Robbie - From Auto Manufacturer, to Blacksmith, to Massage Therapist

Robbie - From Auto Manufacturer, to Blacksmith, to Massage Therapist

#2 - Robbie Berardi 's story of becoming a skilled blacksmith starts when he graduated high school with plans to work at his local gas station. With a number of twists and turns along the way, he was able to train under master blacksmith's in Germany and the United Kingdom. A number of injuries from a variety of jobs kick-started his interest in health and he is now pivoting to take on a new challenge as a Massage Therapist. Take a listen to his story.

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The below transcript is A.I generated with light editing and may not be 100% accurate.

Transcript
Jonathan Collaton:

Good morning, good afternoon. Good evening, everybody, whoever you are and wherever you are welcome to career crossroads. I'm your host, Jonathan Collaton, and this is my podcast where I talk to people about their career paths. We explored the decisions that led them to where they are today and find out if it's what they thought they would be doing when they first set out to figure out what they wanted to do with their days. If you want to hear more about why I chose to create this podcast, go ahead and listen to my eight minute introductory episode where I do a bit of a deep dive into why this topic interests me. This week's guest is my buddy Robbie, who I think of in the same realm as the Dos Equis mascot in that he might just be the most interesting man in the world. As you can tell from the title of this episode. He's a man of many talents, and he unveils even more during the interview. So let's hear what Robbie had to say. Robbie, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.

Robbie Berardi:

Happy to be here.

Jonathan Collaton:

As you know, one of the one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is I think your experiences totally different given the career that I thought you were in. But as I just found out chatting before we started here today, you're now doing something totally different, which is great. That's a that's perfect for the theme of this podcast. But the way that I want to start is by Well, first How do we know each other? And so we used to play volleyball together. We we met after we were both in our careers, whereas a lot of the other people I'm talking to I think are people I knew from university and stuff like that, but you and me met when we were deep into our careers. And we just met through friends playing volleyball.

Robbie Berardi:

Yep, beer league volleyball.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's right. Beer league volleyball. We were good, too. We won a few of those leagues.

Robbie Berardi:

Absolutely. And, we probably thought we were pretty good.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, that's right, that will definitely skew their skew our idea of how good we were. So let's go back a little bit and think back to when you're in high school, say you're 16 years old or so. First, what is it that kind of influenced you and made you the person that you were at the time? Were your parents very influential? Was there a certain like culture you really drifted towards that made you identify with something or what were you like?

Robbie Berardi:

Well, I was in high school. And when I was in high school at 16, I was actually in a band, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

You were in a band?

Robbie Berardi:

A really bad high school band, you know, one of those ones?

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh, 100%. We had the Battle of the Bands every year in high school. And most of those were bad bands.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

What type of music did you guys play?

Robbie Berardi:

We played rock, a lot of rock. And we came up with our own CDs. So we came up with two CDs.

Jonathan Collaton:

All right. Are they like the type of CD that you can only find if you go to a random garage sale somewhere. Like I can't go on Amazon and find the CD I imagined.

Robbie Berardi:

I certainly hope not.

Jonathan Collaton:

Somebody else is making that money then. Okay, so you're in a rock band.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. And the way that I got in there was my guitarist in math class. He didn't have a singer for the band. And he just kind of turned over and looked over at me and said, Can you sing? I said, Well, yeah, my mom says I can sing.

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh, yes.

Robbie Berardi:

He was like you're in

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh fantastic.

Robbie Berardi:

So that's what, what the kind of shape I was, I was playing in a band. We practice maybe three or four times a week. And at the same time, I did a lot Dungeons and Dragons. And I probably skipped quite a bit of school.

Jonathan Collaton:

Interesting, a band and Dungeons and Dragons. Skipping school. Two of those are not like the other, but I'm finding out now more in my 30s that a lot more people are into Dungeons and Dragons than I ever thought were.

Robbie Berardi:

Oh, yeah. It's like everyone's coming out now.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, exactly. Everyone feel safe now that they're, you know, old enough to like, I can admit it. It's something I like. So. All right. And so you and you're from Guelph in Ontario, right?

Robbie Berardi:

That's right.

Jonathan Collaton:

Perfect. So you're in this band, and you're, you know, in high school, what's the plan long term? Is there a plan?

Robbie Berardi:

There was no plan,

Jonathan Collaton:

No plan, aright.

Robbie Berardi:

There was no plan and there was very little inspiration when it came to academics. I was enjoying my time. And I was having a fun time in high school. And then I graduated, and then and I still had no idea what I wanted to do. And to tell the truth, I didn't feel any pressure about it either. So I just started working regular jobs, right, you know, gas station or selling wine, and things like that. I really enjoyed my work at the gas station actually. Because I would work night shift, actually in high school too. And my friends would visit me, you know, two in the morning

Jonathan Collaton:

Ok, I can see the appeal to that.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. I get to play guitar through the night and I wouldn't have too many customers. It was pretty chill.

Jonathan Collaton:

So when you like, how many hours over the course of the night? Like, were you even sleeping before class the next day?

Robbie Berardi:

No, no.

Jonathan Collaton:

Would you go to sleep after school before work?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, I don't know it was such a blur.

Jonathan Collaton:

I mean I know people, there was less sleep I imagine but at some point, you just fall over if you don't sleep, right. So there's gotta been been a point in there. But Alright, so you enjoy working at the gas station, you get to play your guitar, just the band still active post high school?

Robbie Berardi:

For a little bit for a little bit. It was, but not very long. And and then I was like, oh, wow, okay, what am I gonna do now. And my dad actually took my resume. And he dropped it off at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Cambridge, which was a little bit of a drive for me, but not too long, maybe about 20 minutes or so. And for about eight months, I

Jonathan Collaton:

So like, that's a long interview process, went through all the different interviewing processes with them. I was like four or five of them. And I had no idea how to get the job. But I did. I got particularly for something where were you, were you aware that he had, like applied for that job for you? Or did it just kind of you get a phone call one day, and you're like, Wait, where I'm interviewing?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, he kind of just like, made the drop off of the resume happen. Because I guess he had a vision for me.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so someone did.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, someone did. So that was really helpful, actually, like, it got me going. And I certainly didn't think I would get the job because it was so long in between interviews. And I always thought that, oh, they decided not to hire me. And then I finally got it. And when I got it, things kind of turned around for me, like my perspective in the future, right, because now, I had a job in which I could actually save money. Right, which opens doors.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. Right. And it's like, that's a plant job. You're working at Toyota. Right.

