Bad days make the best stories.
After going to Roberto -Venn I tried college for a semester. I was 19 and done studying and wanted to work. I left in January and moved into this garage. Not the seedy apartment above the garage, just the garage of the seedy apartment. I had a need to feel responsible for my outcome. I wanted to feel my feet firmly planted on the bottom of the barrel. I thought it could be a shortcut, maybe it was, but it was 18 years ago.
I couldn't afford a shop space and a place to live, so I put up a curtain in front of a couch and a mini fridge. The tools got the rest of the space. It was -20 outside. I'd crawl into a sleeping bag and put the heated blanket over the back of the couch so I wasn't breathing cold air. I rotated bathrooms at different grocery stores so they wouldn't get suspicious. I would sneak into the locker room at the college to take showers, including during the summer when they turned the hot water heaters off. Until one day I closed my eyes and and jumped into the shock inducing water, gasped, opened my eyes and saw a rather pissed off football coach. He kicked me out. One night I didn't close the overhead door the whole way and woke up covered head to toe in mosquito bites. Any exposed skin was continuous connected lumps. I slept in the van. I currently have four mosquito zappers at my house.
I rolled tape at 3M. Weekly rotating shift. The strips would be cut onto a 50 yard long conveyor. We stood in front of two winders positioned face to face, each cycle taking 5 strips each. Rapid fire motions - one hand grabs the core while the other grabs the strip, the first grabbing a piece of tape, the next aligning the strip, the next starting the winder. zzzzzzzzzzipppppppp. The paper cuts always ended up under your pinky finger nail. Each person rolled 14,400 rolls of tape per week. For eight months I'd walk back to the garage across the street, open the overhead door and start the heated blanket.
That started a decade of different industrial job in different states. Thousands and thousands of cycles, extruding machines, vinyl mastic, rubber presses, and cut throat managers taught me how to build necessity, efficiency, and consistency. My obsessive artistic side need this stiff beating. It helped me see what I should contribute to musicians years later and how to build a sustainable business around it.
I made guitars for friends. Trying every new idea. Getting things out of my system. I didn't know what to do so if it felt like the hard way that's the direction I headed. A friend at the time got me Dr. Seuss' book 'The Places You'll Go' and scribbled personal notes in it. I'd flip back and forth believing them over the years. I still have it. It was exciting and adventurous and exhausting and unhealthy. It created a survival mentality that started Mule. The same survival mode has cost me in decisions and in my personal life. Two sides of the same coin. Suffering is a teacher and most of us either avoid it completely or embrace it as part of our identity. Success is in the balance.