Take it Easy (or Maybe Don’t)


Asher McDaniel, age 12. Let’s quit generalizing about young people being incapable of focus and work.

On Wednesday Freddy Roman wrote an Instagram post that was part-tribute to his mentor, Phil Lowe, and part-lament.

“Master Lowe’s picture sits above my desk. A daily reminder from circa 2000 when I was punk, lost, and running. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for him. Each day I try to carry his knowledge and pass on the torch to the next generation. Sadly there isn’t many to pass the torch to. But I do bust my rump to make him proud.”

The post struck a chord with many. Some shared their own appreciation of Phil, and also of Freddy, not least for being the kind of guy who takes the time to honor his mentor in public. As the comments went on, it became clear that many were responding more to the lament than the appreciation – some focusing on what they see as a lack of the requisite work ethic on the part of younger people, others on Freddy’s frustration with not having a worthy mentee, and a few on the dwindling number of mentors with the patience and generosity of spirit it takes to teach less experienced people on the job.

I added an observation based on my own experience: “I have to disagree. There are people aplenty waiting to take hold of that torch. The bigger question concerns the market, i.e. the ‘demand’ for the obviously super-abundant supply of skill and willing work.” Along with some other commenters, I was referring to the torch of doing the work, not teaching others how to do it; in other words, what I understood by the “bust[ing] my rump to make him proud” part of Freddy’s post.

I kept up with the comments all evening because this is a subject that interests me and I admire Freddy’s character, in addition to his work. Then I came across this one, copied and pasted here in its entirety:

“@nrhiller you’re crazy. It is common knowledge that less and less youthful people are willing to go into trades, put in the hard work, and stay off of their phone apps for more than 45mins at a time. Maybe geographically you have some different characters however this topic is discussed often in trade mags and even dudes like Mike Rowe.”

This one got to me. Not because the writer called me crazy — nothing new there. Nor was it the comment’s apparently unintended self-contradiction — “less and less youthful people” strictly means people who are growing older* (i.e., all of us). What bugged me was the generalization about “youthful people,” because I know a number of youthful people who possess an admirable work ethic and understand that nothing worth doing can be mastered without serious effort.

*I think what the writer meant was “fewer and fewer.”

In any discussion that even implicitly invokes some supposedly better time, as many of the comments on Freddy’s post did, it’s important to distinguish between history and fantasy. I doubt that there has ever been a Golden Age when youthful people universally grasped the importance of what we geezers call paying our dues. “The younger generation” has a long history of taking knocks from elders.

What IS different today is how our culture legally and institutionally conceives of childhood and child-rearing, not to mention risk and investment, authority and discipline, work and leisure. Ours is a culture with exceedingly low expectations – a culture that heaps praise on those who do little more than show up. It’s one that rewards us for fulfilling the most basic responsibilities of citizenship with flag-draped stickers announcing “I voted” and tells university alumni they are “awesome” for taking the time to weigh in on their alma mater’s trustees. One that increasingly molds education on an entertainment model, treating students as customers in an economic transaction instead of encouraging them to embrace the existential challenges that are integral to anything worth calling education. Ours is a culture that
glamorizes consumption and goofing off
and creates special incentives to attract “clean” tech jobs to century-old factories, then brands those sites a “Trades District” – because we all know the trades are cool, even if the actual work they involve is not-clean, not to mention no longer economically viable.


As the comment about my insanity marinated, it occurred to me that I happened to have a youthful person right outside of my shop. He was working with gusto in the heat of a south-central Indiana June afternoon. Asher McDaniel is 12 and has been actively working since the age of 7. His jobs at home include feeding the dog, sweeping the barn, and tilling the garden – it’s 5/8 of an acre, on which the family grows the majority of its vegetables each year. This level of responsibility is not inconsequential.


Aaron (left) and Asher McDaniel. Lest anyone be concerned by Asher’s dour expression, I will reassure you that it was due to his discomfort at being the subject of my attention (though he did give his express consent to the interview and the pictures), not due to his work.

“He’s also our mechanic,” adds his father, Aaron, who was sweating alongside him. “We were going to scrap two riding mowers, and I told him to get them out of the lean-to to load into the trailer. They hadn’t run in years. One was a gift from a client, one from a grandpa. Before I got home from work that night he got both of them running.” Bear in mind that Aaron can figure out how to make almost anything run long after others have written it off… and even he had written these mowers off.

Asher continues to maintain those mowers, in addition to the one owned by his older brother, who operates a mowing business.

Asher’s thoughts on work?

“I like it,” he says. “It pays pretty good.” How much does it pay? “Eight dollars an hour. That’s 75 cents more than what I could make flipping burgers.” (Not that he would be flipping burgers at his age. There’s a legal difference between minors working with their parents and those who are employed by others.) But the pay is far from the only motivation. He’s homeschooled. This work is no less integral to his education than his state-mandated academic studies and lessons in guitar.

