What You Are, What You Were

What did you like doing when you were a kid?

When working with individuals who are contemplating career decisions coaches often ask clients to recall talents and interests when they were young.  The past really can be prologue into giving each of us insight and direction into our future path.  That has certainly been the case for me.    

Several days ago I ran across an article about how my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas has capitalized on the Trinity River, developing it into a centerpiece for a variety of festivals and events.  Fort Worth, like many cities with river frontage, spent years battling floods, pollution, indifference, and financial challenges before harnessing the resources to develop its river into an asset.  More on that later.

As I remember it my good friend, Gary, and I were a couple of bored, likely desperate, 15 year olds when we came across the trunk of that Sycamore tree.  It lay curbside, ready for solid waste pickup, to be chopped, shredded, burned.  Nine or 10 feet long, it was what remained of a relatively healthy plant, apparently taken down for purposes of new development or over-encroachment.  

The wheels of calculating young minds began spinning, perhaps relishing and hearkening back to the fortitude of pioneers long before our time.  We could build a canoe!

I don't honestly remember how that piece of timber was lugged to Gary's backyard, but by the end of that day we were already preparing for the challenge before us:  how to hollow it out.  

Our initial approach was primitive:  picks, axes, planers, handsaws, sanders.  All relatively safe for use by teens, yet slow, imprecise, and ineffective.  Stymied, yet nonplussed, we next deployed the chemical technique using gasoline and a "controlled" burn.  The trunk was resolute.  Finally, we happened upon powerized technology--a chainsaw.  At last serious headway was achieved.  Although many more hours of diligence and determination would follow the project finally reached a terminus.  

A few weeks later we took our invention out for a test launch; with the assistance of a pontoon it actually floated.  Now what?  

The year before the inaugural Trinity River Festival of 1973, we learned a boat race would take place on that same body of water on Labor Day.  Circle September 4, 1972 on the calendar.  

We did not win that day, though neither did we finish last.  We garnered a second place award for most creative vessel, yielding to a couple of guys in a corrugated metal bathtub.  

As I chuckle remembering that time many years ago the endeavor offered lessons and takeaways:
  • Determination.  We could have stopped after the first set of splinters.  Tweezers remedied the discomfort.
  • Creativity.  Pondering.  Wondering.  Visioning. 
  • Resourcefulness.  We saved a tree before tree hugging was fashionable.  
  • Cooperation.  Teamwork.
What "floated your boat" back in the day?  Was there a predilection towards art or music?  Building things?  How does that transfer to vocation?  Though it may not be art per se, is there a talent with landscape or interior design?  Were you the one who put together the "pick up" games?  There is a need for those who have a skill for organizing human and material resources.  

Though we now both live in different parts of the country, Gary and I remain very good friends to this very day.  Furthermore, tongue in cheek and mostly between ourselves, we would still like to think we were the impetus behind what became Mayfest in Fort Worth.  😀

The Seed Sower, not to be confused with Tom Sawyer, navigating a Texas waterway, circa 1972.  


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