On Answering Why?

In a recent post, Chad Allen (Editorial Director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group) told some of the history of the company where I work.

In 1939 Herman Baker was twenty-eight years old. He had a young family and a steady job working for his uncle, Louis Kregel. Everyone would have expected him to continue in that job, providing for his family and moving up the company ranks.

It was, after all, the Great Depression. Herman was lucky to have a job at all, let alone one in the sweet spot of his passion—books. If I was his friend back then, I would have told him to relax, to enjoy his work and his family.

And what Herman Baker actually did would have floored me.

He quit his job, loaded two hundred books from his own library into a storefront, and placed a sign in the window: “Baker’s Book Store.”

The rest is history. Seventy-some years later the company Herman founded is called Baker Publishing Group, and it is one of the largest Christian publishers in the world.

Chad goes on the search out why Herman did this. What motivated him? And how can we follow what motivates us in the same way?

It was an excellent post and has had me thinking about my own career path.

I love my job. I love the people I work with. I am proud of the things that I do and am ecstatic that even while working retail, I have a consistent schedule with weekends off. But I fell into this job.

I applied to Baker Book House while rising through the ranks at Eddie Bauer, partly because I wasn’t passionate about selling nice clothes, but I knew that I loved books and music. Before that, I fell into a job at Eddie Bauer when I went there to buy a shirt that would be part of my uniform for working at a video store in Middleville. I quit the video store because the management grossly mistreated their employees. I got the video store job just to have something after I discovered that the job that I thought I had at the YMCA camp reverted to the Summer Camp Director after the summer was finished. And before that I was in school full-time with summer jobs at lumber warehouses and in restaurants.

Every step was another happy accident of employment. Now I’ve been at Baker for 8 years, and it has easily been the best job I’ve ever had. The management takes wonderful care of its employees, the work is different everyday, and I feel like I’m doing something needed, that I wouldn’t be easily replaced. But what motivates me?

At the moment, what motivates me in my job is the fact that I am able to provide for my family, that I have time with them, and that I am near to the publishing industry, into which I hope to break soon. So I do think I’m right where I am supposed to be. All the same, thanks Chad for helping me think it through. I am obviously cut from a different cloth from Herman Baker, since I am such a fan of stability over risk-taking, but I am thankful for his risk back in 1939.

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2 responses to “On Answering Why?

  1. Josh, you’re very, very welcome, and thank YOU for this thoughtful, vulnerable post. March on, friend, and Godspeed. Yours is worthy work indeed!

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