Got No Work?

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Blog entry by DocSavage45 posted 01-08-2011 05:42 PM 2197 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Got No Work?

Got No Work? You are not alone. But that doesn’t make us feel better. We need to survive. Remember when we prospered?

Charles Neil has asked me to talk about this and maybe by doing so we can help a fellow woodworker?

The thread that has been going on o the Blog started with Charles’ piece. “So you want to be a professional woodworker?”

Some themes: “don’t quit your day job,” “I love this but…”, “what have I gotten myself into?”

Everyone has a different emotional temperament. I get angry first, and that is why I teach “Anger management.” Some people get anxious first. These are our instinctive survival emotional responses. So when we are threatened we respond in our normal fashion. It works for some and not for others. That is why I have a job. Went back to it to try to survive the times we are in. I really wanted to make furniture. Hmm sound familiar.

You have heard of stress? There is good stress and bad stress. The good stress is finishing the customer’s piece, after screwing up a few times, having time and money problems, yet delivering it, getting paid, and oh yeah the customer loves it as much as we do. Bad stress is; and you can add to this…. No customers (I hate it when people complain that “I have to work.”) Bills, dwindling resources, and some professional people like Charles Niel have a large cost overhead.

All stress, good and bad, can become tiring, frustrating and overwhelming. Been there, done that, myself. What have I done? I have applied the skills that I attempt to teach my clients. All of them are simple to talk about. Just hard to do. Especially when we have been doing the stuff that isn’t working for most of our lives. Woodworkers know what framing means, I like to use the metaphor “Reframing” to get a better visual picture, a plan of action, and a way of measuring what I am doing to see if it works.

Grief over Loss

Kubler Ross wrote a book about “Death and dying”. There are five stages of grief over loss. Face it my ego, self worth, and income were in that image I had of me as a “Cabinet builder,” “furniture maker.” There is loss of self worth, self respect, income, and belief in who we are.

Now that’s where our coping skills come in. Are you the angry Type (like me) or the anxious type? I try to get my clients to self assess what they do when confronted with situations that are overwhelming, and they don’t know what to do.

It is important to know that I am grieving. It is a depressed state. It can immobilize me. I like the phrase I heard years ago….Depression is anger turned inward. I find it is true when we have no way to get it out, or over it.

Stages of Grief are:

Shock and Denial: We tell ourselves “this isn’t real”, or “not me? You can add your own?
Anger and guilt: Balme self or others for the loss. Pick a political party?

Depression: Extreme changes or loss can cause overwhelming feelings. Never saw my father cry. He just left the room.

Resolution: Requires us to go through our feelings, and accept our losses, and continue to live our lives. 911 survivors?

You may find yourself in one of these over your current situation. I sure did. Not easy even when I know the stuff.

What would Charles do?

He has shared what he does over the years. He gets angry. He goes and sits on his porch like a Big Dawg. He talks to Sherri. He comes up with a plan. He makes every effort to “think outside the box.” Then he does “something” Oh yeah my guess he checks to see if it is working for him?

Charles says he gets angry. That’s my way as well. I say, “Do something.” “Take control of what you can.” “Reframe it” (look at it differently). There is more. I also am fond of saying the great phrase “Doing something over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.” Some become anxious and very worried. This can be immobilizing. I make every attempt to have people on both ends learn about assertiveness. It helps to bring us back to the center.

Coping with stress

A coping saw is a hand held manual tool that has been used for years to cope the corners when putting up crown molding. So I think coping is a tool to get things done.

In traumatic events like 911, Katrina, tornadoes, and general disasters, we have ordinary people handling extra ordinary situations. When asked, I attempt to do some emotional first aide for the stress.

When you have not had a problem providing for yourself and your family and you are a professional woodworker, who is in an extra ordinary situation, it is important to check your existing coping skills to see what works. And add a few more to help your brain get clear of all the emotional stuff.

When going through trauma, and it is traumatic to loose your identity, feelings will well up. You can find yourself, not eating, or over eating. Not sleeping or sleeping too much. I find myself and my clients can become deregulated. I work to get us back on track. If you are depressed, you may be turning away from others? You may want to be by yourself? You may drink more than usual? Inactivity can be a big problem. If you were athletic or an active person and your sitting on your butt….Take a walk, in my case shovel more snow.

You can get through grief, but it may be difficult to overcome the feelings, by over-indulging.

Exercise helps us get the crap out of our system that builds up. Remember it is a self protection mechanism of the body to get ready to fight (anger) or flee (anxiety). So if bummed out, get out, and exercise your muscles and get rid of the poison.

When you are tired, bummed out, irritable, worried it is hard to think clearly.

Check out your feelings
Vent and cry if you feel it welling up.
Do the normal activities
Take care of your health
Look at what you may be doing that isn’t working
Find a friend, spouse, family member who you trust to talk to
Share what is bothering you
Talk to God, but don’t ask for favors
Be prepared when those feelings sneak up unexpectedly
Find other woodworkers in your area who might feel as you do
It’s not the macho thing to do, but contact a professional counselor/psychologist/social worker

When you are not feeling overwhelmed, then try to think outside the box. I recommend “What Color is Your Parachute” It’s a self help tool for people wanting to change what they do in working lives. It may help figure out your “other skills.”

It’s all hard to do. I do it every day. Hate whining, especially my own. Find good feelings from your friends, family, pets, but not from drugs or alcohol, which is a whole other story.