Robbie Berardi:

Lots of money.

Jonathan Collaton:

And those jobs, Yes. They're unionized. They're good pay good benefits for someone at what like 18, I guess? 19 years old? Something like yeah, at the time. Yeah. So that's a pretty good spot to be in.

Robbie Berardi:

It was a wonderful place to be. They actually didn't have a any was would you call benefits? benefits? No. No.

Jonathan Collaton:

No. Union union union there. We worked it out.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, so they actually didn't have a union at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, right. But the pay was really good. And that's really all that mattered to me at the time. And so I took all the overtime hours, I could get 10 hours a day, Monday through Thursday. Friday was a regular that an eight hour day, work Saturdays and the occasional Sunday. And I was just living in my dad's house.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. Right. And so you're putting in a lot hours bank and a lot of money.

Robbie Berardi:

That's right.

Jonathan Collaton:

And you're just living that life with no plan for how long that's going to be no idea of, well, I work for this job for the rest of my life or anything. You're just living in the moment.

Robbie Berardi:

I was living in the moment. But as I was doing it, I started to kind of reevaluate things. Because my goal had become to buy a house and rent it out to tenants. Like my father did.

Jonathan Collaton:

There's some ambition.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. And so it was okay, that would put me in a safe place monetarily. But while I was there, the repetitive nature of the work really left me brain starved. Right. So I ended up taking University classes online. While I was working at Toyota.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, which University was that?

Robbie Berardi:

University of Guelph.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, close to home.

Robbie Berardi:

That's right. And there was no way that I was going to get into university of Guelph with my marks. There was no way I was getting in there. But I found out this kind of backdoor way to get in. And that's if you take for online courses, and you get 80% or higher, then you're just automatically in.

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh, that's interesting. I work at university and I, I've never heard that. I wonder if that's still a way they do things.

Robbie Berardi:

Maybe it's still a thing. Who knows, right? And so I loved the courses, all of a sudden, everything kind of changed around for me academically. And I was super interested. It started with just like reading like philosophy and science books, like while it was working. Because it was something I had to do because again, so repetitive that I would begin to like, divide the day into minutes. Oh, gosh, and how much money am I making this minute? Okay, how much money is this part worth of this car? And if there's this many people working in the plant at this time, how much money are they getting paid? So how much is Toyota making off of each car? And then like it like it would? It would be so many things like that?

Jonathan Collaton:

A different way to occupy your mind.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, exactly. Right. So that's why I had to start taking these courses and I loved it. So I was taking these doing the school work in my lunch hour, my breaks after work and mind you I didn't have much time because I was working 60, 70 hour weeks, right? And plus the commute. So that was my life for a year and a half. And, and then what was happening was I was developing RSI injuries in my wrist. Wrists. And, and so all of a sudden I couldn't move my wrist. So I kind of like, bandaged up my wrists

Jonathan Collaton:

To literally put a bandaid.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. And then, so I was okay. As long as my wrist is immobilized, I feel fine. And then my elbow started hurting. And then, you know, Toyota had their own physios right and and doctors and they're telling me Oh, yeah, you're fine. You're fine, right? Does it work while you're doing the movement does it hurt when you squeeze this? I'm like, No, it doesn't, then you're fine. Okay. I'll go back to work. And then

Jonathan Collaton:

That sounds aboveboard?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, of course. And then, like, as long as my elbows aren't moving, they feel fine. Right? And then my shoulders started hurting. And and then I realized, Okay, wait, maybe something is up. And I got a, talked to my doctor outside of working and he was like, oh, you need an MRI. And so I went and got an MRI and they took a look at my wrist and they're like, oh, wow, your everything is ground down to nothing. And you need to stop whatever it is you're doing right now.

Jonathan Collaton:

And this is that, like 21 years old? Oh, okay.

Robbie Berardi:

21 years old. And so I kind of had to make a choice. At that point. It was okay, I'm just about done my last semester, I will be accepted into this university. I wanted to stay longer. So I could put a down payment on a house and just buy it outright. But I won't be able to do that. But I have enough money saved up to pay for my university.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, good trade off.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. So I quit. And it took me a good year and a half before I could like play guitar again. Right. But it did come back. And just so you know, my wrists are just fine now.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, recovery.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, so recovery while you're young, right. That's good. Maybe I'll pay for what I'm 80. We'll see. But it was worth it. Because I

Jonathan Collaton:

Well at 80 you've had a good long life.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. And so then I got into uni and, and I decided, Well, you know, I'm just gonna enjoy life now. Yeah, I worked hard for this the last two years. And so I took whatever courses I wanted. I didn't even know what major I wanted. When I went in there. I decided upon philosophy eventually, and history and enjoyed those. And I would sleep when I wanted to, which was, that was such an amazing thing after not being allowed, or able to sleep very much for two years. So you begin, you felt very thankful

Jonathan Collaton:

Your university experience sounds totally counter to everyone else. Yeah, I slept all the time I wanted. I was just enjoying life after all this hard work. That's the exact that's how everyone else feels after university.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah yeah. And like, they have like, these wonderful gardens and everything at university of Guelph. So I just spent all my time out there in nature and studying and whatnot. And I love school. And so all of a sudden was completely different from high school, right? And completely turned around, I got a partner. She was also really loved University. And we would just study together, like our idea of romance was studying until two in the morning in the library basement.

Jonathan Collaton:

Nothing's changed.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. So I think that what happened was all of a sudden, I accepted trying hard. Right? Yeah. Because in high school, I figured out why I was in high school. I was afraid that if I tried too hard and failed, that I would be a failure. Right. But when University came, it was like, wow, I'm going to be a failure. Unless I try. So

Jonathan Collaton:

yeah, that's a good way to put Yeah.

