Meet Entrepreneur Tim Pittman, Creator of FIRE Stories!

I love collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs like Tim.  Not only do they inspire, but there are always some golden nuggets of wisdom in their entrepreneurial journey.  In Tim’s case we get two types of wisdom because in his side hustle he has created a website capturing stories of Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) and in his main job helps small companies succeed.  Read on!

1)  Thank you for your time and congratulations on launching FIRE Stories.  Tell us a little about it.
Thank you! FIRE Stories (firestories.co) is a new project aimed at sharing the stories of people who’ve retired early or are well on their way.
Rather than focus on the tactical aspects of spending and investing, FIRE Stories is intended to be a single resource to read more about those who’ve retired early.
2)  Where did you get the idea for this business?
This came from solving my own problem.
 I had been following the FIRE Community for quite some time. While I find the more tactical advice very helpful, what I really enjoyed were the stories of those who’ve really embraced the concept of FIRE.
What are their mindsets, backgrounds, lifestyles, and philosophies? What were the challenges along the way? And how can I read these in one place?
However, it was time-consuming to find these people and quickly learn their stories and most of all, answer the questions I had for them.
So FIRE Stories has been born =)
3)  Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Actually, no.
Though I’ve been interested in my own side projects, I’ve been primarily focused on my career and other interests.
I currently work at Sumo.com. I help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their their businesses. I really enjoyed the work and the team. I love our customers.  Also, Sumo is a very fast moving company. So sometimes it feels entrepreneurial to even be here. We move fast.
4)  What are some of the habits that have helped you become successful?
Frankly, any success I’ve had is not financial. firestories.co isn’t making any money.  The ‘success’ I’ve had thus far is launching a project that (I think) creates great content and I’m excited to work on.
Here are some thing that have helped me:
1. Set milestones – Say, at the end of month you want to do X. Create three blog posts, get feedback on a project, get 1 sale, etc. Set your milestones and be very bullish on hitting these. Make sure they move you forward.
Then carve out the time & habit you need to hit these milestone. My first thought was to tell you to ‘ship something everyday’, but I think that’s wrong. It’s wrong because some days you’ll want to work 12 hours on a new thing. Other days you are sick and tired of it. So work when you have the energy. Rest when you don’t.
But with milestones, you know if you finish X, you’ll be moving forward. Then debrief on those milestones and how you can improve for next time. You’ll work smarter this way.
2. Generate Ideas – Keep thinking of new ideas. Make it a habit. Force yourself to do this every morning. Over time, you’ll begin to spot ideas more easily. It will be second nature. I think that’s why folks who start things tend to start multiple things.  It takes time to get into this habit. But once you do, you’ll be spotting new ideas in things you see, what people say, etc.
3. Share! – Create, ship, and share often. If you are not sharing your thing, then nothing is happening. You are tinkering. It’s a hobby.  Sharing gets you into the habit of creating new things, not being afraid of feedback and judgment, and will give you much faster feedback on the quality of your ideas and projects.
The business owners we work with at Sumo have given themselves permission to create. Over time, as you create, you will get through your fear by sharing more and more.
5)  What advice do you have for beginning entrepreneurs?
I work with business owners everyday. They aren’t special unicorns. Here’s the biggest thing. And I hope your readers take this advice to heart.
If you’ve really not launched anything, started new projects, gotten that freelance gig – if your projects are at 0 – then your problem is shipping. Your problem is paralysis.
You need to get momentum. You need to practice creating and engaging with potential customers. I wrote a post on this here. I’ve made this mistake as well.
A great book is 7 Day Startup, by Dan Norris. Read this book. Then no more books. It’s great, because you get 7 days to create your idea, build the MVP, and ship it.
You need to take the fear out of engaging with people. Here’s a great way to start:
1. Answer quora questions
2. Join forums and niche communities and answer questions, like indiehackers.com
3. Write a blog post. Practicing creating content. Try youtube, medium, etc.
You’ll find it’s not scary. People want to hear from you. Once you get over this hurdle, you need to start _selling_ your thing. Find your product and validate it as quickly as possible. Sell your shirt to 3 friends. Try to get 10 users through FB ads. I don’t know what tactic will work for you – just remember to go as barebones and simple as possible to validate your idea.
Regarding ideas: A challenge I had is ‘where do I get my idea!?’  Well, as I said above, keep thinking of ideas. Find products and businesses you like and figure out why they are working. Is there a way to improve it? Is there a different angle you can approach it that differentiates it from others?
For firestories.co – I noticed lots of niche interviewing sites. I read lots of FIRE content. I couldn’t find interviews. So I took the niche concept and applied it to this area.
6)  Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes, my biggest epiphany is this: If it’s really easy, it’s likely not worth it. What is hard is rewarding – both in your personal growth and financially. The obstacles you face are the purpose. It should be hard – otherwise why is it worth even doing!?
On the other hand – have fun. Work hard. Welcome the challenges and push through them. But overall, enjoy what you’re doing and have fun. That’s the real value for entrepreneurship for me – you get to pick your job!
So if your project isn’t fun. If you’re say, writing lots of code, and you find you don’t like code, then change it. If you’re not sure what you like, set milestones for projects to help you figure that out.
To summarize – don’t quit when it gets tough. But don’t be miserable either. Enjoy the journey.
7)  Where can we learn more about FIRE Stories?
Head over to firestories.co! I try to get 2 new interviews per week. Also, send me a direct message on twitter. I’d love to hear your feedback on the site, answer other questions, and see what you’re building!

