Out With The Old, In With The New

Maybe you are like me. There's something creative you've been wanting to put yourself into, but with the way life is right now, there just isn't room for another project.

You need more space in your schedule, more space in your mind, maybe even more space in your home if you want to make this new thing happen.

For me, the new thing is the habit of writing every day. And with four kids, chores, summer activities and a full time photography business, it often seems my life is too full to add a new endeavor to my daily routine.

But writing is important to me, too important to let slide. So I've been looking at things in my life that I no longer need to hold onto.

And it turns out there is plenty of space to be made, plenty of things I started and no longer want to finish.

My heart is full of old dreams, as are a few storage bins in my garage. 

We bought a cheap wooden rocking chair at an auction back in the spring of the new millennium. It was the kind of chair newlyweds on an eight-dollar-an-hour income might buy. We took it home and tried it out. It was slightly more comfortable than our kitchen chairs. Slightly.

All I wanted to do in that chair was nod off on a Sunday afternoon, but no matter how tired I was, as soon as sleep descended upon me, my head would fall back, my neck would contact the harsh wooden crest of the chair, and sleep would un-descend and tell me I was in for a grumpy afternoon instead of a sleepy one.

Around that time, I found a back issue of This Old House magazine with a story about Sam Maloof the woodworker. Sam was a legend in the fine furniture world, and the article mentioned how he had designed and hand-built a rocking chair to precisely fit his body.

The rocker in the magazine picture was simply gorgeous, and it looked like I could settle into it and fall right to sleep.

I wanted one.

There was just one little problem. Our yearly income before tax withholding was about half the price of one Sam Maloof rocking chair. Some people buy nice cars. Some people buy rare furniture. $36,000. For a chair.

To my young, simple mind, it looked like the only way I was going to get such a chair (and the regular, luxurious Sunday afternoon nap that would come with it) was to make one. I'd helped build a few sets of cabinets, so I figured it couldn't be too hard. I did a little research to plot out the tools and skills I would need.

Over the next couple of years, I bought...

- a bandsaw

- several hand planes

- an assortment of chisels

- various handsaws

- two dozen quality books about woodworking

- spokeshaves

- magazine subscriptions

- three different complete sharpening systems

- a bench grinder

- etc.

Got the picture? It was a lot of stuff.

I read the books. I sharpened the tools. I cut a set of dovetails by hand in some scrap wood for practice (I don't know why I did this. Sam Maloof's chairs don't have dovetails). I made a dollhouse for my daughter using exactly none of the specialty tools I had amassed for my chair project.

Thousands of dollars. Hundreds of hours of reading and research and daydreaming. I knew in my mind exactly how I was going to make that chair. I was always running a mental list of tools I still needed to purchase.

Then my life started filling up. We had kids. Lots of them. I started running my dad's construction business.

Slowly, but surely, I stopped caring about making a fancy chair. I didn't have the two hundred hours to build and finish it. I didn't have the money to buy the wood. I was still missing half the tools.

But I did have a perfectly good used couch to sit on (the used rocking chair was long gone by then) while I napped and held our latest baby.

I sold the bandsaw, the bench grinder and some of the hand tools.

The woodworking books and magazines were loaned out to a friend.


I've been thinking about the few remaining hand tools this week, wondering what I could get for them on Ebay. Would it be enough money to buy the license for the intro music for my new podcast? Most likely. 

And yet, I find myself hesitating to sell those few remaining tools. They're really nice. I put a lot of effort into getting them. All obvious reasons aside, the truth comes down to this:

Those tools held a part of my identity.

I wasn't just planning to make myself a chair. I was going to be the next guy who sold beautiful furniture for thousands of dollars a pop. This was going to be my future. Working in the shop. Making the most beautiful wood chairs in the world.

But I got busy, and I found that I really didn't like sawdust or large, whirling blades, or standing on concrete all day. What I really like is sharing ideas, listening to stories, even telling one myself now and then. I like working with my hands, but I like working with my mind even more.

The things I want to make and do now don't require nearly the investment of a even a small woodworking shop. Some paper. A pen. A computer. Nothing else was needed for me to begin. 

I smile now and shake my head when I think of what I invested into my dream of becoming a fine woodworker. I memorized the terms and techniques. I bought the tools. I toyed and tinkered. I even honed my fancy blades to be razor sharp. 

But I never actually did the work.

I never built the chair.


Maybe you are like me. Maybe you have something you're ready to dive into. And this time, you're ready. Except...

You haven't let go of some of your outdated plans and dreams. And life just feels to full.

If those old dreams are meant to be, they'll come back around someday. But right here, right now, they are taking up precious and limited real estate, blocking you from moving forward. It's time to free up the time, energy and space they've occupied. 

Life has no guarantees. Time is limited. If you start now, imagine what you will have created in one year, five years, even three months. Imagine what you will be capable of.

The person you are becoming is more nimble in life, free to let go of what holds you back and weighs you down, free to create and share deep meaning, free to touch the lives of people you haven't even met yet.

It's time to start becoming that person.

Keep it simple.

Pick an old dream and let it go.

Make a space in your life.

Fill it with your new dream by actually doing the work.

Ready, set...


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