Robbie Berardi:

So yeah, I put everything into it. And it turned around all of a sudden, instead of like, you know, 55, average in high school, I had the best grade of my major right for the first year. And I just continued on with that. And while I was in university, I didn't need the money, right. So I just volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in the summers, and I just do that every day in the summer. And the way I was looking at it was as a free apprenticeship. Okay, so I was learning how to build houses. Yeah. Right. And, and to me, it seemed like the best way to learn because A, I don't have to pay for it.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's a really, I like this plan, because I keep thinking about how I want to find a way to like, I would love to buy a cottage and renovate it so that I can eventually renovate a house somewhere. But I also can't afford a cottage so that really doesn't help me. Mm hmm. Yeah, but you found a way to gain a skill set without it costing you anything, because you were financially stable enough to just volunteer your time.

Robbie Berardi:

Exactly.

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh, that's great.

Robbie Berardi:

So money opens doors, definitely. And so I was working at Volunteering. And I guess you could say apprenticing with the construction supervisor. So it's a very intimate, you know, you're working just with the construction supervisor, and learning everything that you can over the course of a long period of time. And so I figured that, you know, I'm not going to get a job in philosophy. So I better learn how to make houses.

Jonathan Collaton:

Now did that only happen once you pick the major and you were into it a bit? Did you then is that when you realize, like, what am I gonna do with this?

Robbie Berardi:

Uh, yeah, yeah, it was like, I mean, and but I felt zero pressure, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

I guess what was the What was the reason then that you wanted to go to university?

Robbie Berardi:

I wanted to just learn that was it. Okay, I had zero post University goals. Right. And all I wanted to do was Learn, learn learn, because I was so brain starved over at Toyota. And so I just went with, essentially with whatever I liked to do, right. And so that was working at Habitat for Humanity, and taking philosophy and history and all these other courses. And then what ended up happening was, Habitat for Humanity said, Okay, well, do you want to work for us? And like, Sure, yeah, that's okay. I guess I'll get paid for this I already enjoy being here. And, and so I would train volunteers and like site safety and stuff like that, and help the construction supervisor, direct the teams, because by then I had worked on a couple houses. And I'd secure tools, and donations from corporations and like, stuff like that.

Jonathan Collaton:

So a bunch of different things, then not just not just building you're working on other things.

Robbie Berardi:

Exactly. It was just whatever they needed. Yeah. Right. And I, and I kind of made my own position, right? Because like, as I was volunteering with them, they're like, this is very useful. Maybe we'll just make a position. And then we get to keep him doing it. Because this is, you know, he's kind of filling in the gaps. That sort of thing.

Jonathan Collaton:

Right. So you very much just put yourself in a position to have something offered to you. Because you were working on something you were interested in.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, exactly. And making myself needed. Yes. Right. And relied on. And, and then a position just happens, right. So that was really wonderful. And then I felt confident that oh, you know, I'll be able to get a job making houses. Or maybe I'll just make my own houses. Because Wait a sec, I still have all this money from Toyota. By the time I graduate, I'm still going to have enough money to maybe purchase a lot and start building a house.

Jonathan Collaton:

You're blowing my mind on the idea. And it makes me I guess, realized to like the difference in housing affordability now versus like, what, 15 years ago or whenever this was for you. And yes, that's unfathomable. Now, yeah, if you could pay the university and then have money left over to go and buy a house or build or whatever.

Robbie Berardi:

Oh, yeah, yeah. Oh, and then I'll just buy a house. You tried and think about that today? I don't think so.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, it's like, I'll spend the next seven years paying off my student loan.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. Right. And so I was feeling comfortable in that regard. Right. Yeah. And then I continue to take whatever I want in university, and then I ended up getting this job at a historical village, Waterloo Region, Museum, Doon, heritage village, in Kitchener. And what the job was, is there's this living history site, right. So it's a village from 1914. And there's a blacksmith shop there. And I really liked that idea. So I got a job there as a student, and I loved it. I loved it. I got to essentially apprentice and learn how to be a blacksmith. So and get paid for it

Jonathan Collaton:

Did they hire you because of your construction skill set though?

Robbie Berardi:

That was part of my selling feature? Yeah, I put that on my resume. They liked that. And also my partner at the time she worked there.

Jonathan Collaton:

So that's how you found that that was an option for you?

Robbie Berardi:

Yes, exactly. Right. And so actually, like, you know, choosing a good partner, like really kind of influences your life, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

Definitely.

Robbie Berardi:

So like, she inspired me to be great in University. She introduced me to this work over at the living history site, right two very influential things in my life, right. And so I love this job that I got. And I just continued the same thing that I did with Habitat for Humanity, I made myself useful. I learned how to interpret like every building that they had their, you know, whether they were in my realm or not, and I was just taking on extra responsibilities. And by the time I graduated university, I had a few different options available for me. I knew that they were interested in hiring me to be the blacksmith as their blacksmith was eventually going to move upwards, right. And at the same time, I felt comfortable in going into construction and I'd made some contacts.

Jonathan Collaton:

I guess I didn't realize like all of this habitat stuff and up to even the beginning of the blacksmith training. That's all while you're still in university.

Robbie Berardi:

That's right.

Jonathan Collaton:

So like summers and weekends or what during the year, were you working there as well?

Robbie Berardi:

Yep. Yeah. Sowhile I was doing my semesters at school, I was also working part time at the village. So it was a constant stream of work, right. But at the same time, like in my early years, and when I would end didn't have a, when I had a full semester of school, I wasn't working. I was making sure that I was just doing school. But then I took an extra year so that I can do less school and work at the same time. Yeah, so, an extra year.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, that a common thing, a lot of people now, I did the same thing, fifth year to try and balance work and school and stuff like that. So I think a lot of people are leaning in that direction, because the academic side of university is great. But you also want to build other skills at the same time. And so in a lot of cases, either volunteering at universities or volunteering outside of the university in your community with Habitat like that, that does take time, but there's value in it. So if you can afford it, it's totally worth it to take that extra time at university so that you can do all these other things. Because it does become much more difficult. Once you're working full time to then just suddenly, like, I'm going to quit, so I can go volunteer for Habitat, that becomes much more difficult once you're already in a full time job.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes. If you have the opportunity in your in your current situation to do stuff like that. Yeah, go for it. Go for it. Because Yeah, once you're in a career, you're in a career.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, definitely. So and so you're getting offered, you have these two of these options in front of you as you're graduating Guelph. And you've got the construction option because of habitat experience, or the potential blacksmith option at the village. So what happened?