Asher has been going to work, on and off, with his father for five years. This is in addition to what he does around the family farm. “I like going to work with him,” he says. “And I like the kind of work it is.” Liberate yourself from prevailing norms and you may glean just how rewarding vigorous physical work and the kind of constant problem-solving Matthew Crawford wrote about in “Shop Class as Soulcraft” can be. You may appreciate the sense of competence that comes from making an undeniable difference in the world around you.

“I didn’t have a lot of the same opportunities at his age,” says Aaron, in a statement some may imagine was intended to be ironic. (It was not.) When Aaron was 14, Aaron’s father left his job in research and development for a corporation to start a family farm. “I saw (my father’s) work ethic and admired it,” Aaron says.

As a result, Aaron and his wife, MeChelle, who shares his perspective on the value of labor and family, decided to include their children in their own work from a much younger age – not because doing so was convenient, but, as Aaron puts it, “because I wanted to share my joy and satisfaction with them.”

If your reaction to this statement is one of cynical disbelief – because how many of us today see hand-digging a trench through gravel on a humid summer’s day as a source of joy and satisfaction? – you may be contributing to Freddy’s problem. This is not just about young people.

“One of the measures of success is how far we can distance ourselves from physical and mental strain,” Aaron adds. “If we value work – if our attitude to work is that it’s profitable and good and healthy – we’ll want our children to participate with us.”


Finally, back to that comment. I asked myself, “Who the *&^ is Mike Rowe and why should I care about what he has to say on this matter?” (We don’t have cable TV.) Before writing this post I looked him up online and found this presentation, which speaks volumes more about this subject than I can convey.

So, thanks, commenter, for turning me on to a onetime scholar of Classical Greek who is getting people to question attitudes about work. If more of us consider the bigger picture and our own part in it instead of just complaining that young people are lazy or “entitled,” we may have a shot at making things better.

— Nancy Hiller, author of “Making Things Work

About nrhiller

cabinetmaker and author
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65 Responses to Take it Easy (or Maybe Don’t)

  1. ericfromdayton says:

    Sorry Nancy, but I tend to agree that younger people aren’t as interested in the trades. In the “old” days, I get the sense that it was an honorable thing to become an apprentice and learn a trade. We don’t have that much anymore. Many of the public schools have eliminated shop classes and the parents are to blame too. Many times when growing up kids are told “don’t touch or play with daddies tools”. Afraid they might break something or get hurt probably. There is no easy answer. (And sorry about the “daddies”, but I’m generalizing. Mommies have there own tools too.). Younger people just expect that they will either just buy new or take whatever to a repair place. They tend to shy away from doing it themselves.

    I work industrial maintenance, and finding knowledgeable workers, male or female, is getting harder for the manufacturers to do. We end up having to get robots to do the quality part of the jobs and the humans are doing the more menial tasks.

    One answer may be to use reverse phycology. Tell them they aren’t allowed or that it’s impossible for them to do. Maybe then they will take the initiative to learn.

    • Sorry…But in the big picture, I could disagree more…Schools are beginning to really try hard to change the trend and young people…in the “big picture” are not at all like you have described them…Sorry that is your experience and or view…

  2. Martino23 says:

    Mike Rowe is a wonderful advocate for the Trades. If you liked Paul Harvey, check out Mike’s Podcast, “The way I heard it”. If you want to watch feel good stories, check out “Returning the Favor” on his Facebook page. Nancy, good thoughts from you, as usual.

    • Barry MacDonald says:

      From his Wikipedia page; Michael Gregory Rowe is an American actor primarily known as a television host and narrator. The dirt on his face was applied by a make up artist.

      • nrhiller says:

        I don’t think anyone is under the impression that Rowe’s an actual working tradesman, nor does he present himself as such. He makes clear that he’s an advocate for shaking up our conceptions of what constitutes worthwhile, meaningful, valuable, good work. He does in fact go out in the field and work with people who do “dirty work” every day. I respect him for putting himself there and experiencing the grit of such work, albeit in an artificial, super-temporary way. It seems to me that what he’s really interested in is getting people to respect the value of trade work, which has been radically devalued over the last 50-plus years (in terms of pay as well as what people now call social capital).

  3. ianschwandt says:

    When tradesmen speak of the death of the trades I am reminded of the many generations that were positive that they were living in the end of days. The trades will endure just as the world endures. Let the next generation find it’s own path.

    Nancy, thank you for a thoughtful post in service of the trades.

    • meghanlostartpress says:

      Thank you for this post. Each generation will always find its own path. There will always be hard workers and there will always be those who are lazy. Getting younger generations interested in the trades may take more effort than before but that does no make them lazy or less interested in getting their hands dirty.

