Under Your Boot-Soles


That may seem like a video about making your shop bigger. He talks of putting in some concrete floors and getting the best results for a given amount of money–and it is. But, as Essential Craftsman often does, he provides some wise words about life and hard work. Creating can do great things for your mind. I enjoy the videos that Mr. Wadsworth makes because they’re informative. You can hear years of experience and a deep reverence for his strengths and weaknesses in his words. I appreciate the practical knowledge he imparts but it’s the philosophical tangents that he’s prone to that keeps me coming back.

This particular episode got me thinking about friendship. It’s a brief discussion of what it feels like to do things for others. Hard work can have a crystallizing effect on friendships. A person’s true character rises to the surface as “pretense falls off” and “things are at stake.” Not much room remains for politeness when equipment can fail, people are in physical danger, and someone’s hard earned money is on the line. This is not to say that you should be rude to your friends. Rather, working with someone on a project can develop into an unspoken reverence for each other. “Please” and “thank you” are not uttered but are nonetheless present. You know your friends will always be there to help, and so they feel redundant.

He references a quote from Marcus Aurelius in Meditations:

One man, when he has done a service to another, is ready to set it down to his account as a favor conferred. Another is not ready to do this, but still thinks of the man as his debtor, and he knows what he has done. A third in a manner does not even know what he has done, but he is like a vine that has produced grapes and seeks for nothing more after it has once produced its proper fruit. As a horse when he has run, a dog when he has tracked the game, a bee when it has made the honey, so a man when he has done a good act, does not call out for others to come and see, but he goes on to another act, as a vine goes on to produce again the grapes in season.

He claims to butcher the sentiment, but his telling of it seems to me accurate. There are three types of people who would help you out. The first helps you but immediately expects to be repaid in kind. The second will help you, not expecting repayment but will remember the deed he did for you. The last will help you because he has that ability to do so and doing so fulfills his purpose. I try to be this type of friend. I have help to give. I give it because I am able and providing it enriches me as much as my help enriches the recipient. Being a helpful person gives me pride. I appreciate what other helpful people have given me and it makes me feel good to do the same.

These thoughts sent my mind on a tangent about friendship with not only people but with my work. Treating the work you do with this same type of respect pays back and increases quality in the world generally. This feeds back in a virtuous cycle.

Friendships develop. That is, they can improve or decay over time. Treating your work like an old friend shows you where you’ve been and guides you into mastery of long studied skills and exploration of new ones. It’s clichè, but for me, life is about the journey. My work is my friend, and I intend to always have it and cherish it. I’m no longer trying to get somewhere in life. I don’t have a particular job or bank account balance I want to get to. I’m just driving.