When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually say I build trumpets, but that is only 20% true. I spend the other 80% of my time in support roles developing new concepts, learning new technology, learning in general, building production processes, jigs, machinery, training co-workers, practicing and performing the horns I build, prototyping, research and even a fair amount of time developing ideas and products outside the realm of music. Going over last year's numbers, I see that I've put in just over 4200 hours and was paid almost $25,000 in wages. So I made close to $6 an hour last year, the highest I've ever been paid by Harrelson Trumpets to date!
So why do I do it? Nearly everyone I know makes more than I do with the exception of my sister who is a stay at home mom and cake artist. Friends, colleagues and customers often have the attitude that I have it made as if I have piles of money stuffed in every crevice of my tiny studio apartment. Hundreds of customers ask for discounts every year claiming they can't afford a new horn, mouthpiece or trim kit. Really? I tend to believe almost anyone in the US could save $100/month for two years and buy a new Bravura on sale. Am I really asking too much with pricing high efficiency horns lower than Bach and Yamaha? Seriously, I make six dollars an hour :)
I do it because I love the process of creating something new. Developing an idea that is a solution to a problem, taking it through the thought process for a few days or weeks, then planning a prototype production scenario, cutting parts, messing it all up and starting over several times only to finally get it right and play or hold the finished, now tangible, idea in my hands. This is very fulfilling, this is what life is all about for me and I did it for less than $1/hour the first two years of HT with a smile on my face. Life isn't about money, though it is in some part about paying the bills. In the end, enjoying fulfilling work and balancing that with friends and family is what it's all about. I have no desire to make a fortune doing anything for the sake of money. And if I do someday make a good wage, I'll likely start more ideas some of which will be philanthropic. I like to think that sacrificing my own profits, time and ideas while offering a significantly better tool to fellow musicians is at least a tiny bit good for the world if not the spouses of all the trumpet players who swear less often!
Not to say I haven't been tempted to do something completely different. On many occasions, like after someone gets angry over an extended timeline and demands a refund, I have considered closing shop and moving into the aerospace industry. Standing Wave Efficiency applies to almost everything and the efficiency of jetliners interests me a great deal. I am certain fuel consumption on take offs could be reduced by more than 30% saving everyone a ton of money, oil, pollution and noise while shortening runways. I'm guessing even playing some small part in that kind of savings would pay more than my current wage and the challenge could be a lot of fun.
Maybe after I re-establish my playing career and automate most of my production line, I'll stop offering so many options and artwork. That would give me time to work on bigger problems that interest me and could benefit more people in the world. Either way, I feel a bit lucky to understand that working with physical objects in a physical world is truly more satisfying than any desk job. It's funny that Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) makes a living demonstrating the values, benefits and joy in physical labor. We are human, with hands, arms and legs, strong backs and minds with the capacity to physically change our world, so why are we sitting in front of computer screens?!
If you still don't understand why I love working for $6 an hour, I challenge you to try any or all of the following...
1. Sell your tv (all of them)
2. Make a list of things you would like to physically change in your world (anything really)
3. Devote at least 10 hours a week to working through your list documenting your progress somewhere other people can observe (this is important)
4. Recruit others to work on bigger projects with you
5. If you see a real opportunity, consider selling or donating your results (this will allow others to physically test and critique your work so you can improve the process/product)
6. Do what interests you and challenge yourself to learn new skills along they way
7. Last thing, don't start with a project that is unreasonably difficult (building a trumpet or a homemade car may not yet be in your skill set, start with something easier)
8. Have fun
9. Share your creations here please
10. Break the rules!
I don't really understand my stream of thought today, but it's time to mill some trumpet art!