  4. gdblake00 says:

    Throughout my life I have found that true, lasting friendships are more easily forged from working with another person rather than playing with them. The nice thing about working most trades is that your work results in something physically tangible, a goal clearly achieved. Most desk jobs I’ve had were more about moving paper around to meet some company or government reporting requirements than actually producing something.

  5. Barry MacDonald says:

    Chicks don’t dig guys in the trades. They lose interest really fast when you tell them what you do for a living.

    • nrhiller says:

      That’s hilarious! If revealing names were not a problem (I’m afraid it is), I could give you a long list of women friends of mine — of all ages — who find tradesmen super interesting and attractive. Honestly, the only problem is there aren’t enough to go around. (I write as someone married to a carpenter. Most of my sweethearts over the years have been carpenters, furniture makers, graphic artists (in the days when that work was done by hand), and gardeners. Maybe you are meeting the wrong women?

      • Choirboy says:

        It is hilarious but also telling. I’m an educator and a millennial, and so I know first hand that since at least my time in public school in the 90s (and probably before) there has been an enormous push towards getting every single student to go on to college. Those students who are “good kids” from “good families” with good work ethic are the ones who are working hard at their academics, get scholarships, and go to college to do white collar work. Many times the ones who goof off through school, partying like crazy, are the ones who work factories and trades later in life. Usually when they start working they get their act together and learn the value of hard work that they never learned while in school. It is understandable that women might not find this demographic to be attractive.
        That said, there is a minority of young people I’ve worked with that are simply passionate about working with their hands and know from an early age that they want to take over the family construction business or farm or what have you. Some of the most thoughtful and wonderful people I know work trades, and there is nothing unattractive about that.
        As far as the myth that young people don’t have work ethic? Hogwash. Young people will work hard at whatever they have learned is worth working hard for. I have had students invent their own computer programming code, some their own programming languages. That might not be digging ditches, but it is HARD work. I have students who will spend hours designing their own phone apps or video games, which is very mentally intense, hard work. I have students who will get up at 4am to go to wrestling practice before school starts; that is hard work, too. The problem is, as you and others have mentioned, occupations that are also hard work are not generally valued, so why would a young person “waste” their time on them? I would bet that 100 years ago most young people would not have the fortitude to work hard at the types of things valued by today’s young people, and vice versa. Times change, culture changes, but people never change. Young people today are the same as young people from throughout history, only adapted for today’s culture.
        PS Thank you for calling out less vs fewer. Drives me insane that people can’t get that right…

        • nrhiller says:

          Fantastic, thoughtful reply. Thank you, not least for pointing out that mental labor (to which I would add emotional labor of the sort that oncology nurses and hospice workers do) can also constitute hard work.

          It occurred to me later this morning that what this commenter was referring to might be more the stereotypical demographic of the trades than the doing of trades-work itself. Reflecting on my own acquaintances (and sweethearts), I realize that they have all been really interesting, thoughtful, articulate men. Some of them went to college, others did not. For my own part, I will say that calling women “chicks” (even if they are, like, 18 years old) is not endearing. “Gals” is no better. “Women” is perfect!

          • Choirboy says:

            Agreed, but it makes colloquial sense. “Chicks dig guys who…” is a fairly common, if unfortunate, phrase.
            Also agree that it is the stereotypical “blue collar” demographic that could be a turn off for some women, not the work itself.
            I was thinking that this may explain some of the tendency for millennials who choose to refer to themselves as “artisans” etc as ridiculed in Christopher Schwarz’s Words that Make me Barf post from a few months ago. Could it be that society as a whole has denigrated and belittled any occupation that involves working with your body that now, when they are attracted to the craft, young men and women feel it necessary to distance themselves from the stereotype with verbose and grandiloquent monikers?

            • nrhiller says:

              Yes to all of your remark (though the “chicks” thing…ugh), but there are at least two distinct phenomena underlying your observation, and I think they deserve to be considered separately (in addition to looking at how they reinforce each other). One, as you say, is the tendency to denigrate anything blue collar, dirty, or manual. The other — or at least an other — is the tendency among some (not just millennials) to make stuff sound more significant than it is. (“Sanitation engineer” for toilet cleaner is one of my pet peeves. What is wrong with being a toilet cleaner? That is an extremely valuable and important job. All it takes is for there not to be someone doing it, and its value becomes clear.)

              I think there are different kinds of prejudice going on, at least to a degree, as well as posturing in the latter case. Definitely worth parsing further.

  6. djmueller says:

    Right on, Nancy. Check the link to the Mike Rowe presentation. Seems to have a gremlin in the code.

  7. Bob Easton says:

    I think what the writer meant was “fewer and fewer.”
    CORRECT!!! People are countable. The correct adjective is fewer, not less. That simple error is a key indicator of the decline of our education system. Maybe it’s good you don’t watch TV. You’d be startled by how many, supposedly well educated news people, say “less” when the correct word is “fewer.”