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Click these links to see our other posts in the entrepreneur interview series:

Amazon best selling author Lawrence Colby, writer of The Devil Dragon Pilot:

Interview with Entrepreneur Lawrence Colby, Author of the New Military Aviation Thriller: The Devil Dragon Pilot

The Devil Dragon Pilot Rockets to #1 on Amazon! Interview Update with Entrepreneur and Amazon Best Selling Author, Lawrence Colby

Amazing photographer Richard Weldon Davis:  Interview with Entrepreneur and Photographer Richard Weldon Davis

Successful entrepreneur and owner of Custom Display Cases, Mo Johnson:

From Military to Entrepreneur: Interview with Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

What Everyone Ought to Know About Launching a Business: More Wisdom from Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

Do You Have the Courage to Start Your Own Business? Military to Entrepreneur – More Insights from Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

Veterans MUST Read This Post! Key Transition Tips from Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

Incredible baker and entrepreneur, Haleigh Heard:  Interview with Entrepreneur and Baker, Haleigh Heard, Owner of S’Cute Petite Bakery

Writer, blogger, and photographer Lisa Traughber:  How To Cut Your Work Hours 40% to Focus on Making: Interview with Writer and Award Winning Photographer Lisa Traughber

Serial inventor Deane Elliott:  5 Patents??? Meet Superstar Inventor and Entrepreneur Deane Elliott

Young Entrepreneurial Risk Taker Adam Mayers:  He Started His Own Company in High School??? Meet Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Impeesa Coffee & Tea: Adam Mayers

Stay tuned for our next interview in the entrepreneur series!

How to Refinish Those Old Stair Hand Rails and Give them Some Pizzazz!

Refinished Bannister
Refinished Hand Rail

After we refinished our floors to a beautiful dark half inch bamboo (see pic), the hand rails going to the basement just weren’t cutting it.  The old blonde colored oak finish no longer matched the floor.  In the post (link here) regarding upgrading our bannisters, I wrote about how we refinished the bannisters going upstairs from the first floor.  Since we’re in the market for a new house as I wrote about in the Reflections on 2018 post, it was time to get in high gear on the remaining projects in this house.  Let me give you the low-down on a very simple refinish to the railings that you can knock out in a long weekend.

