Consumer or Creator?

“There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life. The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.”                                                                                                                                           — Richard Rohr, “Falling Upward”

As I move into what is ostensibly the second half of my life, I consider all of the unrealized dreams I’ve carried with me all these years. There are things I always longed to accomplish but never gave myself the freedom to pursue. I am past the midway of my fifth decade on this turn through life and quite often feel that my ship of starry dreams has sailed away, never to return. Given the things I wish to have done, perhaps, I tell myself, it’s too late to start again.

But then, there’s my friend Stacy.

I met Stacy Tyson in grad school. His immediately recognizable drawl and manner of speaking, peppered with colloquialisms, betrayed his upbringing in Corinth, Mississippi. His way is that of a Southern philosopher not given

Yep! That’s me holding my son, Ruben, and Stacy circa. 1995

to pretense. Little did I realize he would come to be a cherished friend and one of the most intelligent people I have ever known personally.

We were enrolled in seminary, where I was preparing for pastoral work. Stacy had his sights set on academia, and he was clearly gifted for such a vocation. There was not another student with his ability to grasp not only theological concepts but ideas encompassing the widest array of disciplines. He is a true philomath.

Before seminary, Stacy had been mentored by another noted Bible teacher who eventually became his father-in-law. Rightly so, Stacy was inspired to be every bit the scholar as his guide and would eventually achieve success as a theologian.

After seminary, we went our separate ways but stayed in touch. Over the next several years, while I had a rocky experience working for various churches, Stacy realized his goal of becoming a teacher and writer in Memphis. Although this was something he was clearly gifted for, as the years passed and he approached his fifties, he felt a gnawing sense of discontent.

Stacy knew he was good at the work he was doing, but started to realize that the work was not all he wanted to do with his life. He had spent years pursuing an academic career because he was good at it. But he had not stopped to consider whether it was good enough for him.

Stacy learned he did not want his life to be about living in others’ shadows. He tried to find something he could do that was truly his own, something for himself.

Stacy has a love for music and had decided, after saving some money, to finally treat himself with a guitar that would be unlike any he had owned before. But, as he began the process of visiting guitar stores, he found that the guitar of his dreams was just that, a dream. All of the guitars Stacy played had a mass-produced, sterile feel. He didn’t want to invest his money in something run-of-the-mill. He wanted something special.

His mother had always challenged him to do difficult things. While he had no trouble as an academician, he knew he also had a lifelong interest in using his hands to build and design. He decided if he couldn’t buy a pre-made guitar to his liking, he would just learn to make one.

So, at the age of 48, Stacy Tyson decided to learn how to make a guitar.

Even though he’d made many things before, he wasn’t sure if he was ready to take on something requiring a particular set of skills. Even if he did get started, would he be able to push through the inevitable roadblocks of self-doubt and the inherent challenge of making a guitar? When he finally got to the end of the process, would it be more satisfying than anything he might have purchased?

Stacy sought guidance from established luthiers like Tom Bill and Robby O’Brien and came up with his plan.

First, he researched the craft of building a guitar to exhaustion. This is where his years of academic training came into play.d713639

Next, he either bought or crafted all of the tools he would need to do the job. Some of the apparatuses he needed weren’t things you could just run and pick up at Home Depot.

The last step was to commit and get started. I followed the journey beginning with Stacy’s first blog post, “The Big (maybe bad) Idea.” You should go check it out sometime for yourself and see what someone motivated by a passion and a willingness to fail miserably can accomplish.

But, Stacy’s story doesn’t end here.

What started as a goal to make a one-off guitar has turned into something far beyond what he expected. Four years after starting his first guitar, Tyson Hand-did Stringed Instruments is moving beyond just a side hustle. He currently has back orders that he likely won’t finish this year.

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”                                                                                                                           — G.K. Chesterton

To put Chesterton’s words in layman’s terms, to be good at something, you have to be willing to suck at it. This is where I will always hesitate.

Unlike Stacy, my own fear of mediocrity and the voices that undermine my creative drive have kept me from even taking the first step. Stacy’s story has inspired me that it’s never too late to start again. He has helped me understand that even at my age, I don’t have to settle for an unsettled life of “what if’s” and “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” regrets.

It’s possible to carve out our own niche and achieve soul-satisfying success. It’s the difference between being a passionate consumer and a passionate creator. Your move.

To learn more about Stacy’s work, visit Tyson Hand-did Stringed Instruments.

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