What’s The Secret to Happiness as a Woodworker?

What’s The Secret to Happiness as a Woodworker?


“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” — Mahatma Gandhi

This quote by Mahatma Gandhi immediately came to mind when I interviewed Greg Klassen.

When we spoke, Greg told me; 

Most professional woodworkers begin as passionate hobbyists until they decide they want to do it professionally.  The transition from hobby to profession must be handled with care.  What I mean is that it’s easy to go where the money is (or where you think it is).  I’ve seen many woodworkers dream of being furniture makers only to start taking better-paying cabinet jobs.  Seems like an innocent decision and a great way to pay the bills, but then suddenly they’re buying tools that are designed for making plywood cabinets and after a while the idea of switching to making hand-crafted furniture seems especially risky, so they just don’t.  They stick with the easier option, even though their hearts are not into it.  There’s nothing wrong with being a cabinet maker…I just mean to point out that many cabinetmakers initially aspired to make finer things and during that transition into a professional woodworker they listened to the money rather than their hearts.  I have always tried to put my passions before profits.  Do I enjoy what I’m working on?  Am I excited about this design?  If the answer is yes, then I keep at it.  If that answer is no, then I know I need to change something.  I love what I do.  I continue to experiment and grow my designs, always trying new things.  I especially enjoying the initial discovery/design phase, where the idea is born.  And of course I love all of the woodworking, being hands on with beautiful materials.

Fuck. Hearing that hit me square in the chest. I can definitely identify with it. The point is not about whether cabinetmakers initially aspired to build fine furniture. The point is, that the work that many woodworkers do all day every day doesn’t align with the work they want to do. And not just woodworkers either.

Our lives are made up of our days. They are made up of the things we do all day every day. So if what we do all day every day doesn’t align with what we want to do with our life, how can we possibly have a happy life?

I recently posted the below image on instagram with the caption; “The type of woodworker you choose to be is defined by the things you decide to make.” Which was met with the reply; “Or the things your clients order!” Which is fair enough. BUT. You attract clients based on things you decide to make in the first place. If woodworking is how you spend your life, and you allow clients dictate what you make, in essence you are allowing clients to dictate your life. Don’t get me wrong, client orders pay the bills. But surely it is important to make at least a small amount of time to build the things you want to create.

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I’ve worked alongside loads of woodworkers. Some love what they do. And some piss and moan all day about hating their job. We’ve all met or worked with these people. I’ve been this person for spells. Periods of time where I’m not satisfied with my career.

If you’re not satisfied with what you’re doing in your life, if you have doubts, I believe that’s your inner self, or your soul, or whatever you want to call it, talking to you — and you need to listen. You need to act.

You end up asking yourself questions. How the fuck did these thoughts creep in? Am I unhappy with where I’m at in my woodworking career? Did I settle for cabinet making? Should I be making fine furniture? …Maybe. But not necessarily.

Something’s up, but am I actually unhappy? In my experience, the surest way to recognise this is; if you have an emotional reaction to something that’s way over the top. Then you know something’s going on inside you. It’s akin to the old “kicking the dog” metaphor. The dog did nothing wrong, it’s a dog. You’re just taking your frustrations out on the dog because of what’s going on in your head.

I always have to remind myself that I can do whatever the fuck I want to do. That even when I doubt myself, I need to stop it and believe in myself. You have to believe that you already have everything you need to be happy and successful. It’s inside you. You just need to bring it out.

Most of us have been trained to look for the answers outside us. We’ve become a society obsessed with looking outside for answers. The answers aren’t on Instagram, or YouTube. They aren’t in books or in podcasts. You can’t find the answers by copying the worlds greatest woodworker. The world already has them. We don’t need another them. We need you.

The answers are inside us and are different for everyone.

Ask yourself; What did I do all day? If I continue doing this all day every day what will my life look like?

Simply wanting a better future isn’t enough. You need to look inside yourself for the answers as to what your ideal day, and in turn, your ideal life looks like. Only then can you start to work towards it. Like Greg Klassen, ask yourself; Do I enjoy what I’m working on? Am I excited about this design? If the answer is yes, then keep at it. If that answer is no, then you know you need to change something.


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