    I’m guessing that home schooled Asher won’t make that error.

    It’s too easy to paint entire generations with a broad brush. Good to hear about those who don’t fall into the prevailing “less attentive” classification.

    Thanks for the good read.
    BTW, search YouTube for Mkie Rowe to find many more of his ideas.

    • Bob, people are hard pressed to use me, myself, and I correctly these days – even, unfortunately, woodworkers whose writing I hold in high esteem. I won’t hold my breath for proper use of fewer vs. less by the average person…

  8. jayedcoins says:

    I just love it when people essentially call their very own children lazy and entitled, all the while being entirely blind to what that says about them as parents.

    I fully agree that younger people in America aren’t as interested in skilled trades. I say this from experience as a 33 year old (which, I think most here would agree, is pretty young to have woodworking as a hobby at this day and age).

    People my age and younger were raised in public school systems that have been losing funding (and/or not had their funding held up with CPI and population growth rates). Meanwhile, technological developments changed the job market. What would a smart school administrator do when faced with this challenge, but save budget by eliminating classes that don’t have as bright of job prospects as others? That’s not a knock — it’s a hard reality (and one that Nancy’s book covers in great detail and prose, I might add).

    We are all products of our environment. Anyone that sits around and whines about “the youths these days” is simply not looking in the mirror. Be the change you want to see around you. What are you doing to make the arts, crafts, and trades that you care about exposed and accessible to the people of your community?

    I’m not saying anyone has to do that, and I’m not going to tell you I’m out teaching these things (I am far from qualified at this stage in my hobbyist career). But I also have no complaints about “the kids these days.” The kids will be alright, that is, unless we all think we’ve dramatically failed as parents in giving them the elemental tools and good judgment to care about themselves and their neighbors. Most days, looking at the news, the kids are the only thing that give me hope for the future.

    • nrhiller says:

      I appreciate your nuanced and reflective take on this situation. A good part of the problem with trades education, at least as I see it from the perspective of a tradeswoman who has largely relied on such work for her livelihood throughout her career, is what I cited in my comment on Freddy’s post: We need to put more work into developing a market for what we can produce. If there’s a market for craft work, the supply will follow. In too many areas today there is an over-abundance of supply. I am talking about the kind of highly refined furniture Freddy is capable of making but from which he is turning to millwork and cabinetry, as his need to make a living requires. I can relate all too well. There are makers of fabulous creations all over the Internet (and certainly on Instagram); many do not make these things for a living, though some would do so in a heartbeat if it were viable. These virtual depictions are often misleading; we all make inferences about what we see, and those inferences are often wildly detached from fact.

      Meanwhile, there are lots and lots of training programs — no longer in public schools, and rarely in community colleges (sky-high insurance premiums and an overly litigious culture don’t help); these days it costs much more to get a formal training in furniture making, specifically — turning out people with real skills. Many are happy to practice their craft in their spare time while employed in other fields, but I see as many young people as I ever have who wish they could do such work full-time. I put as much effort into this economic side of the equation (when writing about the realities of earning a living as a craftsperson, whether at the turn of the 20th century or today) as I do any other dimension, because it is critical.

  9. dodies says:

    Thanks Nancy, Great post. I just built a house in a very tech heavy location. No robots here. Hard working men and women, and sons working with their dads, and I never heard one complaint. I might add many and most were Mexican. I have so much respect for our California Mexican community. We also had two generations of welders, and cabinet makers, where employees have an ownership of the business. And our Urban areas have makers. Young makers, making furniture, lighting, artists beyond craft. I have faith in youth. I have faith in what our influence can be on youth. And I agree with Jayedcoins, Sometimes the kids are the only thing that gives me hope for the future.

  10. Anthony says:

    Nancy I think that once again you are spot on with your comments. As an ex high school principal I have seen a lot of young people. In my experience we have created a biomodal population. There are many young people who I saw that value hard work and many who do not. In my opinion it has a lot to do with their parents and the expectations that they set for their children. I am currently teaching basic woodworking to three young boys who are homeschooled. I couldn’t be more impressed with their “ work ethic”. I see a bright future for them no matter what they decide to do.

  11. I used to work with guys from Australia who would come to the UK in their early 20’s, put some serious hours in as electricians/plumbers/etc, tour Europe while they were here (Oktoberfest!) then head home with a healthy bank balance and plenty of experience to set up their own firm. I’m struggling to think of a better start in life.

  12. Jarrod says:

    Great post and thoughtful perspective. I agree that looking a little deeper reveals much more complexity and with it a more nuanced truth. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Andrew Held says:

    Preach on Sister!!!