Robbie Berardi:

and I was also offered a position as like, doing renovations for another company, through a volunteer that I had volunteered with, right, so I was making contacts that way. But also at the same time, I'd gotten really, really interested in biology and genetics. By the time I was reaching my later years in university. And that was what my my thesis was in. And I got accepted into the master's program with a teaching position in BC. Doing biology and environmental science.

Jonathan Collaton:

I love how much I'm finding out, I had no idea you did this.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. Because again, I was just studying whatever it is that caught my eye. Right, right.

Jonathan Collaton:

But your major, you did a double major in psych in history. Or did that ever switch?

Robbie Berardi:

Or sorry it was in philosophy.

Jonathan Collaton:

Sorry, philosophy. Yeah, history. Yeah. And then so how did you end up doing all this biology genetic stuff on the side?

Robbie Berardi:

It was weird. I just started taking like philosophy, biology, that's how it started. And, and I ended up taking like this Master's Course, in biology. And that's where I wrote my master's thesis. And I ended up being like, a new theory in genetics regarding how our early genetics systems were working, like during the Cambrian explosion, right, hundreds of millions of years ago, right. And that's what I was starting to become very interested in. And my professor really liked the paper and the theory, and he thought that I could go with it through my master's, and just go based off of that theory as my thesis. So basically, I had finished my master's thesis in my undergrad. Right, all I needed was like, another 20 pages or so. And away we go. He was way over the top. Right. Yeah. And so that was also a third option. And then I decided, Well, you know, like, I have this this my partner, right. And, and we want to stay in Ontario, you know, maybe start a life together. And, and so I think I'm going to take this steady career with the region, government job, benefits retirement package, and I get to do an amazing thing be a blacksmith right? So went with that.

Jonathan Collaton:

And this is before forged in fire was a popular TV show, before anyone knew what it was like to be a blacksmith. The Last five years everybody wants to be a blacksmith.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Right. I was doing it before it was cool. Yeah. Which is my forever situation. I can't just be in the cool situation.

Jonathan Collaton:

I guess not. Okay. So you you decide to take the job then as the blacksmith?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. Yeah. Like and like it was it wasn't like the the position was available right away. But they had another position available, which was this water Council, water, children's water Education Council. And so I ended up taking that job. And we were doing a lot of education for regarding water and groundwater and doing a lot of initiatives through the region and also Ontario. And it was a really interesting job. I did that for I think it was like four or five months and then And then a job became available with the museum and the Waterloo Region museum and I got a job there is a senior interpreter, sir, specialist, and I would be teaching the university students how to interpret and teach classes and things like that. And so that was really good.

Jonathan Collaton:

Define interpret, I want to make sure I'm thinkin g of the same thing you are

Robbie Berardi:

Right, right. Okay. So that's like when you have members of the public, visit a museum, and then I go in there and I will give you the history on A, B, or C, within the regional history. And things like that, right? Or I might write up interpretive manuals for university students to study and read so that they can do the same, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, because in my head, you also had somehow, at some point learned to speak like French and Spanish, and we're interpreting for them.

Robbie Berardi:

Oh, I see what you what you're saying. Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

But no, you didn't have that much to learn French and Spanish.

Robbie Berardi:

No. I also learned sixth language as well. Hahaha

Jonathan Collaton:

While not sleeping, or sleeping whenever I wanted to. Okay, so you, you get into that job. And again, so this is still blowing my mind because I assumed it was just the blacksmith job right away. But right, but not the blacksmith job. Yeah,

Robbie Berardi:

yeah. So it was kind of like a placeholder. And it was something that I could work at that was intimately tying me to the museum until that coveted position of blacksmith became available.

Jonathan Collaton:

Now is this like, now I did a history degree. And a lot of people, the idea behind being a curator at a museum is you've got to get in and then wait until that curator retires? Was that the idea with the blacksmith? Like eventually, whoever's they will retire? And then there'll be an heir apparent?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, exactly. Right. And, and I knew that the blacksmith there, like he was really getting to and doing all the work to move up to higher positions. So it seemed like something that was going to be happening soon, or eventually. And he was really prepping me, which was really, really nice. And I was doing everything I could to learn as much about his position, so that I could be able to hit the ground running, if they hired me. So I was kind of putting all my money in on betting on that horse, right. Yeah. And, and it paid off, which is really nice. Like getting a job in museums is really, really hard, right? Like, there's hundreds of applicants for a single position. And when I say hundreds, I mean, like, quite a few hundreds. Yes, yeah. And so it was nice to already be there doing all the work that they would want me to do. So make yourself useful, as long as you make yourself useful. And they begin to rely on you, then they're gonna want to keep you.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, right. So all right, so you get the job as the blacksmith. Yeah. And, like, at this point, are you thinking more about so you would mentioned, you know, that the idea of like, the stability and the pension, the benefits and build a family and everything? So at this point, are you thinking of this as kind of a long term proposition?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, absolutely.

Jonathan Collaton:

All right, like I've maybe forever type of role or at least for you know, 5, 10 15 years, it was going to be something that...

Robbie Berardi:

Yes

Jonathan Collaton:

It was a role you fit into and then maybe down the line, if you want to do something else you'd consider it but at least for now, it was the stability and it was something you enjoyed?

Robbie Berardi:

Exactly. And I was interested in starting a family. Right. And so I wanted to do the blacksmithing until I'd gotten a visit to into a monetary position where I was comfortable, you know, how the house was renting out to tenants and stuff like that, I always had that idea in my mind. And, and then I might do blacksmithing on my own right, as a business myself. And in pursuant to that, unfortunately, the relationship failed, right, we broke up and and then I kind of re evaluated my future. And it was because I think I was really really feeling this kind of individualistic kind of motivation, where I wanted to pursue my own thing and do my own thing and maybe be a bit more adventurous in life and and so it really kind of drove me to kind of you know, go out on my own kind of thing and luckily the region was open to that and in the winters their village would would close down and and so what I did was I asked him Okay, what sorry to find like leave for educational purposes without pay. Right? And then to them...

Jonathan Collaton:

which I think is always an option that I don't think a lot of people consider. Yeah, they your job as long as there's no work for you, they're okay with not paying you for a you know, period of time. Like I was going to do the same thing back in April and May to go traveling, which is something we haven't even talked about since the last time I saw right it was January, but like you had the option opportunity to do it. I was going to have the opportunity to do it and then COVID-19 blew up my plans.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes, that's right.

