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My Dad

April 15, 2013

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:20

As time passes, my appreciation for what my father taught me strengthens. He was a successful building contractor, so I was surrounded by tools, materials, and opportunities to make things. And, I took advantage of it. He taught me the right and wrong ways to use tools, the meaning of form, fit, and function, and the importance of precision. He had an eye for quality, especially when making hardwood cabinets and fine furniture. My dad could build almost anything out of wood or metal, so I learned from one of the best, while gaining precious hands-on experience. This helped establish a foundation of understanding and know-how that I’ve enjoyed for more than 35 years.

After graduating from high school and going to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I worked for another building contractor for four years. This work helped pay the bills and get me through the four-year program. Without the previous experience, I probably would have been flipping burgers or bar tending. I was lucky enough to learn even more during this period as I used my hands and head.

In recent years, most of my time has been spent in the office, with travel, snow skiing, hiking, biking, and other recreational and family activities. Maybe someday, I will set up a proper shop with space and tools. In the meantime, I would not trade my hands-on experience for anything.

Children growing up on farms and in rural areas get their hands dirty and learn how to fix things—something that does not happen as much in cities. As urbanization continues around the world, fewer young people are given the chance to learn how to work with tools and materials. For this reason, I’m happy to watch the recent maker movement unfold. Hacker and maker spaces are popping up in many communities here in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Shanghai Government Technology Committee (Shanghai, China), for example, initiated the launch of 100 community hacker spaces and “innovation houses” more than a year ago.

For communities and countries to prosper, it’s important for them to create products of value from materials of much lower value. This helps to create a thriving economy. My father indirectly taught me this, although I didn’t quite get it at the time. Service industries are important, but they only move money from one pocket to another. Making stuff creates wealth and prosperity—something I value more now than ever. Thanks, Dad.