Sometimes the accidental becomes interesting and leads to something unexpected. With thoughts of all those new graduates out there tackling big life decisions, we asked a few Storey authors to share the chance occurrences, missed opportunities, messy mishaps, daily struggles, and unplanned detours that they wouldn’t want to trade in.

A few of the beautiful data-input mistakes made by Sam Gershman, a neuroscientist, while he was at MIT

A few of the beautiful data-input mistakes made by Sam Gershman, a neuroscientist, while he was at MIT. Image © Sam Gershman, excerpted from Your Idea Starts Here.

I had just made the hard decision to leave my internship design position for work as a graphic designer at a super-cool design studio in New York City. At about 10:30 a.m. on my first day, the creative director — who had been friendly and nice in my interview — started yelling loudly in the open-loft office, berating everyone over some design work that wasn’t done properly. It was awful. I sat at my desk and thought, “I can make the call and ask for my old job back.” But I didn’t. “You’re not a quitter,” I said to myself. “Just stay.” And I did. It was my biggest mistake. It took me a while to get to the next job, which led me to a weekend workshop at the Center for Book Arts creating handmade books and eventually led me out of New York City. I had loved books at school and should have never have strayed from them. If it hadn’t been for that bad decision to stay in New York, I might not have made it back to the thing I love to do. — Carolyn Eckert, author of Your Idea Starts Here

During my brief-but-exciting career as a competitive lumberjack athlete, I fell out of a 60-foot tree and was presumed dead. Luckily, I only suffered a pair of shattered ankles, a concussion, and a couple of cracked ribs. While this injury marked the end of my athletic career, it served as the entry point for a less dangerous occupation as a lumberjack sports producer, ultimately landing me gigs with ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games, the Outdoor Channel, and the Stihl Timbersports Series. — Brett McLeod, author of The Woodland Homestead

I never wanted to pursue the career path my college education opened for me —an education I had financed with various part-time cooking jobs. My mother said, “Why don’t you think about writing cookbooks?” “I’m an artist, Mother,” I said. “I would never even consider doing something like that.” Ten years later, I wrote my first cookbook. — Andrea Chesman, author of The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How (and many others)

I decided to write about booze for a living in 1995, when microbrewing was about to flatline and whiskey was an old guy’s drink, and our young family had two toddlers. It was so exciting and rewarding that I only recently realized what a terrible idea that could have been. — Lew Bryson, author of Tasting Whiskey

My greatest mistake is one I repeat constantly, multiple times a day, in fact! It is the mistake of overlooking something important — some beautiful detail of life that is worthy of my attention. Of course, to give anything in particular my attention (a rose, a melody, a friend), I must temporarily ignore other things. This drives me sort of batty, but I manage with the help of a simple image: a fruit tree. If I want any of the fruit on the tree to grow, if I want to deeply experience a few things that are big and sweet and delicious, I need to be good at pruning! — Lea Redmond, author of Knit the Sky

Greatest mistake? It’d have to be when I was canned from my corporate radio disc jockey job. It wasn’t really my mistake, as I was let go (despite earning my highest ratings ever for my employer). But had it not been for their decision, I wouldn’t have decided to ditch that way of life and income, pass on all other radio jobs that came my way, and find the time to pursue what I am now doing for a living: building and designing tiny houses, cabins, tree houses, and forts while traveling the world. So thanks, [big corporate media network]! — Derek “Deek” Diedricksen, author of Microshelters

As a student, I did not count algebra, geometry, and calculus among my friends; studying these subjects always filled me with angst and feelings of failure. As a result, I didn’t pursue a degree in botany, organic chemistry, or the pharmacological sciences — which, given that I was a budding herbalist in the early 1980s, would have greatly enhanced my understanding of the plant kingdom. Instead, I ended up following a more traditional path to becoming an herbalist, studying with a handful of wonderful elder herbalists as well as on my own, experiencing herbs firsthand in my gardens and the woods. — Stephanie Tourles, author of Naturally Bug-Free (and many others)

My biggest mistake (or so I thought) was waiting so long to finally write “my tomato book” — something my wife had been “suggesting” that I do for more than 20 years. Then in 2012, [Storey acquisitions editor] Carleen Madigan came calling, and two years later, Epic Tomatoes was born. In retrospect, this was the best possible timing . . . and my life hasn’t felt quite the same since. — Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes and Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales

I tend to throw myself into projects, often in a big, oversized way. Combine this DIY zeal with my enthusiasm for postmodern homesteading, and the list of “learning opportunities” is huge and mostly humorous. Our heaviest, messiest mistake by far was attempting to build an Earthship root cellar (with dirt-filled used tires stacked like bricks) into the clay hillside behind our house. It didn’t work, but the recovery effort did become something even more grand: our commercial kitchen and fermenting caves. These were the genesis for what I am doing now — teaching the world to ferment, one cabbage at a time. — Kirsten K. Shockey, coauthor of Fermented Vegetables

Storey Digital Editors

We are the staff at Storey Publishing — the crafters, cooks, brewers, builders, homesteaders, gardeners, and all-around DIY-ers who make Storey books.

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