Jonathan Collaton:

Maybe down the line, but for you like they said, Yes. And so what was the...what was your thought? Where were you gonna go for this education?

Robbie Berardi:

Well, what I wanted to do was live with and work with a master blacksmith somewhere in the world could be anywhere.

Jonathan Collaton:

Open to travel.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. So I just sent out, I don't know, hundred emails. I spammed the blacksmiths of the world

Jonathan Collaton:

So you just started Googling blacksmiths all around the world?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

And found in any city, wherever there was a master blacksmith.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah,

Jonathan Collaton:

you were in contact with them?

Robbie Berardi:

That's right. And it was really interesting. Because like, a lot of them would be like, Okay, I know. And unfortunately, I don't have anything, but maybe this person does. And they would like forward my email around to all these different people. I eventually, like I was in magazines and, you know this Canadian boy from North America wants to actually learn something here

Jonathan Collaton:

Like advertisements?

Robbie Berardi:

Well they just put me in. They did put me in there. Like these, these magazines are like, so helpful. Like, they really want to help people. Right? And if, if they

Jonathan Collaton:

is this, like blacksmith weekly, or something like that, or what type of magazines?

Robbie Berardi:

It was, like, it was like I remember is in some sort of German magazine. And, and being advertised there.

Jonathan Collaton:

you were like, national news in Germany.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. kid who doesn't know German? higher him.

Jonathan Collaton:

All right.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. And, and it was so lucky. I got a response from a few. Right. But one of them was a professor of metal art and blacksmithing in Sweden, who, like has been black, his family have been blacksmiths for generations and generations and generations. And, and he was a professor of it. Right? And he offered Okay, yeah, come come live with me for the winter. And like, you know, give you food and you can work in my shop, I'll give you some designs and show you how to do them, you can work on them. And no rent, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

So I suppose like a room and board type of trade off, you work for him. And he fed you and gave you a place to sleep. And you got to learn from him.

Robbie Berardi:

Exactly.

Jonathan Collaton:

And all this just because you decided you had an interest in learning from someone somewhere around the world and just sent your message out there. And like you took the initiative really,

Robbie Berardi:

Ask and you shall receive.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, there you go. All right. So you go to Sweden?

Robbie Berardi:

Well, yeah, I go to Sweden and Germany, right. So he teaches in Sweden, he has a shop in Germany. And he spends most of his time in Germany, right. So I go over and I'm living with him in German, during and in this little town called 3000. Right. And in the middle of nowhere is hard to say in the middle of nowhere in Germany, but like as close as you can get to that. And but it was this really nice, small town, it was really nice. And, and it was just so good living there with him was so weird. And, and foreign and, and wonderful. Like he like had just bookshelves of all sort of our artistic theory and things like that. And I would work during the day, you'd come down in the morning and, and you'd like give me all sorts of tips and tricks on what to do in the shop. And the shop was so amazing. I mean, it was from, I don't know, 500 years ago, or something like that. And, you know, some of the tables were working on, you could tell that they were 100 years old. And the posts had shrapnel in them from the wars. Right? It was.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's an experience. Not a lot of people are going to get to have

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, and, and it was really so interesting learning about like the theory and how art is in Germany post war.

Jonathan Collaton:

Right. Like a big divide between what it was like and what it is now.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, at Germany at the beginning of the 1900s they're really leading the world in so many regards, and into a large career, but they still are, right. But so it's such an interesting, interesting place. But art is interesting, because, you know, pride is something that has two very different interpretations over there. And you know, because pride kind of also is involved with what slid in the First World War in the Second World War. Yeah, mainly Second World War, right. And first of all, it was just everyone really kind of messed up there. But and so there are It was very solid. And also at the same time reserved, but subtle, right. And just like learning all these different principles of art from while I was while I was there was really an amazing experience. I learned so much about blacksmithing and you know how you ox also makes an oxy In addition to having like a traditional forage with coal and things like that, you have a hammer, you also have a power hammer. And you have oxy acetylene torches, and you have a MIG welder. And you have all these different tools at your disposal nowadays, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

It's all things I've heard of on forged in fire.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, there you go right! And and then he took me to Sweden when he was teaching in Sweden, and I got to learn over there at the college for free. It was such an amazing experience. I got to, you know, have some Viki time and explored Europe, and Germany, right in general. And so it really opened my eyes in that regard to so it's such an amazing experience. And when I came back, I was just kind of immediately thinking, well, I gotta do this again, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

It's hard to go back to regular life after something like that.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes. Right. And so two years later, I found myself and this time, the British Isles. And I was working with a professor again. And I actually had taken a course with funded by the region as an educational course he got, you know, like a little bit of money. Yeah, you're a second year. And I took a design course with my masters of design course. And I just asked him at the end of it as like, so would be right if I had, like, moved to Britain and did some work with you. He's like, he just looked over. He said, yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

So it was the course you took was that like an online thing?

Robbie Berardi:

No it was like he was touring. So like...

Jonathan Collaton:

He came here?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. He came here on his tour, right. And he was teaching at a shop that was pretty close to where I worked. And, and, and the former blacksmith told me Yeah, this would be a really good opportunity for you to take this design course with them. Right. It would really help your skill set. Right. Yeah. And so I took the course I loved the design, work those learning there. And, and he was such a good professor, such good, great teacher. I had to ask him.

Jonathan Collaton:

So you asked if you could move in.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. So So there you go. That winter, I was living in Britain.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. So like another two months type of thing?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, yeah. Another two months to three months yet. And got to it was really great. Because the forge I was working out over there. I was 1000 years old. And I think it expanded it, of course. And it was like the high points of the county. So is the highest point in the county and like so I take my lunches.

Jonathan Collaton:

Where was this? Which town?

Robbie Berardi:

This was would have been like, I guess you could say like two hours northwest of London.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay.

Robbie Berardi:

Right. Again, middle of nowhere. As much as you can get in the middle of nowhere in England, this time,

Jonathan Collaton:

I saw. I have a one a friend of mine who's gonna be on this down the line is from he's from the UK things from Birmingham, and he's going to be so offended when he hears the middle of nowhere when he's like, that's what that town is. And he'll be so pissed off.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, well, oh my Lord,

Jonathan Collaton:

That's fine because he'll, he's gonna hear Cambridge and think that's the middle of nowhere. So

Robbie Berardi:

Okay, well, I'm gonna offend him a little bit more.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay.