First, remove the rails.  This will save you endless heartache since you won’t have to cover the stairs with a drop cloth, worry about getting finish on the walls, getting sanding dust throughout the house, and bringing the varnish fumes into the house.  In addition, you can put the rails on a bench or work table at waist height (the Festool MFT/3 works wonders for something like this), which will make the refinishing much easier.  If you do it while they are attached to the wall, you’ll be doing all kinds of contortions to access the side against the wall and the underside.

Second, sand, sand, sand.  Use a coarse grit sandpaper like 60 or 80 grit and I highly recommend using a power sander.  I used my Festool RO150 random orbit sander which worked surprisingly well given how big it is.  The sanding disc is pretty large relative to the piece, but was able to hit just about every surface except for the small bead that runs near the bottom.  I hand sanded that part.  Sand until there is no more shininess to the finish.  You don’t have to take it to bare wood:  just rough it up enough so that the new finish will adhere.

Third, prepare.  Do this in a well ventilated area and wear gloves.  Also wear eye protection in case any of the finish splatters upwards.  It’s not likely, but don’t take any chances.

General Finishes Java Gel Stain and Arm-R-Seal
General Finishes Java Gel Stain and Arm-R-Seal

Fourth, apply the gel stain.  I used General Finishes Java Gel Stain.  I did a test run underneath the shortest hand rail to see how dark the stain looked and how evenly it spread.  Then give it 24 hours so you can evaluate the test area.  If you like it, then press on and stain both rails.

Fifth, apply the topcoat of oil and urethane varnish.  General Finishes Arm-R-Seal works really well for this and I recommend the satin finish.

Sixth, reinstall the rails and enjoy!

I hope that helps!  Catch up on the latest Traughber Design project videos on Instagram here.

Traughber Design Featured in FIRE Stories!

Woodworker
A Woodworker

Many thanks to fellow entrepreneur Tim Pittman for the recent article about Traughber Design in FIRE Stories.  Mrs Woodworker and I hope some of the wisdom we’ve gained in the past several years might be of use to you.  If you have any questions, FIRE away in the comments section.

First Day of FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early)! 5 Lessons Learned

Fire
Fire

Today after 30 years of work I am declaring my freedom!  Yesterday was my last duty day.  Does that mean I’m not going to “work” any more?  No, but we’ll be 100% focused on entrepreneurship at this point and seeing where that journey takes us.  Are you still “working” if you are an entrepreneur?  That’s a good question.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Here are 5 lessons we learned along the way that may help others achieve FIRE.  Truth in advertising here, I was in the military and have a pension.  The Retirement Police may quibble about whether that is RE or FI or both, but since we have freedom of action now, I’m calling it FIRE.  That’s the beauty of FIRE, you get to frame the situation.

Lesson #1:Seek the wisdom of those smarter than you.  Read books. Buy a cup of coffee for a guy 20 years older than you that has his act together and seek his advice.  The Good Book says in Proverbs (Proverbs 11:14)  that there is victory in an abundance of counselors.  You don’t have to figure all of this out on your own.  I was very lucky when I was first starting out because I ended up in a carpool with some investing savants.  These guys were about 20 years older than I was and probably didn’t realize it, but were essentially giving me an advanced class in investing every morning and afternoon as we commuted.  You’ve got something just about as good called Reddit where you can ask the crowd just about any question.  If you’re wondering where to start, check out the subReddit on financial independence here.

Lesson #2:  Save 10% of your gross starting with that first paycheck.  When I started out as a second lieutenant, one of my co-workers kept bugging me to invest in this thing called an “IRA”.”  I thought “why would I want to toss away $2000 towards something (retirement) that was so far away?”  Luckily, those gurus I mentioned earlier convinced me of the errors of my ways.  They gave me much wisdom then Mrs Woodworker and I started maxing out both our IRAs.

Lesson #3:  You may think you can pick winning stocks, but you’re probably lying to yourself.  Instead, invest in low cost index funds and watch dividend reinvestment work its magic.  My personal favorite is the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index.  If you’re wondering how much of your portfolio to invest in stocks, if you are in your 20s, I’d invest over 90% in stocks.  That will give those early investments decades to power you to FIRE.  Many people incorrectly say that when the market is down you are losing money.  You are only losing money if you sell at that point.  Over the long haul, the market has always recovered.  

