The other day I was reflecting on the journey my life has taken in relation to my work. I remember feeling disorientated many times, as I shifted from one job to the next, never feeling stable. But as I consider the last few years of these shifts, I’m pleased to observe that all of these shifts served some function towards my growth as a person. This might sound a bit cheesy or cliche. And sure, it is! But let’s take a quick glance and what I’m taking about and you’ll see the beauty behind this cheesy observation.
My first construction job was a summer job at the age of 16. My dad had an electrician friend who needed a helper. And so for three months I followed my Dad’s friend around like a puppy, carrying tools, following orders, and being as helpful as I could. I didn’t feel any inclination at the time towards becoming an electrician, but I sensed the pleasure of doing something that effected other people (such as installing lights or a new outlet).
In my late teens I dabbled in construction, flying to Maryland occasionally to work with my brother’s company for a few weeks at a time. I learned how to board drywall, install insulation, and – well – push a broom. Back in Newfoundland, where I’m from, I painted houses for a few months with an older friend of mine. My friend was unpleasant as a foreman, and I didn’t like painting very much anyhow.
My experience helping out my dad’s electrician friend led me to pursue an apprenticeship as an electrician in Maryland when I was 20. After six months, the apprenticeship fell through and I moved to Alberta, Canada. In Alberta I went from job to job, never sticking around longer than a few weeks. I felt very disorganized and unstable.
One evening as I was delivering pizza, I delivered a couple meatlovers to the door of a man who would – a year later – be my boss. I worked for his company for two years and in the process learned how to frame a house, build a roof, and build and level trailers. My friend taught me the value of hard, aggressive work over long hours in awfully hot (or cold, or muddy) conditions.
After a couple years of working with my friend’s company, I changed directions and began to learn psychology. As I began pursuing a degree, the weight of bills pressured me to become creative with my finances. I started teaching guitar lessons and got a part-time job at a local high school. I took my skills as a musician and applied them to classes of 3 students at a time. During this season, I learned that not only could I coach and teach others, but that I also LOVED doing it!
However, this season did come to an end and a year later my wife and I found ourselves living in another city – struggling, again, to make ends meet. I was working a shit job at a lube shop, and we were barely making rent.
Then a friend of mine connected me to an older gentleman who would become one of the most influential mentors in my life. This mentor and friend took me under his wing and throughout the course of a few years taught me indispensable lessons. He taught me how to run a business, he taught me the skills of a finishing carpenter, and he gave me opportunities to prove (to myself – in fact) my skills as a tradesman. He taught me how to work smart. He taught me my value as a thinker. And most importantly he continues to this day to remind me that I’m NOT a carpenter: I am a husband, father, friend, coach, mentor, writer, pastor, public speaker, and counsellor and that these things describe the direction my life is headed.
Through the ebb and flow of life, I’ve developed a skill set and have made good decisions that has led me to land a wonderful position of foreman within a multimillion dollar project. But remember, I am not a carpenter. And so in this exciting season, I can tell you that I am only in the beginnings of building my base: my inventory of resources, finances, skills, experience and mentors that will support me as I climb the wall and arrive at peak performance as a writer, coach, and counsellor.
And so, as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, all of life’s circumstances have contributed towards my growth as a person. As cheesy as it sounds, this truth is evident and reliable. Trust it. I want to leave you with this encouragement . . .
Don’t be discouraged by loss or change. Allow yourself to grow and learn from those people and opportunities around you. Know that you are constantly faced with a choice:
Will I allow this circumstance to educate me towards growth and freedom? Or will I allow this situation to educate me towards resentment and despair?
Choose growth. Choose freedom.