  14. jglen490 says:

    Generalizing is the one thing that every “older generation” has done since – forever. Sometimes the generalizations are negative, and probably mostly so. Yet it is this very same “older generation” that blazes the way for the next. I am most definitely a part of the “older” and understand that complaining about the “younger” is completely irrational. They are a product of us.

    As for Mike Rowe, he is someone who is trying to shine a light on the alternatives available to everyone and to actually try to do something about making those alternatives real. His foundation provides scholarships for (especially) the younger ones who want to learn about trades and enter into electrical, plumbing, carpentry, etc. as apprentices. It may be beneath some of the readers’ sensibilities here, but look at the partnership between Mike Rowe, his foundation, and This Old House for real world examples.

    it takes a lot of effort, and not just wishes, to turn the Queen Mary around.

  15. shopsweeper says:

    I think that less people personally know young people who are interested in the skilled trades. I think this has to do with the eddy currents of our compartmentalized society. In the US we ARE pushing every child into a university degree and I cannot imagine its going to work out well for us as a nation.

    I had a great conversation with a young man on a plane a few weeks ago who was in welding school. He was full of ambition and ideas for his career. We have a small college near my home that offers a degree in Instrumentation Certification. Graduates of this 2-year program emerge to a list of companies competing for their talents with 6-figure starting salaries.

    I suspect every generation has thought that young people where “not up to snuff”. This is likely an artifact of human consciousness designed to get us to share with the youth our hard-won experiences and wisdom. When this impulse expresses itself if derision and dismissal it needs to be examined by higher brain function and cast off.

    I submit that a free market will take care of any mistakes we have made by over-emphasizing university degrees for all. In time, the pay of a good trades person will rise, and the pay of our “office professionals” will drop. This is the primary difference between a free market and centrally planned economy – a free market can recover from mistakes.

    • I couldn’t agree more. We’re already starting to see a shift from the ubiquitous (and increasingly unaffordable) liberal arts degree in favor of certification, on the job training, and traditional trades.

  16. jaredtohlen says:

    I’m a pixel pusher (graphic designer) as my full-time job and ended up here mostly because it was the direction I was pushed. I received a BA in graphic design from a liberal arts university. I enjoy it and am good at it, but not once throughout schooling was I directed toward trade careers, or even told it was a possibility. Everything and everyone acted, spoke, taught, and directed like college was the way to go. It was all good-intentioned, and I don’t blame anyone or mean to portray a victim mentality.

    However, I’ve always enjoyed hard work and working with my hands. I grew up watching my dad and uncles do hard work and work with their hands, and did a good chunk of it myself. My grandpa and all of his brothers were trade-workers. But for some reason, it never occurred to any of us that maybe I could go into a physical work career in the trades.

    And between “pixel pushing” jobs that didn’t work out in recent years, I’ve considered trying to make a leap to a trade, but barriers (perceived or actual) have been too much. I don’t even know where to begin to research making the leap or who to talk to. “What if I pick the wrong trade?” I picked up “Shop Class as Soul Craft” way back in college and was fascinated. I also realized I might could have taken shop classes in high school but wasn’t aware of them at the time.

    So, here I am, working at a computer all day making a modest, limited salary. And when I go home, I freelance on the side when needed to make ends meet. And when I have the free time I go out in the shop and make things, or work in the yard or around the house to put some sweat on my brow and enjoy it thoroughly, even when it’s not pleasant. I turned 30 this week, so I guess I’m a millenial, but I’m not a “millenial.” I enjoy hard work, and willingly and purposefully engage in it, when I want to and when I don’t want to. I know my neighbors (a few of which are also millenials) and participate in civil duties as best I can (even if I don’t get a sticker). I’m a family man as well, and I plan to be intentional in raising my daughters knowing the value of hard work and how to work well with their hands. They will be encouraged to explore all options after high school.

    Most of all, I have met or know of a lot of guys and gals my age who are wearing the same shoes.

    Anyway. Just sharing my situation and experience to maybe open some eyes and illuminate some points.

    • nrhiller says:

      Thanks so much, Jared. Like you, I was raised with the expectation that I would attend college and get a degree. There was no mention of trade school as a possibility until after I dropped out of college, when I took the initiative to investigate trade training possibilities in response (or I should say “in reaction,” unfortunately) to my stepfather’s constant deriding of my efforts.

      Matthew Crawford’s work has been quite influential in making people at least think about the value of work in the trades — not least at this moment when so many are questioning the economic value of a degree. However, I would point out that a degree can be an enormous help to a tradesperson, albeit not necessarily in terms of obvious economic returns. Mine are in one of the most liberal of liberal arts, religious studies. (If you want to see parents say “NO, that’s a useless degree,” tell them you want to go into that field. I did so when I was 30, after years of working, so it was totally my responsibility.) My work in design and building, as well as in writing, would be vastly less interesting, had I not done my degrees. My ability to articulate ideas and communicate with clients, especially when things go wrong, has been aided immeasurably by what I learned at university. And ultimately, the thought of an American culture without the kind of training in critical thinking and basic history, world affairs, etc. that most basic college curricula entail is terrifying to me.