Lesson #4:  Bloom where planted.  No matter what job you are given, be excellent at it.  People will notice and you will be given more responsibility.  That will lead to promotions and more income.  When I was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, the squadron gave the new guy (me) the SNACKO duty.  For those not in the know, that means one of my additional duties was to keep the snack bar stocked and handle the money.  I tried to be the best SNACKO the world had ever seen and created a schedule of fundraisers during times I knew the squadron would be hungry.  The leadership noticed that revenues went up and that the snack bar was always fully stocked.  That, along with keeping my nose to the grindstone in other areas led to more responsibility.

Lesson #5:  Think carefully about WHAT you want to do and WHERE since this will determine your FIRE date.  My wife and I kicked this around for about around 5 years until we settled on moving to a state (there are 19) that doesn’t tax military retirement.  In addition, the state we are moving to has a much lower cost of living than our current state.  It’s much easier to achieve FIRE in a low cost area.  Think about your FIRE vision looks like and where you might need to move in order to achieve it.

I hope that helps you achieve your FIRE goals.  Best of luck on your FIRE journey!  I’d also like to give a shout out to Mr Money Mustache  for his prolific guidance on how to live frugally and also Doug Nordman at The Military Guide for his military-specific advice.  Thanks guys!

OK, off to the woodshop…I’ve got a commission to knock out…

Reflections on 2018: A New Journey Begins

Air Force Seal
Air Force Seal

Ah, the entrepreneurial road is a long and bumpy one…my grand plan to ramp up Traughber Design at the end of calendar year 2018 did not survive first contact with the enemy.  As I’ve written about before, Mrs Woodworker and I are winding down a 30 year military career, while continuing to ramp up this business (see post Why Did I Write This Blog About Woodworking and Entrepreneurship).  The community has been very supportive and we’ve had at least half a dozen requests for work in the past few months, BUT life had other ideas.  We were a little short-handed at the unit in 2018 so I had been working a double load which meant very little, to zero wood shop time : (  It has been a mad sprint to complete everything required for military retirement.  I’ll write about that transition soon.

We did; however, have 5 commissions in 2018 and broke even, which is a pretty good result in my book given that we essentially closed the shop in the second half of the year and turned down about a half dozen commissions.

Never fear, this month we will be able to pursue entrepreneurship full time AND we will be looking for another property, ideally one with a  heated shop.  Doing finishing work on wood has proven to be a challenge in the current shop which is in our garage.  If we want to operate 24/7 in all conditions, we need a climate controlled shop.  For example, today it’s 12 degrees outside this morning.  Brrrrr!  I still plan to bundle up and try to gut out at least an hour in the shop, but could do more work if the shop were heated.  Not to worry, if it’s one thing that woodworking teaches you, it’s patience!

We hope you had a stellar 2018 and are off and running on your 2019 resolutions!

Win $350 Custom Made Prayer Kneeler in Cherry with Black Walnut Accents in our June Giveaway!

prayer kneeler in cherry and black walnut
Prayer Kneeler in Cherry and Black Walnut

Yes, that’s right! This beauty can be yours for the price of a comment on the blog.  Why are we doing this?  Two reasons.  First, it’s an entrepreneurial experiment. If it goes well, we may do more giveaways and I just want to see what happens.  Second, the Traughber Tribe is about to begin its third annual minimalism game (see the post 3 Reasons Entrepreneurs Should be on a Minimalism Journey for more) and I don’t want to GET BEAT by Mrs Woodworker.  We usually have one of these minimalism games around the month with Independence Day (Get it?  Independence from our stuff).  I had intended to sell this at an arts and crafts fair, and it’s too big to ship so rather than having it gather dust I figured I’d gift it to someone that can use it.  The arts and crafts fair is on the back burner for now because I need to work down the current backlog first.

