What You Are, What You Were

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By Kirk McCarley

What did you like doing when you were a kid?

What You Are What You Were

When working with individuals contemplating career decisions, life coaches often seek a recollection of talents and interests when they were young. The past is prologue in giving us insight and direction into our future paths.

That has certainly been the case for me. Several days ago I ran across an article about how my hometown of Fort Worth, Tex., has capitalized on the Trinity River, developing it into a centerpiece for a variety of festivals and events. Fort Worth, like many cities with river frontage, spent years battling floods, pollution and indifference before harnessing the resources to develop it into an asset. More later.

As I remember, my good buddy and I were a couple of bored, likely desperate, 15 year olds when we came across the trunk of that Sycamore tree. It lay curbside, ready for waste pickup, to be chopped, shredded, burned. Nine or 10 feet long, it was what remained of a relatively healthy plant, taken down for purposes of either new development or over-encroachment. The wheels of calculating young minds began spinning, perhaps hearkening back to the fortitude of pioneers before our time. We’d build a canoe!

I don’t honestly remember how that piece of timber was lugged to his backyard, but by the end of that day we were already preparing for the challenge before us: how to hollow it out. The first approach was primitive: picks, axes, planers, hand saws, sanders.  All relatively safe for use by teens, yet slow, imprecise, and ineffective. Stymied, yet nonplussed, we next deployed a chemical technique using gasoline and “controlled” burning. The trunk was resolute. Finally, we happened upon more sophisticated technology–a chainsaw. At last serious headway was achieved. Although many more hours of diligence and determination would follow, the project eventually reached its terminus. A few weeks later we took our invention out for a test launch; with the bracing of a pontoon it actually floated. Now what?

The year before the inaugural Trinity River Festival of 1973, we learned a boat race would take place on that same body of water on Labor Day. Circle the date Sept. 4, 1972. We didn’t win that day; neither did we finish last. We garnered a second place award for most creative vessel, yielding to a couple of guys in a corrugated metal bathtub. As I chuckle remembering that time years ago, the endeavor offered some takeaways:

  • Determination. We could have stopped after the first set of splinters. Tweezers remedied the discomfort.
  • Creativity. Visioning. Pondering.
  • Resourcefulness. Environmentalists we were long before it was popular.
  • Cooperation. Teamwork.

What “floated your boat” back in the day? Was there a predilection towards art or music? Building things? How does that transfer to vocation? Though it might not be art, per se, is there a talent with landscape or interior design? Were you the one who put together the “pick up” games? There is a need for those who have a skill for organizing human and material resources. Though we now both live in different parts of the country, my friend and I still communicate regularly. Furthermore, tongue in cheek and mostly between ourselves, we would still like to think we were the impetus behind what became Mayfest in Fort Worth.


With more than 30 years of executive leadership experience in both public and private sector environments, Kirk McCarley assists others in pursuing career and personal transitions. A graduate of the University of North Texas, Kirk is a Certified Professional Coach as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and SHRM-CP Certified.  He also is a Production Assistant for both college football and basketball for ESPN and leads group cycling classes as a Certified Spinning instructor. Contact kirk@theseedsowercoach.com,  theseedsowercoach.com, or call  314-677-8779.

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