Robbie Berardi:

When you go in England, you go to some places. I remember I was at a pub. And immediately, like, you think that if you know English, you can speak with people who speak English,

Jonathan Collaton:

We tend to think that, yeah,

Robbie Berardi:

ut the accents are just so different.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, I've been to Scotland, I encountered that.

Robbie Berardi:

I was at this pub, and there's like, four of us. And the three of them just all had different accents. Completely different accent, I couldn't understand where they're saying. They're all speaking English. So it was funny. It was entertaining.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, no that happens.

Robbie Berardi:

And, and at the forge there, I was working with that, and ended up being it was three professors that was working that Forge. So I got so much education over there is really, really good. And I'd also my friends would take me into his college once or twice a week, and I get to sit in on some classes, which was so good. And, and he'd actually created the the blacksmithing program in England, the National Academy for blacksmithing there and artistic.

Jonathan Collaton:

He's the guy.

Robbie Berardi:

He's the guy, he made it right. So I asked the right person, essentially, he was dedicating his life to growing people. Right? Growing black space. So you know, when you ask someone you never know what their goals are. That was what near and dear to his heart. And so I just asked the right person, it was luck.

Jonathan Collaton:

Fantastic.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. So learn so much there came back and decided, Well, you know, I want to do blacksmithing for myself, right? And I feel like I'm educated enough. Now. I've got a kind of a unique learning curve through Europe, right, because where else you can learn blacksmithing certainly can't learn Here. So you got to find the Masters in Europe and so forth. So then I started, you know, taking on some jobs and it just would happen randomly through like people you know, and people you run into. And strange places. I was at this restaurant, and the owner overheard that I do blacksmithing. And he's like, Oh, can you make my railing for...right?

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, I mean, it's a very, like, it's it's a unique career. I'm like, you're the only blacksmith. I know. And if I didn't know you, I would I don't know when the next time I'll meet a blacksmith right? So right. I can imagine that the brings up interesting conversations. And then, so job opportunities came out of that. So you're still working full time at the village. And then you're doing just this stuff on the side just for you?

Robbie Berardi:

That's right.

Jonathan Collaton:

Now where would you work out of were you just working at your shop at the village?

Robbie Berardi:

Well, by this time, I had bought a house. And I was renting it out to tenants so i achieved that goal.

Jonathan Collaton:

The original plan.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, that's right. And, and then the garage itself, I converted into my Forge. And I kind of do this on purpose because the garage was below level, right underground. So the noise travel isn't as far right. And so I did the work there. And I also for a large part of this project, I just kind of rented time, I guess you could say, at another blacksmith's shop that I knew at a very particular style is pretty hardcore, is pretty metal, say, and so I really enjoyed that. And all we would do is listen to hardcore metal music and forge. I love that.

Jonathan Collaton:

And that's a lot of what I picture about

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. Yeah, this is the typical way people blacksmith shops. picture shop. And I made this kind of pineapple based design

Jonathan Collaton:

And if the point of that too, because they he wanted like pineapples, and the next day represent welcome and like, that's what he does. He's he works at restaurants, or he owns a restaurant, right? And, and I knew that because if I worked in this historical village, and you know, the pineapple is pretty key, right? If you can have a pineapple to can take forever to grow? present to your guests. I mean, that's pretty impressive. That's pretty expensive right?

Robbie Berardi:

And you have to deliver it from way down south.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yes. Right.

Robbie Berardi:

And so it's gonna be worth quite a bit, and it shows that you're treating your guests quite well. So it becomes kind of synonymous with welcome.

Jonathan Collaton:

This is changing my perspective on pineapples. Every time a guest comes I should bring one every I sit here.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah always keep five, right?

Jonathan Collaton:

I like that idea.

Robbie Berardi:

And so that was like my, my first project after I came back from England. And that was pretty great, right, like a railing for a restaurant owner. And, and then what happened was a winery or they wanted a project done, they wanted a decorative gate. They it was really interesting. Like they were like, really expanding their winery, this military estates in Niagara. And I, it was mentioned to me to you should bid on this, right. And I was like, Okay, I hadn't done art before. Like, I hadn't drawn before I was learning the design principles, but I have no background in drawing or Fine Arts. Right. And, but I after I came back from England, my professor there, you know, you're saying like, you don't you're good at a lot of things, but you are shite at drawing. Hahaha. So...

Jonathan Collaton:

Finally take you down a notch hahaha.

Robbie Berardi:

And so I started taking drawing classes when I came back to Canada. And I do that twice a week.

Jonathan Collaton:

Now is it like any type of drawing are there like, specific to the principles of what you need to know for? I guess, like, you know, right, drawing a portrait of someone is at the same principles is what you need for your role.

Robbie Berardi:

Well, I mean, yeah, design, it's so helpful to know all the different drehen start with a pencil, right? So yeah, whenever you can draw with a pencil is a great place to start. And he was like, just just learn to draw. You're really bad at this.

Jonathan Collaton:

Please just be better than you are?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, just be better.

Jonathan Collaton:

I think if you do this, you're getting nothing.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay.

Robbie Berardi:

So I started drying and, you know, draw an apple and then I drew my hand. I did a portrait, right. And, and then I was like, wow, okay. This is like, you can actually learn to draw, right? It's not one of those things where it's like, oh, you know, I'm bad at art, right? It's like, you just take the class, and all of a sudden, you're great at art. Yeah. Right. And so you just put in the time and all of a sudden, you know, someone who doesn't think of themselves as an artist is all sudden Nerdist. As long as you put enough effort and time into

Jonathan Collaton:

I feel like this explains some of the pictures I've seen in your Instagram page over the last couple years.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. So I love the drawing side. Yeah, I do some posts of that too. Right. And, and it's it's so important for design. And then eventually I was doing like perspective drawings. And of course that's important for design. And so that was really key and it came in just in time for that winery projects. And so they asked me to bid on it. And so I went to my art teachers. Oh, okay, so how do I, how do I do this bid and make a design and she's like, okay, so draw 60 really bad ones really quickly. And so I did that. And I just, like, messed up, messed around with the design of what I want this gate to look like. And I you know, I went with what I did was asked the winery, okay, so what emotions do you want to convey? What kind of message do you want? What what basics of ideas and designs you already want? And I just, and then they're like, okay, that's wonderful. Now Now you take it in writing is what they said to me. Okay. And which is wonderful. And, and so I did, and I came up with a design that was had some similarity to what they originally were talking about. And then, and then all of a sudden, like, one of my bad drawings was good. Right? Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

60 drawings in a row.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, yeah. It's like shotgun drawing, right? This is this just shoot like, 60 pallets, and one of them's gonna hit. Right, right. And so there you go, I had this good design. And that's the only one I presented to them. I didn't want to give them other choices. If I could, if I could just go to them with my design, and they say yes to it. That's ideal, rather than giving options, because you're the artist, you give the design, I in ideal circumstances, and luckily, the winery had that exact same vision to there. They're like, you're the artist. You make the design.