There is one caveat to the contest:  you need to pick it up from the wood shop in Montclair VA.  We’ll select someone at random that leaves a comment on the blog below this post during the month of June.  The winner will be announced in early July.  Good luck!

 

We Sold Out!

The Corn Hole Glue Up
The Corn Hole Glue Up

Back in Afghanistan, my pal Steve Patoir and I would commiserate about woodworking from time to time and one of the things we’d talk about was “the pivot” for some of the woodworking guys we’d run across.  For example, we heard about the “Bunk Bed Guy” who had started out making all kinds of things, then made a bunk bed which was so popular that everyone began asking him to make bunk beds.  Then there was the “Shadow Box Guy” who ended up exclusively making shadow boxes.  Am I “The Corn Hole Guy”?  I always try to keep a spare set of these corn hole sets in the shop in case a client wants to buy a set for a party or something and we are all out so I just made another one (see picture) this week.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being The Corn Hole Guy since I enjoy making them and hearing clients talk about how much fun their party was with some good old fashioned bean bag tossing and friendly competition (if you’d like to make your own set, check out the plan at our post The Cornhole Plan, or How to Jazz up your Next Party).  This small project is relatively quick to make, and shouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours to build.

Speaking of small projects, I was talking with a potential client this week about making a table, and she said she thought her project might be too small.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  I love these small projects, because they bring almost immediate gratification and you can see the results of your work in a matter of days or weeks.  Corn hole sets fall in that category since I can easily crank out a set in a week (we do have to allow for several consecutive days of glue-up).  Some of our bigger projects have taken several months and it requires a lot of patience to wait to see the results of our handiwork.

Anyway, this client is a big advocate of supporting local businesses which we wrote about in Reflections on 2016…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Traughber Design!  We should support local businesses (myself included).  After all, they are our neighbors.  They are our community.  One of the great things about 2018 is the ability to tap into that community both in the real world and cyberspace.  I ran across some entrepreneurship and woodworking communities on Reddit some time ago and pop in there from time to time to soak up wisdom and offer encouragement to budding entrepreneurs.  The Reddit woodworking forum has a wealth of plans and featured pieces for inspiration.  Check it out if you get a chance.  In addition, we wrote about curating information via RSS feeds.  For more on that, read our post The RSS Hack, or How to Curate Your Favorite Entrepreneurship and Woodworking blogs.

Or then again, maybe I’ll be the “Jewelry Display Guy.”  Did you see Christy Dewitt and Nomades on Fox and Friends Friday morning?  If not, check out the clip here.  Nomades just ordered three more displays and I picked up the walnut at a couple wood dealers yesterday for that commission.  We’re off and running.

Corn Hole Guy.  Jewelry Display Guy.  It’s all macht nichts to me.  I’m glad for the work.  Bring it on!

Getting back to corn hole, if you have a party coming up, these things are great.  Swing by the wood shop and you can pick one up.  We can always make more.

How to Start a Business: Sometimes You Just Have to Say No

Black Walnut Jewelry Display
Black Walnut Jewelry Display

We turned down two commissions this week.  Is that how to start a business?  Am I crazy???  Maybe so.  My pal Derek Sivers who wrote Anything You Want says that when you are starting a business you should say “yes” to everything, because you can’t afford to be choosey.  On the flip side, he says that entrepreneurs are creating their own universe with its own set of principles, and why would they do work that doesn’t align with those principles?  Don’t get me wrong.  One of those commissions was a large refinishing project which I very much wanted to do, but I’ve already told about a half dozen people I would do their kitchen table, bookcase, entertainment center, etc. and there isn’t much time left in the year.  The other project was for six dining room chairs, but those chairs would have required upholstery which is not really my thing, and would require a lot of hand carving which is not currently my thing.  I guess the good thing is knowing here in year #4 of Traughber Design what “my thing” is. I guess it’s time to start saying no.

