Lessons from a Carpenter

Through the Looking Glass

A friend of mine once offered me an interesting perspective on making mistakes.

He told me how, having been raised by a father who was a jack-of-all-trades (and a master of most of them), he would try to build things and undertake projects, but never seemed to really achieve the quality of work his father did (among other things, his dad was quite a good carpenter). Although he enjoyed working with wood, try as he might, it was always a combination of fear and intimidation that kept him from being really good at it… fear of breaking something or having the end result be an embarrassment.

His father passed away while my friend was a teenager, and this strengthened his desire to learn more about carpentry, and make his father proud. However, try as he might, he still fell short of the mark.

That all changed when he met Glen.

Glen was a contractor that he became friends with, and ended up helping build houses. Although he was simply a “laborer”, he learned invaluable lessons simply by listening to Glen, and watching Glen and some of the other more experienced guys on the crew work. The more he worked along side these “masters”, the more he came to understand a few of important things…

#1. You have to have the right tools. Understanding the tools of your trade are essential to any occupation. As a carpenter, you’re not going to get very far if all you have is a tire pump, a pair of wire cutters, and a note pad. Understanding what tools you need, and how to properly use those instruments is critical in being successful at anything. The right tools in the hands of a master is a thing of beauty to behold.

#2. You have to possess a teachable spirit. Often times, important lessons can come from unlikely places or unlikable people. On the crew, one of the best carpenters was Albert… he was old, ornery, and (at times) obstinate. However, he had good reason: He had been a carpenter for over 50 years, and had probably forgotten more about woodworking than most of the younger guys on the crew knew. My friend told me that, if you took the time to see past the rough, disagreeable exterior, Albert was a goldmine of wisdom and knowledge on how to become a great carpenter.

#3. You have to be willing to take risks. No building has ever been built without breaking things, cutting things down to size, and beating things with hammers. My friend came to realize that, if he made a mistake cutting a board, it wasn’t the end of the world… just get another board and cut it right. If he accidentally knocked a hole in a sheetrock wall, it wasn’t a dealbreaker, just a minor setback… fix it and move on. As the saying goes, “You have to break eggs to make an omelet”. He learned from his mistakes, learned how to fix his mistakes, and went away with the knowledge of how to do it right the next time. The axiom is true… All failure is not final.

Regardless of your occupation or aspiration… learn. Get the right tools. Learn how to listen intently, not just to the voices of praise, but to the voices of constructive criticism as well. Be willing to take God-inspired risks, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes along the way — look at David, Peter, Moses, and Abraham — you’re in good company.

And as you go about your life experiences, know that you have the Carpenter from Nazareth in your corner, always near, listening for your calls and cries, and willing to guide the teachable and humble of heart. Take courage from Him, and go be a success.

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