First Day

cbtoolsAs we pull up curbside I get out and follow a coworker inside, new sights and sounds adding to my nervousness. The hallway, filled with the acrid smell of sweat and cleaning fluid, feels a mile long. A new task master awaits. Youthful questions fill my head. Will this master be kind or harsh? Will I live up to the challenge?

Anxious feet shuffle from vinyl covered concrete to the warmth of polished wood throughout the shop. I settle into my newly assigned bench space and desk. The person next to me is new and at the same time familiar.

Light fills the cavernous shop giving it that homey industrial feel. I see dust dancing through a shaft of light. “This is going to be good,” runs through my mind and my palms begin to sweat. Breathing deep, my lungs fill with the pungent woody odor and calm washes over me. The task master enters.

“This is worse than a first date” and my pulse quickens again as everyone settles into their positions. As the lesson begins, I realize there’s more to learn than I fathomed. A whole new world opens. Work begins and, with great apprehension, I follow along as best I can. Mistakes abound. As I begin to get more comfortable with the tools, shop, materials and the lesson the quality of the work improves. As the confidence builds, I begin to push the boundaries of what I perceive as my limits. With each subsequent day, I promise myself to do the same.

What I’ve just described is not my first day as senior editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, but my first day of Werner Duerr’s class at vocational school. The more I think about the description of that day, I realize it applies to many days in my career. It certainly applied to every first day I started working in a new shop but it also applies to every project that I’ve undertaken that stepped beyond the things I’ve already built. The first chair, the first highboy, the first elaborate carving all came with the same self-doubt. Now, more than 30 years later, I understand that the fear came more than anything from not wanting to make a mistake. I also now know that without all the mistakes I would never have accomplished half of the things I’ve done.

So, it is with great trepidation I sit in a new chair at a new desk in a new shop with new coworkers. And, like every step in my career so far, I’m loving it because I understand that being outside my comfort zone will make me a better craftsman and a better editor.

— Chuck Bender

21 thoughts on “First Day

  1. gamcnabb

    I have every confidence that you will do an amazing job there. Besides, Megan will have her hands full with both you and Glen on staff now. I’ll let you know the next time I head over to Ohio.

    Greg McNabb

  2. pmac

    …” I understand that the fear came more than anything from not wanting to make a mistake. I also now know that without all the mistakes I would never have accomplished half of the things I’ve done.”…

    The secret to success in two short sentences.

  3. gumpbelly

    Welcome to Cinci Chuck.

    If it ever gets to be too overwhelming, remember the romper room is just 32 miles North, bring Bob, Glen and Megan, we will go find food and drink. Given the correct amount of food and drink, all experiences are pleasant :-)

  4. Kevinmad

    Grasshopper
    When you are no longer nervous – you will have lost the fear of imperfection.
    When you are no longer anxious – you will have come to understand your self.
    When you are no longer challenged – you will have lost the hunger to explore.
    Lose the fear. Understand yourself . But always seek challenge.
    I look forward to your influence on a publication that has changed my life.

  5. Stephen Kirk

    Chuck, congratulations on the new position and best wishes for the future. I look forward to seeing what you bring to the magazine. I’ll miss you around here though!

  6. Window Guy

    Congratulations Chuck on your new endeavor, I am sure you will fit right in there and do a superb job. looking forward to your articles and projects.

    Steve

  7. legmaker

    Well done , I printed this page to give to my son to read . You are right the fear comes from not wanting to make mistakes!! Realizing we will make mistakes relieves some of the pressure and we can then enjoy the ride. Most mistakes just require a little extra time and elbow grease to fix , and then we usually have gained some knowledge.

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