Jonathan Collaton:

Well, that's good, too. Because, I mean, once you've built it out of metal, it's a little hard probably to rejigger it and make it different. So it's good that they gave you the ability to you know, put your own artistic flair on it.

Robbie Berardi:

I have absolutely right. And and I was just at the drawing stage at this. Yeah. Right. And, and they liked it. And also, I could take into consideration the building of it. Yeah. Because, because I know how to build a metal RPS. Right. But you know, someone will just design something. Can you make this right? Who knows? Right?

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, I can go make an image on Canva. But that doesn't mean it's structurally sound if it's made out of metal.

Robbie Berardi:

Exactly. Right. So I love that and and they're like, wow, okay, let's go with it. And I got the bid. And so I wasn't expecting that. Right. This is my second project.

Jonathan Collaton:

And you'll notice this a garage Forge? Yeah, you didn't know that (laughter). And now you've got to build like, How big was this? I think I've seen the pictures. So I know it's big. But

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, it was like 16 feet wide. And something like eight, nine feet tall.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah. Where do you even begin with something like that?

Robbie Berardi:

Well, it was interesting, because I realized, okay, now I'm gonna have to AutoCAD this, because there's some laser cut pieces for this design. I never worked without AutoCAD before. I just told them, oh, well, I'll just AutoCAD and laser cut it.

Jonathan Collaton:

Confidence is everything.

Robbie Berardi:

So I had to learn how to use these design programs. And I got a bit of mentoring that from some people that I used to work with at the museum, and which was wonderful, because I was also considering working in building exhibits. So I was getting trained to do that, while I was doing the blacksmithing. So I was learning some principles there. And and I got to have some resources there that would show me a bit about how to use the AutoCAD and things like that, or other design programs. And so I did it and then I made the whole gate on a design program. And and it that was learning to use AutoCAD just, yeah, yeah. And, but it works and, and so I started playing and then I realized, okay, I need to get a welder for this and I need to build my shop and but luckily, the money that I was making there was paying for my whole shop. And I'm fitting everything and I got this like really expensive TIG welder. And but I never TIG welded before I'd MiG welded, actually back at Toyota. But I hadn't taken tables, I had to learn how to do TIG welding. And so I did all that and then learn all the principles like I know how to make the hinges for and and make it work properly and, and get it galvanized and built in such a way that it can get galvanized and painted and stuff like that. And, and then the installation and so essentially, it was all learning as I went and which I wouldn't have it any other way. It's It's so much fun doing projects like that, that that you know, you don't know how to do. Yeah, but you'll find a way.

Jonathan Collaton:

Right, right. I'm curious, would you say because there's definitely some risk involved in doing something like it ihat way, right? And but you having the full time job and having renters in house that you owned. Do you think like the financial flexibility is what allowed you to take that risk too?

Robbie Berardi:

Yes, exactly. Again, money opens doors. And so if you have the money to feel financially safe, then you have the confidence to move forward with things because how far you will fall isn't very far. Right?

Jonathan Collaton:

Definitely.

Robbie Berardi:

Right. So it's not just like, complete confidence or anything like that. It's like, you know, you've created a safe safety net for yourself.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah.

Robbie Berardi:

Right. And that allows you to explore these things. Right. And so yeah, I went with it in that direction, and built the gay, but here's the thing. I had accumulated all this vacation time. And I was like, Okay, so I'm gonna have like, good four weeks to like, work on this gate, right. And the first day I had off, I went to this...I did this Ninja Warrior challenge. And I was running up this quarter pipe, and I did it like, 15, 16 times, and I'm like, I'm gonna like really give her right. And I stepped into the angle there, the quarter pipe, and dorsiflex my ankle upwards really hard with all my weight. And sure enough, I snapped completely in half my Achilles tendon.

Jonathan Collaton:

And that's a fun injury.

Robbie Berardi:

Oh, it's the worst injury you can get. So a tendon..

Jonathan Collaton:

It's very loud when it hasppens.

Robbie Berardi:

Oh, yeah. Sounded like a gunshot.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. And I had no idea what happened. Like it was I thought the floorboards had broken underneath me. But no, unfortunately, it was me.

Jonathan Collaton:

Superman over here, cracking the floorboards. Alright. So yeah, you snap your Achilles. You're you're just supposed to be starting this 16 foot wide gate.

Robbie Berardi:

And i'm the only one who's making it. It's just me. It's my own business. The first big project. And

Jonathan Collaton:

this sounds good.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. Perfect start.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, great.

Robbie Berardi:

And so that was where I was in a wheelchair for like two months. And I had actually an infection in my surgical wound, which put me over even further along, right. And so yeah, I couldn't walk. I was in a wheelchair. And building this gig, in a wheelchair.

Jonathan Collaton:

Like, what was the final weight on a gate like that?

Robbie Berardi:

Oh, my God. Each section was like 400 pounds.

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh, yeah. Okay, so not the easiest thing to maneuver around.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. So like, I'm like lifting it off the ground onto the table on one leg. And luckily, like I, you know, I've done some like partner acrobatics. That was my hobby, right? is, you know, doing handstands on other people's hands. Right. So I'd be the base. And so like, I like, physicality was a big part of my life. And that's why I was doing the the Ninja Warrior challenge stuff, right and messed up there. But I could at least manipulate steel around can watch even in a wheelchair. And you know, what the most amazing thing was, is my dad had recently entered into retirement. And he was available. And he said, Okay, well, I'll help you make this gate.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's fantastic. Yeah, when I think that kind of shows, like, can't always do everything on your own. Right? Yeah, like, sometimes you need help.