      In response to your remark about income, I think we should focus less on how much we earn in financial terms. My income has always been modest. Sometimes I have struggled to make ends meet. I cobble together various sources of income (writing and teaching) related to the work in my shop that is my primary livelihood, mainly because I personally find working in the shop all day every day, which I did for most of my life, just too much of the same. I need the intellectual stimulation of researching and writing. There is also crucial value in diversifying the sources of your income. It sounds to me as though you are doing an admirable job on all fronts, for what that’s worth.

      • Richard Mahler says:

        [And ultimately, the thought of an American culture without the kind of training in critical thinking and basic history, world affairs, etc. that most basic college curricula entail is terrifying to me.] It appears, sadly, that ‘that most basic college curricula’ is having very little affect on American culture and life. Read Kurt Andersen’s ‘Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, A 500-Year History’. Andersen is an imminent historian and social thinker who makes the case that America’s beginnings, with the accompanying foundational belief that individual freedom of thought and belief is a right, has increasingly become extreme in an age of social media, and that in our era expressed opinions no longer require or value rational thought, logic and fact; we no longer think we have a responsibility to apply these constraints in our social interactions. He makes a convincing case bourne out by what we are currently experiencing.

        • nrhiller says:

          I will look that up. Thanks for the recommendation. Based on what you’ve written here, he’s making points similar to those of others I read. We live in “interesting” times.

      • jaredtohlen says:

        Nancy, thanks so much for your reply.

        Interestingly, I spent some time as a Theology major in college, so I know what you mean! I changed my degree around a few times trying to decide what I wanted and what was wise to pursue, eventually landing on Graphic Design and Mass Communications. I definitely agree that a degree, and even the secondary “experience” we have at university, can be invaluable things.

        Good point about how we think about income. It’s always tempting to forget contentment and thankfulness and to replace it with desire and, most unfortunately, envy.

  17. Steve Voigt says:

    When I saw the grammatically challenged comment that started “it’s common knowledge that…” I wanted to respond “it’s common knowledge that grumpy old people always believe that the current generation is inferior to their own.”
    People have been bitching about “these kids” since Plato, if not earlier. If it were true, we’d all have been reduced to drooling simians by now.

  18. Bruce Chaffin says:

    I’d comment, but I need to yell at the neighborhood kids to STAY OFF MY LAWN!

  19. My parents still live on the farm on which I was raised. But they are older now and cannot attend to the chores as well as they used to. Because of this, I’ve found my trips out there becoming more frequent, so they can continue to live there and not have the place fall apart.

    But recently I realized that I’m also going out to the farm because I MISS the outdoor manual labor I used to HAVE to do as part of the chores of a family member living on the farm.

    Part of it, certainly, is that it is more difficult to get a sense of accomplishment on projects that can go on for weeks or even months at my 8-5 job, but I can complete tasks in a matter of hours out on the farm! What’s more, you can almost always see the immediate result of completing that task! Wood is stacked, dead branches are cleared, mulch is spread, and so on.

    Another part of it, just as certainly, is the look I see on my parents’ faces that their one son who was most likely to shirk chores as a kid has grown up into something of a responsible person. Now he’s out there, driving the tractor and putting in the time.

    Maybe I should put responsible in quotes… I’m definitely a work in progress.

    • nrhiller says:

      Haha, lovely! My sister has become the ultimate responsible parent — something no one would have expected based on her teen years. I love what you’ve said about being able to see results quickly from physical labor. So true. (On the other hand, there are those kitchen cabinet jobs that go on for months and months, between my work and that of others on the job.)

  20. Jason Baker says:

    I remember as a kid when I had to walk 5 miles from home to school, in waist-deep snow, and uphill both ways. Those darn kids sure have it easy these days. 🙂

    All kidding aside, my perception is that trade skills (as opposed to trade professions) are booming right now. I see maker spaces popping up all over the place. Services like Ebay and Etsy provide a global distribution platform for makers. As makers we have access to resources that previous generations could only dream of.

    Kids today don’t gravitate towards woodworking skills because those skills are no longer a necessity. They don’t have to learn how to build furniture for their homes anymore because Target, Ikea, and Pottery Barn have solved that problem.

    Instead of taking shop classes in school, kids are joining the robotics club. They are learning computer programming, electronics, and mechanized systems. Those are the new modern trades. Trade skills haven’t disappeared. The skills simply changed over time.

  21. Richard Sutton says:

    I have worked as a farmer and in construction for 50 years, it has been years since I have found anyone an American of any age who would work next to me for a day. Reality even if you don’t believe it still exists.