Another one of those principles was to migrate to a business that didn’t require a lot of commuting.  I’d like most of the work to be in the shop rather than on site, because after 11 years of commuting in DC during two Air Force tours, I’d rather not sit on I95 any longer.  Clients can come to the shop and pick up their pieces, which preserves my new 5 second commute to the garage.  Yes, I still have that lovely I95 commute because this is a side gig for now (I wrote about this some in the post Reflections on 2017…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Traughber Design!), BUT my retirement papers were approved (hurray!) and we (I use “we” because military service is a TEAM sport as Mrs Woodworker will attest) are within 1 year of official retirement and 8 months of terminal leave.

We’re not aiming to be a Rockefeller with Traughber Design (see our post Lessons Learned from John D. Rockefeller on Life, Entrepreneurship, and Woodworking) but make just enough to get by on military retirement (by the way, if you are making that transition also, I highly recommend Doug Nordman’s site The Military Guide on military transition and financial independence.  He also has some great content on how to start a business). Given our current backlog of projects, making a go of it shouldn’t be an issue.

On to more positive things, like saying “yes”!  We just completed a four sided jewelry display (see picture) for Nomades Collection in black walnut this week and are pretty happy with the result.  You may have seen two of our recent Facebook posts on this.  This was an evolution from the two sided version we profiled in the post Traughber Design and Nomades Collection Team Up!  Some of the new features are:

100% more display space.  The original display had two vertical jewelry trays back-to-back within a wooden frame.  While the two-tray model is perfect for a smaller store, this one has space for three trays and a fourth side with posts to hang bracelets and bangles (I don’t know what bangles are, but they seem to be popular with the ladies).  This allows for twice as much jewelry to be displayed.

A slot for brochures.  This was trickier than it looks.  The lazy susan bearings have to be reached from underneath to screw them in, so we had to make a removable bottom to be able to access the holes.  It killed me to use metal fasteners for that removable bottom since we always strive for 100% wooden joinery, but I couldn’t see a way around it.  At least the fasteners are not visible.  I’m still noodling around on ways to access the lazy susan without the removable bottom and metal fasteners.  If you have any ideas, leave them in the comments below.

Well, we sold out of the corn hole games, so I need to go tell the elves in the wood shop to get busy!  Now, that’s how to start a business…

What You Need to Know From the World’s Greatest Samurai On Entrepreneurship and Woodworking

The Book of Five Rings
The Book of Five Rings

Santa was very good to us this year.  He brought several terrific books on woodworking that were highly recommended by some of the current big names in woodworking.  One of these tomes, “The Book of Five Rings”, is a popular strategy book written in 1645 (available at Amazon.  Click here for the book), which you wouldn’t normally think of as an entrepreneurship and woodworking book; however, the author and samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, talks about working with wood in his strategy analogies which can be very helpful for entrepreneurs and woodworkers.

So who was Musashi?  He was the founder of the Niten-Ichi-Ryû-School of sword fighting and fought sixty duels, the first when he was 13.  Obviously, someone who fought that many duels with swords and survived, to such an age, is someone that might be worth listening to.  They just might have some skill and wisdom.

“The five ‘books” refer to the idea that there are different elements of battle, just as there are different physical elements in life.”  I’ll share three relevant concepts to the entrepreneur and woodworker here.

Become Proficient With Your Weapons (or Tools)

Musashi’s thoughts on artisanship and strategy are particularly useful:

“The Way of the carpenter is to become proficient in the use of his tools, first to lay his plans with a true measure and then perform his work according to plan.  Those he passes through life.”  Musashi then goes on to talk about the importance of training with weapons every day in order to become proficient.  Likewise, the craftsman must build up many hours of hands-on experience to become proficient.  Along those lines, I’m finding my current set of measuring tools are not up to the task as I continue to become more accurate.  For example, using the English system with 1/16 inch increments is just proving to be inefficient when I have to continually add or subtract 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 inch etc.  It’s much easier to do everything in the metric system which increases accuracy because there is less chance of making an adding or subtracting error.  In addition, a millimeter is finer than 1/16 inch which increases precision even more.  That’s why I’ve been gradually acquiring metric rulers and squares and using them more often.

