What is your craft? Do you pound nails or keys on a keypad? Matthew Crawford in his recent book Shop Class as Soulcraft, An Inquiry into the Value of Work writes how men and women of the cubicles are the modern day assembly workers. We see how manufacturing was outsourced, now we are starting to see how educated workers are being outsourced. His point is that if what you do is done over wire it can be outsourced.
This University of Chicago Ph.D. in political philosophy gave up his prestigious job to head up the Marshall Institute, a think tank in Washington DC dedicated repairing old motorcycles in Virginia. Crawford contends he uses his mind much more now attempting to get an old motorcycle to start then he ever did with previous colleagues.
With our economic shift we are seeing the beginnings of a cultural shift. The trades are looking better and better. As Crawford points out, you can’t outsource car repair or plumbing. There is something fulfilling for a man in fixing things. You struggle trying to figure out a problem, you get mad, you walk away – and then suddenly you get it. You figure it out and it works. It is instinctual for a man to want to fix the unfixable. When was the last time you did that at work?
One of the luckiest occurrences in my life was when I ended up in Boulder, CO back in the mid 70’s. One of my roommates invited his friend from Florida to stay with us when he was studying to be a Rolfer. Breck gave up his eight years of practicing law to use his hands and elbows. His ability to argue the case for Rolfing got me to try it. Immediately I was sold on it. I stayed in Boulder for four years to learn it, and everything else Boulder had to teach.
I continue to practice my craft. I continue to love it. I get to fix bodies that no one else can fix. I get to see people change in ways they couldn’t have imagined. I get to go home each night feeling deeply satisfied knowing I made a difference in people’s lives. All my college, graduate school and post graduate training gave me more depth, but it was learning the craft of Rolfing that continues to be at the core of my ‘hands on’ work and my fulfillment.
I thank Ida Rolf, Ph.D. for two things. First, for developing a technique that transformed my body and me. The second, is for creating a craft that after more than 30 years, I still love doing. I feel fortunate to have stumbled onto my craft at such a yearly age.
Do you enjoy work? Do you go home satisfied? For a variety of reasons we can get stuck in a profession. Having a family can make a move more difficult. If you are young man – please step out of your box. Heed Matthew Crawford’s words and my good fortune, check out other options. The times are changing. Find work that nourishes you and will be needed in the years to come.
NPR has an excellent interview with Matthew Crawford where he explains the essence of his book. Let us know what work means to you.