The Dying Art of the Skilled Trade: The Importance of Working With Our Hands

Reader Contribution by Destiny Hagest

The age of the entrepreneur is dividing us into two classes of beings – the digital trailblazer, and the heart and soul craftsman. On one hand, you have a limitless arsenal of information at the disposal of the masses, and with it, people are turning soft skill sets into full-scale digital empires, hawking their services and establishing their brand.  

(Yep, that’s me.) 

On the other though, you have a group of people that I for one, am far more inspired by – the group that has or is acquiring tactile skills, and producing real tangible products for everyday life. They’re taking their passions, and turning them into businesses – a leap of faith, in the hopes that the everyday consumer might be able to look past the white noise of constant commercialism to see the beauty in the handcrafted, and the value in the workmanship that goes into crafting these products.



Carpenters, builders, plumbers, farmers, cooks – they’re taking their hands, and applying them to something real, and they’re a dying breed in today’s society.

Do We Know How to Build Anything Anymore?

There’s a growing concern about the massive disconnect in what was once generational information. Thirty or forty years ago, it was pretty commonplace for grandparents and parents to pass on basic carpentry and culinary skills to their kids. Little boys and girls spent afternoons in their grandparents’ workshops amid piles of shavings, and warnings of sharp objects, listening raptly to the instruction being given, watching closely at every stroke of a saw and turn of a rolling pin.

Over the years, it seems something changed – the family dynamic shifted, people got busier, and the tools got set aside, forgotten about while parents spent extra hours in the office, and the kids took to extracurricular activities to close the gap.

It’s nobody’s fault, and it’s certainly not an act of wrongdoing – it’s just the nature of the modern lifestyle. No longer does a family’s focus lie on the function of a household; it’s all outsourced to plumbers and builders and painters and frozen dinners.

We don’t need to know how to change our oil, because it’s only $30 at the local Pep Boys. We’ll just replace every torn piece of clothing, instead of learning to mend them. Why would we learn to can, when you can get 64 oz of canned tomatoes for $1.49?

The marketplace expanded, international trade provided cheap labor, and products left the mom and pop workshops of the US to be slapped together in enormous factories half a world away, and the world hummed on like it always does. With each passing generation, the information became more diluted, less practiced, and before we realized it, we became a populace without any tangible skill sets.

We’re Taking Back Our Skills

A lot of people don’t know this yet, but there’s hope on the horizon – these skills are making a comeback. The new generation of movers and shakers are casting aspersions about what they’re supposed to be doing to the wind, and while they’re working their 9 to 5’s, they’re honing skills and crafts that do more than pay the bills – they sustain a family.


Millennials are taking to homesteading in droves, capitalizing on their endeavors and ideas with online course materials, and building online businesses around their innovations. They’re practicing and spreading these skills, and passing them down to their own kids, and slowly, the paradigm is shifting.

With every new hurdle that is encountered, a new skill is learned. Months ago, they picked up a tool they had never used, and now they’re building a fence with it, they’re cutting firewood with it; they’re expanding their skill sets, and giving them practical applications in everyday life, as it should have been all along.

A Well-Fed Industry Will Survive the Market

So how do we keep the ball rolling? How do we keep our society interested in learning real, tangible skills while the calling for digital revenue streams beckons so strongly? We keep them in business.

If you don’t have the time or capacity to build and learn these dying skills, support those that are honing them and keeping their craft alive.

Instead of buying your preserves from the local big box store, get them from the family farm at the Missoula farmer’s market. Don’t buy your furniture from some far away factory – get it from the little Santa Barbara custom furniture store. Resist the urge to buy the cheap pack of wool blend socks from factories far away, and invest in some from your local shepherd’s flock instead.

Feel the painstaking pride and pleasure put into what you’re buying, and support more than just businesses – support big ideas, and the growth of priceless knowledge.

If we keep these products in demand, if we decide we want something better, then they will do more than survive – they will flourish. The hordes of accountants and programmers will have more than just their technical skills under their umbrella, and we’ll have a prayer of turning the corner into a world where people can take care of themselves, and of each other.

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