  22. Richard Mahler says:

    English Arts & Crafts Furniture arrived today. Beautiful design and photography: no surprise. Beautiful, engaging, thought-provoking writing: as expected! This book will be one of the treasures on your bookshelf.

  23. mike says:

    I guess I live in a different world. In my city (chicago) all the major trade unions (pipefitters, electricians, sheet metal, sprinkler fitters, etc) earn $40+ hour plus benefits (really good benefits) and have more kids taking the apprenticeship entrance exams than they can let it. So there is clearly a good supply of young people willing to work.

    Go to a residential job site and it is teeming with young polish and mexican immigrants earning good money and supporting families.

    My dad was a proud union pipefitter and yes, he encouraged me to go to college (I am a CPA). He earned a good living but is is hard work, and mostly outside. 100F in July in welding attire ain’t a picnic. -10F in January is not either. He would have been proud of me either way.

    Sometimes I think middle/upper middle class kids get caught up in a romanticized notion of the trades that probably never existed.

  24. alexpacin says:

    Before we write our children’s generation off as lazy/entitled recipients of participation trophies, let’s remember who is ordering the trophies and handing them out at the end of the season. “Society grows great when old men[women] plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek proverb. A human is born; a person is grown.

    • mike says:

      A year or so ago my 11 yo son and I were cleaning (purging) his room. He had a shelf full of trophies. I asked him which ones he earned and which one he got just for showing up. He knew right away (some of the trophies were from his preschool days). The participation trophies now live in a landfill.

  25. Marc Gillis says:

    Hi, a millennial here,
    Now I am an able-bodied man that all my life have always been complimented on my hard work. In fact I was once touched when a customer said to me how the world would be a better place if men/women worked as well and hard as I did. Though work itself is a negatively sounding word as I valued what I was doing and even enjoyed it, in many ways would not rather be doing anything else.

    In the past few years I stopped working at jobs that really did not value what I had to offer. Also a lot of the jobs just did not feel right, or asked me to do things that I questioned the legitimacy of < that I could better serve others doing other things however those things would not pay of course.
    I knew something was not right with the world and I began to question what was wrong. It all led me to discover what is really going on in the world today. And why we feel cheated.

    The reason we, millennials, feel entitled and well everyone should, is because WE ARE ALL MEN AND WOMEN, and as such we are all equal under natural law (which supersedes all laws).

    The ONLY reason this is not the case in court is because Men/Women think they are a person/individual rather than a man, and it is not semantics there is a difference. They also think man made laws matter, when only Natural Law matters (boils down to do no harm). (Check out the work of Mark Passio on Natural Law).

    Learn about the difference between what is a real name vs a legal name.

    The sooner we realize that we are Man and not a dead legal entity called a person that most men/women go by, the sooner the sooner we will reclaim our rights/freedoms and cease to be taken advantaged of.
    We are not the Legal Name (this only applies to a person), identify as a legal name. You can accept to be called by your real name however (consisting of surname/familly name and given name). Just be sure to not go by the Full Name (first and last) < as this is the legal name.
    You can be the name holder of the legal name however, holding is not the same as owning. We cannot own anything only possess things. Only thing we can own/control is our body.
    Do not sign as your legal name, sign on behalf of the legal name. Doing Business As (DOA) name.

    Legal name is a what

    real name is a who

    Check out youtube channel The Human Frequency

    and look up The Story of Douglas Joseph.



    watch the documentary Ungrip by Ben Stewart

  26. Marc Gillis says:

    oops just edit the DOA with DBA.

    also now that I have acquired this knowledge I plan to put it into practice.
    What is great is that I will not have to pay taxes particularly the income tax for example which is not being declared where/how it’s being apportioned.
    this way I will be able to apply for jobs that pay less but are more rewarding and give back more to the community.

  27. snwoodwork says:

    My wife works at a state college and hers, like many others in the nation, are beginning to include more trades in their curriculum. They recently added a welding program because that is where jobs are. The glut of college degrees and graduate degrees will have to correct somehow, it may be starting to do so now (and I say that as someone in graduate school who may be pursuing a further schooling after my masters).

    • nrhiller says:

      Yes, there is a market for welding, automotive repair, plumbing, electrical work, and more. How good to hear that the state college where your wife works has added welding!

  28. Boy Nancy…

    You sure do know how to get me going on a Saturday afternoon…GREAT POST!!!!

    Your not alone…I’m called “crazy” too..LOL…!!!

    All I can say is “consider the source.”

    I don’t believe either of us are at all crazy, and in the big picture, the proof is more than out there…IF!!!…anyone actually cares to look for it…The next generation is more than finding its “own path.”