Thomas J. Tieffenbacher, M.A., L.P.
Minnesota Licensed Psychologist


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

18 comments so far

View DocSavage45's profile


8609 posts in 2872 days

#1 posted 01-08-2011 05:46 PM

It’s not woodworking, it’s about professional woodworkers who have no work.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Russ's profile


142 posts in 3228 days

#2 posted 01-08-2011 06:31 PM

Good post. When I retired in September it was with a shop full of tools, wood and ambition. Starting a business is difficult at best and my hopes were way too high so I did have times when the concept of self worth was not good. It is not about the money but the need to remain active and feel that I am contributing. So on the first of the year I resolved to do those little things in the shop; clean, readjust equipment and finish some jobs for my family. As a two time survivor of cancer ( curcumin is a miracle herb) I know there is always a way to cope, it just has to be found.

-- Happiness is being covered in sawdust

View DocSavage45's profile


8609 posts in 2872 days

#3 posted 01-08-2011 06:50 PM

Thanks Russ, I wasn’t sure but after the post for Jim and his boy I thought it might be helpful. Orfinary people coping with extra ordinary circumstances.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 2910 days

#4 posted 01-08-2011 06:53 PM

The hardest part about being in business is making it rain. You have to be the rain maker. If it doesn’t rain, nothing grows. Once you make it rain, then you have to plant and grow and harvest, but at the same time, you have to keep making it rain. It’s a juggling act that requires a keen balance.

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View DocSavage45's profile


8609 posts in 2872 days

#5 posted 01-08-2011 07:01 PM

I live in an area that is all farmland. I’m not a farmer. Some are better than others at loss of rain, or too much? Just learning to plan and cope for draught is helpful? I know of talented woodworkers that have no work. Someone said when there is no discrecionary income, people cut back. I said what’s discretionary? LOL

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3702 days

#6 posted 01-08-2011 07:04 PM

I am currently unempolyed, but I am doing odd jobs. May have to start doing woodworking on the side.

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1106 posts in 3003 days

#7 posted 01-08-2011 07:24 PM

The old don’t quit your day job…and maybe appreciate it more
Good article

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View DocSavage45's profile


8609 posts in 2872 days

#8 posted 01-08-2011 07:25 PM

I attempted to work as a gopher for some one man shops. Got the same response from all of them except a place that made cabinet doors. NO, insurance costs prohibit it. Put on your coping armor. Get out and be recognized. If you have carpentery skills, which are slightly different, you can offer to help social services where senior citizens need winterization or home repair. Just a way to get known?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Dennis Fletcher's profile

Dennis Fletcher

467 posts in 3084 days

#9 posted 01-08-2011 07:26 PM

Thanks, Doc, this is a great post.

I have been very fortunate, in that, my small construction business has been doing alright until just recently. Even with that, I can see more work on its way.

My woodworking, however, has had nothing in several months with me losing out the only 3 jobs that were to be done.

It will get better.

--, Making design and application one. †

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3922 days

#10 posted 01-08-2011 09:20 PM

Pandoras box….....................we never know whats behind the door.

I recently decided to get out of the so called “high end” of professional woodworking. It almost killed me lol…...not really kidding. Maybe some day I might get back into it but at the moment I am giving it a rest. It wasnt about “not having enough work”..............more about the 7 day a week, never ending days and nights, constantly moving, human drama, be it good or bad…...........It was an icredible, very fufilling ride but I had to get off that merry-go-round.

I let others worry about everything I used to have to “worry” about and am presently doing what I might refer to as “brainless woodworking”......................and it pays way more $$$$$

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18293 posts in 3705 days

#11 posted 01-09-2011 09:20 AM

These is a lot of this out there in these times. The fellow at the shoe store told me he has never heard people tallking like they are now. Eiither no work or their retirrement is gone or being cut. Too bad this isn’t a natural disaster. It would pass and the recovery could start.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3922 days

#12 posted 01-09-2011 11:17 AM

I love my job….........

miss my garden

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3922 days

#13 posted 01-09-2011 11:21 AM

At this point I would die to teach

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View bunkie's profile


412 posts in 3176 days

#14 posted 01-09-2011 03:31 PM

Managing your response to your feelings is they key to happiness. Planning and action can be healthy responses to difficult, painful situations. However, it’s important to be realistic. For example, it’s unrealistic to be making high-end stuff when the market just won’t support it.

I do woodworking as an avocation. I learned a long time ago that trying to make an avocation pay can drive the fun out of it. Having said that, i’m fortunate to have a career and skill set that provide me with the means to pursue my hobbies. I use my hobbies to add a little more joy to my life.

Back in the previous century, i had my own business doing training and software development, so I know what it is to make it rain. Sometimes, however, there are droughts that you have to live through. Those are times when an honest re-evaluation is in order. Is this just a lull or has there been a fundamental shift that has changed the weather patterns? No one can know the future, but an educated guess sometimes goes a long way.

-- Altruism is, ultimately, self-serving

View DocSavage45's profile


8609 posts in 2872 days

#15 posted 01-09-2011 05:55 PM

It’s hard to think outside the box we have built for ourselves? The “got no work” thing is universal. Bunkie..I think you got it right. Working with people is different than working with wood. Unless you are working in wood for people? LOL!
Read a lot about woodworking, I was a “more power’ kind of guy. Watched “Norm” from day one. Got to have those tools…then I will be as good as “Norm.” One day started to read a translated japanese carpenters training manual. It said”find a space under a tree, and set up your tools.’ Huh? Now I am thinking “simple” and “small”.

Topomax survivor’s statement about “if this were a natural disaster we could start over” is good in theory. In disasters of any magnitude it is people using everyday coping skills to cope with an overwhelming situation.

It feels that way to people who have had “no work” to pay the bills to survive. That’s why it is important to “reframe” our thinking. As Dennis fletcher says “It will get better.”

We just have to take care of ourselves until it does. :)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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