“Like a trooper, the carpenter sharpens his own tools.  he carries his equipment in his tool box, and works under the direction fo his foreman.  he makes columns and girders with an axe, shapes floorboards and shelves with a glance, cuts fine openwork and carvings accurately, giving as excellent a finish as his skill will allow.  This is the craft of the carpenter.”  Musashi brings up a great point here.  It is so tempting to keep working away on a piece when you know you should stop and sharpen the tool, but who wants to stop when you’re making progress and having fun?  In the long run, it will take less time to take a break and sharpen that tool.

Develop Correct Strategy

“The comparison with carpentry is through the connection with houses.  Houses of the nobility, houses of warriors, the Four houses, ruin of houses, thriving of houses, the style of the house, the tradition of the house, and the name of the house.  The carpenter uses a master plan of the building, and the Way of strategy is similar in that there is a plan of campaign.  If you want to learn the craft of war, ponder over this book.  The teacher is as a needle, the disciple is as a thread.  You must practice constantly.”  Probably the most important step in designing a project is to listen to your client (we talked about that in our last post, Traughber Design and Nomades Collection Team Up!) and question them to understand what their vision is.  The next most important is to think through your strategy before shaping a single piece of wood.  This will save much time in the long run.  We see this continuously in woodworking.  It is imperative to have a strategy and plan for piece.  For example, without a cut list the woodworker will continually be shuttling back and forth from teh wood shop to the wood dealer.  I solid plan and cut list will ensure one trip for material and more time spent on the craft.

Another tie to strategy is that the enemy’s actions require the good strategist to adjust.  Likewise, the woodworker needs to adjust their strategy as the work progresses.  I recently finished a serving tray for Mrs. Woodworker.  We got a fine piece of mulberry from fellow woodworker, Jacob Hummitzch (thanks Jacob), and when Mrs Woodworker had seen the raw board (see the post , the original dimensions we had discussed were out the window because the mulberry has so many interesting patterns in it.  What I thought was going to be a simple rectangular board finished with a food-safe oil, is now going to be much different.  Mrs Woodworker wanted to keep at least one live edge, so then I had to think of a different finish to preserve the live edge.  In addition, we followed the  circles of the grain at one end, versus making 90 degree corners.  The woodworking strategy needs to be adjust to the wood, just as a military campaign strategy needs to be adjusted to conditions on the battlefield as Musashi writes.  For more on this read our post about Entrepreneurship, Woodworking, and Clausewitzian fog and friction.

Conquer Oneself

Musashi’s thesis is that “a man who conquers himself is ready to take on the world, should need arise”.  This is very useful advice for entrepreneurs.  If someone wants to scale up their enterprise, they need to get their personal leadership skills in order to be a good boss.  Leadership in an entrepreneurial enterprise is the same as leadership in the military, according to Musashi:  “The foreman carpenter must know the architectural theory of towers and temples, and the plans of palaces, and must employ men to raise up houses. The Way of the foreman carpenter is the same as the Way of the commander of a warrior house.”

“The foreman carpenter allots his men work according to their ability.  Floor layers, makers of sliding doors, thresholds and lintels, ceilings and so on.  Those of poor ability lay the floor joists, and those of lesser ability cave wedges and do such miscellaneous work.  If the foreman knows and deploys his men will the finished work will be good.”  In many cases, the supervisor can do the work, but should he/her?  In doing the work themselves, the supervisor is taking away an opportunity for subordinates to develop.

“The foreman should take into account the abilities and limitations of his men, circulating among them and asking nothing unreasonable.  He should know their morale and spirit, and encourage them when necessary.  This is the same as the principle of strategy”

I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into a Samurai’s view of woodworking and entrepreneurship.  Check out the book, when you get a chance.