uncle. It probably pissed them off a good deal too because I could have easily taken over the business around this point in my life if I had continued on that path. Instead I’ve worked in the service sector pretty much my entire post-undergrad career.
Why did I chose this path? Well, to be honest, I loved the idea of making a lot of money using my mind rather than my hands. The concepts of generating money from ideas and/or software seemed absolutely thrilling to me. I guess I had to check that idea a bit when the economy tanked a few years ago because so much of our economy was based on that idea. Then again, I’ve had jobs working with the elderly and finding them housing that honestly were some of the most rewarding days of my life. I’m not saying the service sector is bad, but I’m questioning my own fulfillment when it comes to the great majority of opportunities that folks like myself line up for.
My best friend who’s getting married in Canada next month (can’t wait to see him) is an interesting example of this change in perspective I’ve experienced over the last few years. He and I were both educated by the best private schooling that our part of the state had to offer, we both went to good colleges and graduated in good standing. What my friend did actually bothered me a little bit though: he became a carpenter.
Why did this bother me? My father, who I don’t talk about much on here, is a carpenter. There are lots of carpenters in my family. My family is generally very blue collar with the exception of a few lawyers, accountants and nurses. But with my friend, he had these amazing opportunities to do research throughout China, Peru, Canada… he literally could have traveled anywhere and continued the research he did in college. Instead he took a job building houses, something he knew little about but wanted to learn about.
Now, he builds and installs solar panels and honestly, I couldn’t be more envious (and genuinely proud) of him. He’s go the world at his fingertips and literally shows the most complete contentment out of any of my friends in what he chose to do. Heck, I’m pretty sure I was into solar and wind power before he was on a general time-line, but he made it happen and that’s not something I can say about myself (yet).
I started having these thoughts a few years ago, well into my “social media career.” It probably accounts for my general malaise when people start singing on the rooftops about the glory of social media and it’s mythical healing powers, when there’s no brand or cause worth talking about associated with the practices. Since moving to Boulder, I’ve had a bit of a re-invigoration regarding the general ideas of applied marketing and social media because I’ve gotten to know so many amazing entrepreneurs who are building their companies and ideas from the ground up, right in front of me and that passion reminds me of what keeps me going as a professional.
That same passion- I imagine a real passion in the hearts of the men and women who drive by the solar panels they installed on a high school that help power classrooms everyday or in the trapeze artists who built wind turbines that you can look at for hours on the highway while driving across the great planes.
I’ve used my imagination to create a career out of thin air and now my imagination (and familial working roots) is pushing me in another direction. I wonder how well my time is spent being nostalgic about these sorts of things or just making them happen like my friend did. I’m still trying to figure out (after 3 years) the steps to make it happen and I feel I’m getting closer than ever before.
Where do you draw your passion from? Is it from the sprouting of ideas, running your fingers across a finished product or a combination of both?