Fail in the direction of your work

When I was 21 the need for summer work—along with the idea that it was a bad ass job—led me into logging. No matter what part of logging you were involved in it was damn hard, dangerous work. Logging was an introduction to mortality and living large in community with unforgettable characters and for the next 15 years, it funded much of my art work.

I learned more than a few lessons my first summer of choker setting. “Over boxcars and under cables” was the first lesson. I began as most greenhorns do setting chokers on a high lead show. High lead is a way of pulling logs from the place they are cut to a truck loading area with a tower and cables. It is running up and down dragging 11/4 inch by 30 foot choker cables to wrap around logs and always on steep hills. Once the chokers are set, a whistle on the tower sounds and the logs are pulled up the hill to the landing where the chaser unhooks them and the cables are run back down the hill. This is a simplified explanation of what happens but you can imagine large cables with heavy steel bells swinging above your head and logs up to 5 feet in diameter being jerked up the hill.

As a logger “Fall in the direction of your work” is the one lesson that stuck with me. Falling is part of the job. There were more ways to fall down than most people can imagine and not a lot of sympathy if you do. Working in tangled brush and debris is a constant struggle especially on steep ground. Your clothing not only identifies you as logger, it is practical for that environment. Pants are cut off at top of your caulk boots to keep you from catching on stobs and slipping on logs or bad branches. When you do fall, you are part way there if you fall toward your next choker set.

As artists, I tell my students to fail in the direction of their work. When we fail in the direction we want to go, we are still ahead of where we were before. If we are trying and failing, we are continuing to move forward to our goal. Failure means knowing one way that doesn’t work so we are still gaining. If you don’t fail, it means you were never moving in any direction. We gain nothing by playing it safe and we never learn as much from success as we do from failing in the direction we want to go. Take the risk and if you fail, do it in the direction you want to go, towards the goals that matter to you. You won’t miss much of life living by this mantra.

4 comments

That picture taken in Gallup?

Monticello Utah a very long time ago Brian – The highway has been renamed, I was told because they were tired of people stealing the signs.

There was a highway 666 leading from Gallup northward to Farmington that I travelled quite a lot back in the day. Lots of open road and empty space going through or near the Navajo reservation. Lots of bad wrecks out there at night. They’ve since renamed it as well. Possibly for the same reason.

Thanks Ray. I can relate to this in my personal experiences in and out of Photography. I did go through a long period where it felt like I was not progressing but whenever I brought it back to 2 basic subject Ideas I suddenly felt like I was progressing again.

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