Navigating the Jobocalypse: What’s in Your Tool Bag?

It’s a bit hard to nail down, but I’d say that 2007 is the year I began to take my craft and my business seriously.  I first worked on myself (my attitude, my beliefs, my goals) and then I made changes to my work.  I watched thinker-types on Ted Talks and YouTube.  I read a lot of books and immediately applied a few key concepts.  I listened to ideas, internalized them, and expanded upon them to fit my world.  Finally, I repeated a few key reminders to myself until they became ingrained in my mind.

Here’s a list of the best from each category:


Seth Godin –

  • He says, “Be remarkable.”
  • He also says, “Don’t be the best; be the only.”

James Altucher –

  • In his article “Three Trends for the Next 50 Years,” Altucher writes: “What was popular in the past will be popular for at least as long in the future… what was popular in the past will improve.” I applied this concept to how I’m innovating my ancient tradecraft of dry stone with modern design and bringing it into the 21st century.
  • He talks about the emerging trend of an “employee-free society,” which I discussed on the podcast.




Jason Silva –

  • On his YouTube channel Shots of Awe, Silva talks about the “adjacent possible,” originally presented by Steven Johnson in an article for The Wall Street Journal. This concept made me realize that I need to hold the long view on what I’m doing right now, and I disciplined myself to do so.
  • “Now” is a circle I stand in right now. When I intend to do something that arises from a seed-thought, action is the necessary next step–no action, probably no results. The “ring” around my “now” circle is the future adjacent possibility of results or outcomes that arise from the action I took in the “now” circle. Now, I’m “in” the new “ring” so to speak. These “rings” are somewhat infinite in my mind and are all possibilities adjacent to the previous ring. Two years or six rings from the “now circle” would have been unimaginable from the initial “now” circle where my seed-thought arose.
  • So, when I put 100% of my best self forward from the “now” circle, I know that the future adjacent possibilities will be awesome, but maybe or probably not in the ways I had imagined from the “now” circle back there. This concept is not suited for people who crave 100% certainty at all times. For those who are comfortable with uncertainty or who need a degree of it in their lives, the “adjacent possible” concept possesses a high degree of satisfaction and excellent returns.

Grant Cardone –

  • “Grind while they rest. Study when they party. You will live like they dream.”
  • I have this quote by Grant printed on a poster-sized photo that my wife, unbeknownst to me, took of me while I was standing in front of my computer in early 2016 after a long winter day of work. I was covered in stone dust from cutting a bunch of stone with a grinder.  I was on a conference call finalizing the content for a new website that would showcase my new idea – A Consortium of Craftsmen.  A few months later, I landed the biggest project of my life, far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  But I was ready because I did the hard work early on.  We start building it on May 1st, 2017.

The 3 C’s Platform I created is directly influenced by Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class.

  • Creativity – I’m part of the Creative Class and I treat my trade as both an art/craft to be respected and a serious business.
  • Collaboration – Collaboration absolutely ensures a future of success for me and for the others I collaborate with. Collaboration leads to success because our species evolved from our ability to cooperate. We did not evolve from setting out solo. In my collaboration structure – a consortium of craftsmen, innovators, and thinkers called The Throughstone Group – we build upon the others’ designs until we have the best possible idea to present to our clients. Choosing collaboration requires one to push aside baseless fears and an attitude of scarcity. Instead, one opens up to the possibility of unexpected results, such as more abundance than expected, personal growth, and simply the enjoyment of working with others to accomplish a shared goal.  After I started the consortium in early 2016, we landed a 7-figure project within 6 months.  If I had not set up this consortium, I would not have been able to take on the entire project, because each member brought unique services and capabilities to the project that the client requested.
  • Communication – Communication skills are absolutely critical, necessary and will set you apart from the others. Most people possess very poor communication skills.


  • “Embrace the suck!” – United States Marine Corps
  • “Be humble. Be grateful.  Speak the truth.  Expose fakery.” – Me
  • “We humans need more beauty in our lives. So, what drives me onward is the motivation to design and build the most beautiful spaces, experiences and things possible.” – Me

BONUS: Resources:

American College of the Building Arts – Charleston, SC

A note from Simeon Warren (The Chair of Traditional Masonry):

The college was set up to compensate for the lack of serious training for craftspeople in the U.S.  Technical colleges and high schools used to teach trades as a path. This system has been destroyed over the last 60 years. The academic system has let down people who learn with their hands as well as their minds. ACBA was built to subvert what has become the pathway developed by the academic system, in effect entering the system that has rejected craftspeople and reimagining what tech schools were originally built to achieve after the world wars. This does not negate new apprenticeships, new high schools from developing training systems.  Rather, it allows young people to find a path that has been closed. We have to develop pathways for people to find avenues to learn high-level trade skills. In recent history, these avenues have been closed off or destroyed. ACBA is part of a four-legged stool. High school, Apprenticeships, College and the Building Industry, but they have to elevate the training, not degrade it.

