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There’s a story about a young man who hopes someday to be an airline pilot. Having to pursue his dream “from the ground up,” he finds himself servicing the lavatories for small jets on a private ramp. Employed by a penny-pinching manager, there’s an unresolved repair ticket on the waste pump hose. Due to this malfunction, about once a week the young man gets sprayed with a combination of “blue-juice” and human waste. One evening he comes home after work, stinking of disinfectant and poo. His bride suggests that maybe he should look for a new job. “What!” he exclaims, incredulously, “and get out of aviation?”
Unlike a driven young man in the focused pursuit of aviation dreams, for many young people, it takes longer for their gyroscopes to stabilize. I remember telling schoolteachers that I planned to be a ditch digger when I graduated. Not the version of ditch-digging that involves operating heavy equipment – no, I meant digging a hole with a shovel. My intent was mainly to deflect any questions on my plans – the future was scary.
What these smart remarks revealed was not only ignorance about the technical know-how required to be successful in excavation work, but common youthful ignorance about the larger context of what it takes to learn and become proficient in any craft or occupation.
After falling off a ladder (about 40 years after high school) I had to become more serious about careful preparation in my do-it-yourself projects. YouTube offered, for no cost other than my time, a lot of content on how to perform certain tasks. As I searched for more I began to recognize the qualitative differences not only in video production but also which channels were effective in explaining objectives and in orienting novices. There was one channel, however, that my searches kept returning to that offered something even more, “The Essential Craftsman” (EC). I can’t describe that “something more” better than the site does in its “about” tab:
The purpose of the channel is to showcase the knowledge that is gained through experience and encourage respect for the craftsmen, their tools, and history.
Since I have become a regular viewer of the EC YouTube channel and a listener to the podcasts, I have come to appreciate and better understand so much more of my immediate physical world (i.e., my house) — and not just or even primarily in the details of technical know-how. I don’t know if the trades necessarily lend themselves better to something more common (or organic) in the human experience but I sense that the lessons and perspectives on the EC channel – as the outcome of the experience of work, apply more broadly to improvement and growth in life generally.
The channel does not confine itself to technical issues – especially the podcasts get into things like back pain, the “learning curve,” and the changes brought on by IT. These podcasts often feature not only the host (Scott) but also his son (Nate) the producer. Nate brings a generational perspective from an unusually open and introspective young man.
In a task to write a piece about work for Ricochet, I could not think of a better subject than to introduce The Essential Craftsman to those not already familiar. If you find yourself with spare time while hiding from the virus, you could do a lot worse than exploring this channel. Also, if you’re going to spend any of that time on a ladder, you may want to watch How Not to Fall Off a Ladder.Published in