In his recent book, The Craft of Carpentering, Mike Latham outlines six core elements of the craft, which I learned from him on the road in the early 1990s, when my friend and fellow carpenter, Tom Reichenbacher (who’d moved out to Arizona to live on his own), was looking for a job I’d do. To begin making a good living at my trade (a skill I’d not even been able to grasp on my own), I’d have to work with Tom, Mike and the rest of that amazing gang of carpenters. That meant we’d go on roadtrips working nights and weekends around the country. On those trips, where we were all very young, I learned to trust my gut, to not make mistakes, to make the right choices, to take responsibility for my own work. In the process of learning, I became one of those people who could take a bad situation and turn it into a fabulous and exciting career.
After all that hard work, there are only a few people with the skills I’ve learned to develop. I’ve met lots of great people who made it easy for me to achieve what I do now. But even with that amazing, rare group, there is one way to become a full-blown carpenter – by doing that old-fashioned thing, which is to find a good mentor.
“You can learn everything you need to know by working with your eyes, your fingers, your ears, your heart. You can learn everything you need to know by being with your people. The more you learn by being around people, the more you learn about yourself.”
Here’s how to find mentors.
I’ve worked with a few people who made it easy for me, but one of my mentors helped me learn to make all the right choices every single time! Jim Koop, a man on whom I’ve spent years pouring my heart and soul, was the man I turned to every single time I saw an opportunity that would allow me to make a living at being an amateur carpenter.
I’ve had a lot of great mentors, and when I ask people, most of the time, how I learned something, the most common response is, “I’m just a sponge!” (or words to that effect).
I can tell you that it wasn’t just my job skills that were lacking. A lot of things that I’ve learned about the world, about ourselves,
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