ACBA was built by craftspeople for craftspeople.

It is a full four year program alongside the development of a new apprenticeship/internship system to feed like-minded students to companies that are crying out for qualified and passionate craftspeople.  Some say “Why a college? Just send them to work.” The problem is that this system killed the development of skilled training and so companies have lost the ability to train to set standards. ACBA has set new standards based on normal skill based practices that the rest of the world still has. Our students do great stuff and gain from learning both practically and academically.

Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation

About the Foundation:

“The mikeroweWORKS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity that rewards people with a passion to get trained for skilled jobs that actually exist. As CEO of the Foundation, Mike Rowe spends a significant amount of time speaking about the country’s dysfunctional relationship with work, highlighting the widening skills gap, and challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people.

Through its scholarship programs, including the Work Ethic Scholarship Program, the Foundation provides financial assistance to qualified individuals with a desire to learn a skill that is in demand. The Foundation has been instrumental in granting more than $3 million in education for trade schools across the country.”

Jon holds a vision that the spaces and structures we humans live in can be alive, beautiful and engaging. They can trigger a daily sense of awe, which creates a flow state. Humans need spaces and structures that cultivate connection with ourselves, with others and with nature. He served in the United States Marine corps; attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and completed a bachelors degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado-Boulder. He studied Spanish, Hebrew and Serbian; and has traveled, lived in, or studied in 22 countries. In 2004, he launched a landscape construction business in Colorado that soon became a dry stone-focused business after he discovered the complexities, challenges, nuances and immense satisfaction that characterize the world of "dry stone." He has designed and built projects in Bluemont, Virginia; Durango, Boulder, and Grand Lake, Colorado; Geysersville, California, Quepos, Costa Rica and all over the Seattle area. His current project is based in Truckee, California and will be completed late in 2017. - Jon's Stonesmith business = - Jon's Facebook = "Heritage Earth & Stone" - Jon's Instagram = "jonaguilar_designworks" - The Consortium of Craftsmen, Innovators & Thinkers = - The Consortium's Instagram + Facebook + YouTube channel (will be online by May 1st) = "Throughstone Group"


  1. GregTHEferret Reply

    I really dig the message from the ACBA and Mike Rowe. I myself am currently enrolled in school for a degree in Automation Technologies but unfortunately I am the last student who will be going through this program as of this year. Due to budget cuts and lack of interest in ANY of the electrical trade programs my school is essentially canning those degrees and only offering an electronics certificate. If it wasn’t for the Mitsubishi plant closing down in our area there wouldn’t even BE an electronic program at my college as many of my classes are 90% comprised of those displaced by the shut down.

    I’m having difficulty even finishing the program because a few of the classes required for the degree do not exist at my school since the cuts. They have offered to grandfather me in and replace those classes with credits in renewable energy. For that I am grateful but its an ominous sign of what the ACBA described as the path for producing skilled trade workers. As this path diminishes I think we are going to see a big crumbling of our infrastructure and quality of products produced here in the US. We will be losing what made this country so great! A place where people can live and grow into a career that challenges you and keeps your thirst for creativity and learning alive no matter where you’re birth certificate says your from.

    But I am fortunate enough to have a job in my field of study. It came about through hard work and dedication while I was in school. I had a career as a mortician in my early adult life. This did not pan out and I was back to minimum wage drudgery. I hated it. I knew I was destined for more. If the cosmos didn’t tell me that my own determination for getting the hell out of that sure as hell did. I noticed the people who were stuck in that minimum wage world didn’t see themselves as anything but that. No ambition. No real direction or propensity to learn and improve. Nothing in their bag of tools except the same old shit they used yesterday. Some were ok with that and others weren’t. I was definitely the later. Choosing to not only improve my minimum wage job, where I soon found myself in a management position. (Hell I was a manager at walmart at the age of 19 while in mortuary college) I chose to change how I worked and learned from the mistakes I made on the job and in life.

