February 22, 2023

What It Means to Be A Modern Craftsman

Before I begin, please let it be known that the term “modern craftsman” is not only reserved for men. Women possess the capacity and ability to be amazing craftsmen, and by no means should be excluded from such. Raising two daughters of my own, and witnessing childbirth firsthand, I can confidently say that women are unequivocally stronger than men and absolutely capable of doing anything that they set their minds to, even tradework!!! The above sentiment is not the topic of this article, although maybe I should pen a follow-up article that validates my statements. 

Moving on.

Fresh on the heels of a brand refresh, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be a craftsman. Better yet, what does it mean to be a modern craftsman? Am I exhausting the resources at my disposal to epitomize our brand and accurately portray our moniker? 

I have spent more time than I would like to admit lately reflecting on my career and the path that has led me here. I have considered what it means to work with my hands both figuratively and literally. I have advocated for the trades and demanded more societal respect. I have contemplated what it looks like for my daughter’s to grow up in a working class family. And lastly, I have asked myself why I possess such a strong passion for the craft and for this community. All of these questions and considerations have been an integral aspect of my journey. The journey that has led me to today. The journey that has afforded Nick and me an opportunity to interview and network with some of the brightest and most talented minds in our industry. The journey that is, the modern craftsman.

 A little background…

I grew up in a working class family in a white-collar town, and was made to feel as though we were lesser than because of it. I would imagine a lot of that was self-inflicted and potentially deserved, not necessarily because of what we did, but more so how we did it. My dad was a standard pickup truck contractor, working one job to the next, making ends meet. There was not a ton of pride or celebration of the craft. It was more “Get it done fast, get it done cheap, or just get it the F done and quit thinking about it!” It is tough to muster up much self-worth, demand self-respect, or have much self-confidence when you do not feel worthy of such traits. In short, I learned a lot of what and how not to do things growing up. This is no one’s fault and I am very grateful for my upbringing and the lessons in my life.  I have a great relationship with my dad these days, and I no longer feel ashamed or lack self-confidence. I have many other issues (more than I would like to admit), but I do know my worth.

When I decided to go off on my own and pursue a career in the trades, I wanted to be respected first and foremost. I did not understand how to command respect on a personal level, and I had no local network or community of contractors supporting me, so I leaned on my business and my craft to carry the bulk of that load. I vouched to do everything by the book, I focused on professionalism, and I strived to be the best. I created much of my own self-worth and confidence through my carpentry and remodeling business. My professional success slowly yielded greater personal esteem, but how amazing it would have been to have a network of people in my early twenties to lean on and build a professional rapport.  

For over 10 years I busted my ass, established a great reputation, cultivated a wonderful customer base, and received the validation that I wanted (and thought I needed). I made a great living, honed my skills, built my business, and developed the network of people needed to make all of this happen. I had finally gained the respect of my peers, I was co-hosting a podcast, speaking publicly, teaching, writing for magazines, and I had a successful social media brand presence, but was I maximizing my impact? At this point in my career, I felt as though I was a well-rounded craftsman with a dynamic and precise set of skills.  I had achieved success in that regard, but my reach was still far more limited than it had the potential to be. I had more to offer. I still have more to offer.

To be forthright, at this point in my life nothing is necessarily wrong or missing. There is no proverbial ball of yarn encompassing my business/life that needs to be untangled. Everyone is relatively happy and healthy, but I do feel slightly unfulfilled. Something akin to possessing untapped potential. Watching opportunity pass me by because I am simply “not ready.” Be wary of the desire and need to feel ready. I have found that you are never quite ready for anything in life, and the ship may pass you by while you prepare.

When I imagine my legacy (trust me there is very little ego there) and what it means to be a craftsman, my mind gravitates towards working with my hands, being on the tools, and acquiring trade-specific knowlege through decades of experience. I idealize the creation of art, the discipline required to become proficient, and the evolution of my craft. It is very romantic and glamorizes my naivety. Craft and knowledge are only as powerful as their potential reach. There is nothing powerful about wisdom that is not shared or spread. Here is where the “modern” aspect comes in for me. 

Nick and myself, along with Doug, Cathern, and Arianna have a platform which boasts the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people instantly. Gone are the days of training an apprentice or understudy for years to serve as a futile attempt at avoiding the slow, soul-crushing demise of your legacy. You no longer need a physical mind or body to pass a literal torch unto. We have created an outlet and a community which affords us an opportunity to access brilliant minds, educate a younger generation, interview professionals, and band our entire industry instantaneously. This to me is what embodies the principle of the modern craftsman and our platform. We have unlimited potential and a fathomless reach thanks to modern technology. 

I can spend my entire life honing my skills and perfecting my craft but that only benefits myself, my family, and a few customers. My influence is limited, my outreach is stunted, and my experience has far less value. Not to mention the suffering is for nothing at this point. My goal with the modern craftsman is to create a hub, a resource for anyone who wants help, who needs support, who longs for comradery, or who merely wants to have a voice. The mission is to promote the craft, squash the silence, and spread the knowledge. If I did not know any better, this sounds like it could be one heck of a legacy!  

To me, a modern craftsman is someone who possesses the hard skills to be an artisan, but utilizes and exhausts all of their resources and avenues to promote their craft and celebrate the creation of tangible virtuosities. They are willing to teach and share their knowledge and expertise. They have the confidence to put themselves out there for the greater good. Their presence is palpable and limitless. They are not defined by age, gender, race, skin color, or social class. They are you, and they are me. 

  • Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality—Dalai Lama

- Tyler Grace