I love diners – always have. You can eat whatever you want whenever you want. There’s no, “we stop serving breakfast at ten.” I can pop in for eggs over easy and bacon charred to a crisp (the way I like it) at 3pm or 3am.
Who knew that these culinary establishments would be trendsetters? I read about today’s “Open Talent Economy,” and think that economy du jour is perfect for those of us aged 50+ who wish to work at what we want when we want.
Deloitte has a nifty report, explaining the nuts and bolts of an “Open Talent Economy,” and Elaine Pofeldt writes in Forbes, Traditional Jobs Keep Fading, and It’s Time to Adapt.
This is good news for the legions of 50+ year olds who are out of work, many of whom statistics demonstrate can basically forget about getting hired for a full-time job.
But the remarkable, true story, “On the Contrary: Taking a Tip From Sawbones’s Career,” shared by Susan Jepson, Director of the National Senior Network, SCSEP, in Lowell, Massachusetts, brings to life just what it means to be multi-talented in today’s economy.
I was rushing through the white-tented terminal at Denver International Airport when my attention was diverted by a storefront massage business. Checking my wristwatch, I calculated that I had just enough time for a 20-minute massage.
I settled onto the light gray vinyl chair and placed my face inside the cushioned headrest. The massage therapist introduced himself. “I’m Lee,” he said. “But friends call me Sawbones.”
He must have seen the cartoon question mark floating above my head in an imaginary white bubble — Sawbones? — for he went on to tell me about himself.
Digging his thumbs into the back of my neck, Sawbones explained that massage was a new line of work for him.
“Do you like it?” I asked.
“Yes ma’am,” he said, revealing a slight rancher’s drawl. “I get to meet interesting people, especially here at the airport. A few weeks ago, I massaged Timothy McVeigh’s lawyer, who was on his way to the execution…He was a little tense.”
Although that demanded a smart-alecky response, I could not think of one fast enough. Instead. I asked Sawbones if he worked only at the airport.
“No ma’am,” he said, I also have an office by the Stock Show Complex. I have another business. “Custom cowboy hats.”
“ The cartoon question mark made another appearance.” Cowboy hats?”
“Yes ma’am. I sell them at the Grizzly Rose, the country-western bar on I-25.”
I inhaled the rosemary scent of the massage oil and debated whether to prod Sawbones for more information. Since I was unlikely to meet another cowboy-hat-maker masseur in the near future, I asked him if his massage business was growing.
“Yes ma’am. See, I massage horses, too.”
“Horses?” I asked, feeling like I was being sucked down a conversational rabbit hole.
“Yes ma’am. Horses like massage. They can get testy though.”
“I’ll bet,” I said, picturing a blond Palomino lying hooves up on a massage table.
As Sawbones kneaded my upper arms, he asked what I did for a living.
“I’m a writer,” I said. Actually, I didn’t say that because just then, his fingers pushed my head into the headrest, making my answer sound more like “Imamiffer.”
Sawbones was unfazed. “Really?! I’m a writer, too!” he exclaimed, as if we were distant cousins meeting at a genealogy conference. I write scripts!”
“Yes ma’am. See I also perform in Wild West shows.”
The rabbit hole was getting deeper by the second. “What kinds of things are in your shows?”
“Shoot-outs. Stuff like that. I have a friend who looks like Abraham Lincoln. He’s gonna be in our show tomorrow night.”
Now, I’ve never been that great at history, but it seems to me the Lincoln didn’t have that much to do with the Wild West. I was about to ask Sawbones how Abe figured into his act when he pulled my arms behind my back and away from my body like he was dressing a chicken.
Soon, our 20 minutes was up, and Sawbones handed me his business card: ”Massage,” it read. “For Horses and Humans.”
“Just for future reference,” he added, “I also do home massage. It’s only 50 bucks, and I bring my own table, oil, and CD’s.” I accept the card graciously, even though I was fairly certain I’d never pay a man named Sawbones to tote oil and soft music into my house.
It’s been a week since my encounter with the custom-cowboy-hat-making, Wild West show performing, horse- and – human massage therapist, and I can’t get him out of my mind.; The more I think about Sawbones, the more I think he is ideally suited to today’s work world. He’s adaptable, multi-talented, enthusiastic, and independent. Think about it. They say people in their twenties today can expect to have seven different careers. Sawbones has all seven at once.
Now, I know there are people who might find Sawbones a little lowbrow and unfocused. But to me, Sawbones is wise. He can work indoors or out. He has built-in job security. The bottom could fall out of the cowboy-hat market and Sawbones would still make it in the world.
To check my impressions of him as a poster child for the new economy, I referred to Career Intelligence: The 12 New Rules for Work and Life Success, by Barbara Moses, Ph.D. Here are a few of them:
1. Ensure marketability: Sawbones has not one but seven fallback positions. He has a broad network of contacts. And, with a slogan that reads “Healing the West one massage at a time,” Sawbones clearly knows what creative marketing is all about.
2. Be able to communicate: In the space of 20 minutes, Sawbones managed to sell me on his talent, enthusiasm, business, savvy, and manners. I haven’t been called ma’am so much since I invited a vacuum cleaner salesman into my house—something you should never do under any circumstances.
3. Think income streams, not salary: By calculations, Sawbones has at least six income sources, all in which include the potential for tips.
In fact, Sawbones has already figured out what many of us spend our entire careers learning: how important it is to always try new things. “Ma’am,” he said, “I do all these things because I promised myself I would never do the same boring thing all day long.”
Now, most people I know have said this same thing to themselves at one time or another. But the difference between Sawbones and most people is that he is not afraid to tackle new challenges. Think about him the next time you’re confronted with a new opportunity.