    From Blacksmiths and Timberwrights to Ceramists and Textilest, there has been a resurgence in the last 2 decades like we have not seen in over a century. Many like me are seeing and discussing being surprised (happily so!!!) by folks between 25 and 35 years of age that have more than reached advance skill levels in their give art and craft. Some could, and are, even called “Masters of their trade,” which is no small feat and a testament to how very…VERY!!!… wrong many are with their lamenting about the “loss of craft” and the appreciation for it.

    From work ethic (I know…I teach and work around them!!!!!) to skill level, this next generation is more than to be proud of…encouraged…supported…and commended.

    It’s our generation actually that has a lot to…account for… and fix before we “give up the ghost” and move on. So I suggest to those that “disagree” with us, and/or call us crazy:


    If you feel that way and think the younger generation needs guidance…or keep your negative views and romanticized perspectives of the past to yourselves!!!

  29. Marc Gillis says:

    Also the reason we men and women are entitled, is because earth is a gift intended for sharing, see the work of Charles Eisenstein on this: https://soundcloud.com/lyla-june-johnston

  30. Fancy Lad Woodworking says:

    I love your post. “Ours is a culture with exceedingly low expectations – a culture that heaps praise on those who do little more than show up.” Exactly. The problem is not with the kids, it’s with how we raise them. As a 39 year old, I see a huge difference in how I (and my peers) were raised compared to how I generally see kids being raised. I was expected to do chores. I was expected to cut the grass, split the wood, clean a part of the house and do dishes after supper. My allowance was contingent on me doing those things. I was also expected to get a summer job once I turned 16, and despite my family’s comfortable middle-class life, it was very clear to me that I would have to pay my own way through university. Most of my friends growing up had the same expectations of them. I hated doing chores but it instilled in me the life lesson that I was expected to work hard; working hard was part of life and not an option. Unfortunately, raising kids this way seems less common today.

    • nrhiller says:

      Amen, Fancy Lad. Chores are one of the best ways to teach a host of values, only a few of which involve pocket money.

  31. Jason Lonon says:

    What a surprise to see Asher McDaniel featured on the Lost Art Press blog! Asher’s dad Aaron and I have been good friends since we were teenagers: he an aspiring farmer, and I an aspiring blacksmith. Shortly after we first met, Aaron commissioned me to make him an 18th century reaping hook to cut a crop of heirloom wheat he was growing.

    Besides blacksmithing, I also teach welding in a local community college. My classes are for high school juniors and seniors in a dual credit program. This gives me a close and personal view of the generation about to enter the workforce. As many folks have pointed out, the situation is complicated. On one hand, basic language, math, history, and logic are not being effectively taught, leaving many high school graduates sorely lacking the skills necessary to do well in today’s entrepreneur market. On the other hand, a few are dedicated, self motivated, love to learn, embrace challenges, and go make their own job rather than waiting for someone else to give them one. Liam Hoffman graduated from my welding program a few years ago, and is a prime example of the best of the current generation. He started blacksmithing at age 13, built his skill through his high school years, and spent his college savings on forging equipment. Today he employs his mother full time and a homeschool student part time and has a 2-year backlog of orders for his knives and axes. Check him out at: http://www.HoffmanBlacksmithing.com.

    We need to teach our students basic knowledge, and celebrate the value of hard work.

    Jason A. Lonon

    • nrhiller says:

      Fantastic! I’m not surprised that an old friend of Aaron’s frequents this place. Thank you so much for your thoughts, as well as mentioning Liam.

  32. kaisaerpren says:

    if (IF) young people are not going into the trades, it’s because they grow up in an environment that snears and “looks down” on any and all physical labor. Combine that with the improbability of actually making a living in some of these trades. I have been a cabinetmaker for over 30 years. I have never independently earned any money worth mentioning, alway working in large shops owned by someone else. and then I only made just enough to keep my head above water. Never enough to have some to spare to start up my own shop. and I never figured out how to “sell myself”. to bring in the work. when they teach you how to run a table saw they neglect to tell you how to convince people to let you do it for them 😉 I have been unemployed for 10 years. I have no place to work out of. young people see me and people like me and want nothing to do with it.

  33. kaisaerpren says:

    ANDDDD secondly, I don’t think there is a dearth of young adults going into the trades. most of the union trade schools claim to be at or over max capacity. What the gripers are looking at (I think) are “Millenials” who were convinced (by their elders) that they HAD to go to college to get any job, and are unwilling to take a job that pays “beneath” what they were told to expect. and I cannot blame them, they spent $40 to $100 thou to get an education and were promised jobs in the $150 to $250 thou range, and all they can find is $25 thou offers.. why would they backtrack to a job “in the trades”. indeed that term “in the trades” has always been an insult used by those not in the trades. What I am seeing is people who are taking up some of the more obscure trades as hobbies that have nothing to do with their educations and jobs… and turning the hobby into a second then a primary income… I see it, but I still haven’t figured it out for myself… I teach some of those people…

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