    I think that’s the key to being successful. Having the ability to keep the tool box full and adding new tools all the time. Generating the mindset of not EVER being ok with the tools slung around your belt and always looking in every crook and crany for the next thing that will boost your knowledge and productivity and usher your mind into a state of perpetual learning.
    We all have to asses our tool bag and KNOW that its ok when we don’t have the right tool because if we have the right mindset we can jimmy it out of some duct tape and paper clips or hell maybe even invent a brand new tool of our very own!

    Thanks for the post Jon. It’s dudes like you who inspire me to keep plugging away.

  2. Jon Aguilar Reply


    I read your reply two times! Nearly everyone I’ve met in the trades or service sectors (landscaping, etc.) when I was in Seattle or Durango, Colorado (now I’m in Santa Barbara) was looking for at least 1 (and sometimes 6) young people who wanted to work hard, learn a trade and be part of a craft. Everyone was always short-handed. On the one hand young people/young adults lack certain characteristics needed, but this can be overcome with a mental switch and ultimately self-discipline. On the top end, companies/small biz owners/ tradesmen need to think about switching their own perspectives and offering up informal or formal apprenticeships, living wages (not minimum wage) and view this group as the future contributors. Demand a lot from them, but treat them as an asset worth investing in.

    Also, I think the dearth you speak about in training and all can be filled in by informal apprenticeships with those already in the field working. So, young people should start seeking out and asking for the opportunity. Get hungry and go hunting. One of my returning apprentices (Gilland) emailed me after a Google search in 2015 and because he asked intelligent questions and for the opportunity to work on just one project I brought him in on the Colorado Moongate Project for 5-1/2 months. I needed him. This year, he’s returning for another 5 month project with a pay bump too.


  3. GregTHEferret Reply

    I think this whole college system is ruining good trade jobs. My guidance councilor told me I needed to go to college because she didn’t want to see an intelligent person like me be a plumber or HVAC tech. That was the day I lost my faith in the system. My dad’s an HVAC tech. Has been in the business almost 30 years and he’s the smartest dude I know and can do anything he puts his mind too. Wood working, electrical, fixing cars and working metal all skills he taught himself. For her to tell me smart people don’t become technicians pissed me off.

    So what did I do? Haha I became a mortician. The road to becoming a mortician was tough. The two years of schooling required in Illinois is rough. But I did it. Fulltime school and full time walmart. It got me through. When I finished I felt like I knew NOTHING of being a mortician even though I did quite well in school. And I didn’t know shit. I got an apprenticeship through a funeral home. I don’t get how they call it an apprenticeship if I had to go to school first but that’s the state of Illinois for you. The state required an “apprenticeship program” for a year to become licensed. But what I learned on the job outweighed just about everything I learned in school. I worked pretty damn hard, mainly focused on the embalming aspect as I really hated collecting the money from poor families who could hardly pay for the most basic funeral.

    I thought to myself, “Why the hell did I have to spend two years and thousands of dollars and then another year and hundreds of dollars to the state when I could have just learned this shit by jumping in?” Embalming isn’t rocket science but it is science. Not hard but it takes attention to detail and a bit of basic algebra and some knowledge of anatomy. All of which could be taught SOOOO much better on the job rather than the 4 times I got to help dissect a cadaver in school while 15 other students crowded around and basically learned nothing from that experience. It dawned on me that school is a racket and the government is using it as a way to make money off poor kids who probably won’t pay off those government loans without a hefty amount of penalties and interest. It’s even worse because you can’t bankrupt out of it. You’re stuck with it forever. And they want you to be!

    So with that in mind I taught myself the basics electronics before even entering school and I’ve breezed right on through. And now I have a job. You could call it an informal apprenticeship. I’m learning as I go. I’m willing to teach myself the shit schools aren’t or aren’t able to teach. Growing in my career while still in school. Being groomed to be head of our panel shop and be the lead installer once I’m done with school.

    All this because I had the forethought to look for trends in industry and arm myself with as much knowledge as I can. My tool belt is pretty damn full right now and it feels good.

    Haha sorry if I’m wordy. I’m from central Illinois and I have a really hard time trying to find good conversation with people who don’t just want to talk about lifting their damn truck…

  4. Garth Schultheis Reply

    Wonderful Jon Aguilar. So proud of you! This is very cool. I love how you found your niche and are enjoying the creation and building of your dreams. Go big!

    1. Jon Aguilar Reply

      Garth, Didn’t know you are an MMA fan?! Cool. Thanks. Working hard to do what I love and really hoping to inspire young teens and young men to envision a different future with multiple options for themselves.


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