Robbie Berardi:

And I need help.

Jonathan Collaton:

Sounds like it.

Robbie Berardi:

And uhh, and it always so painful to because I will be so inflamed in my fight. And so I basically had to keep my foot raised above my waist level. And whenever it was below, I could only do that for a few seconds. Right. And so it was a really hard project, but my dad was there. And he was like, help me with everything. And he didn't have any background in it. But my way he was my best apprentice I've ever had, right. So I taught him everything to use all the machinery in the shop. And, and he would he was making it there with me and moving all the steel around with me and stuff like that. And sure enough, we made it.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so and I guess by the how long total was it to build the gate?

Robbie Berardi:

It ended up being like four or five months, right? Because Yeah, they had construction delays at the winery. So it ended up not mattering that I and so luckily my my I got an extension.

Jonathan Collaton:

Things sort of sorted of worked themselves out.

Robbie Berardi:

That's right.

Jonathan Collaton:

So by the end, at least you're able to walk around if not do Ninja Warrior stuff. You can maneuver things on both legs.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes, I was wearing a boot. So I was wearing one of those like boots. I would like immobilize my leg and stuff like that. But I was able to move the steel around without like and walk around. Just like balance was a bit hard, right? Yeah. And so I got like a good team of guys to help me install right at the winery. I just like call them whenever I needed Help installing things and then come over and get all the muscle. And, and we installed it.

Jonathan Collaton:

Fantastic. And so like you said, like that the, from the financial side like that paid for the the forge that you ended up setting up. So I guess at that point, are you considering more like because you seem to have the financial stability from the other things? Is there a point where you are thinking about just trying to do this full time on your own just like your own art projects?

Robbie Berardi:

I yes and no, right. So I want to do my own business. And I'll just skip ahead. Yes, I am doing it as my own business. But what I was thinking at the time was like, oh, but I also need, you know, some stability, right? Because, like, you know, I'm gonna, you know, make all my money as an artist. It's feast and famine. Right? So you're gonna get some really good business sometimes, and then nothing.

Jonathan Collaton:

Nothing has proven that more than the last five months. The art scene would have been decimated during Covid.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. It's,

Jonathan Collaton:

You know, people still have jobs at grocery stores, but people who do plays not so much. So I definitely, you know, your, your point is more well taken now

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, yeah. And, but I was learning at this point than ever. that you know, what, maybe I need some experience, I like a shop that's already well established. Rather than just like jetting out on my own, like this, that I realized, you know, through this project, there's a lot of stuff I don't know, so. And although I can, like, work my way through it, it'd be so much better if I didn't have to reinvent the wheel every time. And so I started applying around, and two shops in Toronto wanted to hire me. And one of them looked like amazing opportunity. They wanted to train me up to manage their shop. So a shop of artist blacksmiths in Toronto, and you know, with like, you know, 12, 13 workers or artist blacksmiths. Right? And, well, that is the best I could, this is a dream come true. So I jumped from my job at the region. And Okay, so now this is gonna be my first step, right? And either I'm gonna end up managing the shop for the rest of my life, or I'm gonna learn what I can and start my own business. And so I started working, I moved to Toronto, you know, over Christmas, I have moved to Toronto.

Jonathan Collaton:

Always a fun time to move,

Robbie Berardi:

yeah, is a big job lose, like, I was just like, Okay, I got the job, Okay, I gotta find a house, and then have like, you know, find a place and like, move in and everything like that. And over the course of like, two weeks, and I had to find like, it was a big house, there's six of us living there, right. And I only knew one person. So I had to find four other people in the course of a week that would live in the house with us and help us pay the rent, and Oh, God, it was it was all these things. And finally, I was there and I started my work. And I loved the work, I love the work. And it was it was more work than I thought I was 10 hour days. And it was hard work like we were moving fast. And I was learning a lot really really quickly and it was mainly fabrication right. So whereas I had a background in like you know that fine detailing of like hammering out steel and using a power hammer and you know, find oxy acetylene work and TIG weld work, this was like this was fabrication. So this was like take the steel cut it MiG weld it put it together, mended slightly simple designs that, that work welding and are made quickly, right? And the principles of Okay, these are the standards that are required for, you know, railings AND gates indented and all that stuff. And that was so important for me to learn that stuff. Because I had the other stuff.

Jonathan Collaton:

So with these, like more small projects that there's just a lot more of them?

Robbie Berardi:

Small, well, yeah, then none of them were quite as big as the gate project that I worked at the winery. But there was a lot of really detailed stuff, right, like, some really nice railings. And that's I love that they would put me on those projects, right? Whenever there's like something that you'd have to like all these twisty fine designs and like, okay, Robbie, this is your project and we think

Jonathan Collaton:

Those, those are a little more artistic.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah,

Jonathan Collaton:

Like, what were some of the other things that you were doing them the other non as artistic stuff at that show

Robbie Berardi:

all kinds of like, just if people just want a railing, like a straight up railing. Oh, yeah. And or something to enclose this OR gate there. And sometimes it's just straight and less exciting. Yes. And then some of them had some curves in them, but they were less artistic, you could say, but then some of them were actually quite nice and had these like kind of Art Nouveau flowy vine like designs and stuff like that, which I really liked those projects. And but what happened was, you know, two, two and a half months in, I was learning that Oh, wait a sec. The vast majority of workers here are illegal workers. And there's a lot of health and safety violations going on in the shop. And, you know, they're not working under the best conditions. And, and also, there's not much airflow, and there so some lung problems are occurring here. And also my lungs were starting to have some problems. I actually had to go on a puffer

Jonathan Collaton:

After two months?

Robbie Berardi:

after two months

Jonathan Collaton:

And some of these people had been there how long? Much longer?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, yeah. Smoking cigarettes and stuff like that.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, there's a reason a lot of people don't do that anymore.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. And, and I realize, okay, we know, I can't manage under these conditions, right. Like, it's not in my personality to do something like that. And

Jonathan Collaton:

That's gonna be tough, like two months in because you - that was the first time you've actually moved cities.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes

Jonathan Collaton:

Like ever maybe? I mean, other than the European two months?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, exactly.

Jonathan Collaton:

You were always in Guelph. And just working out of Kitchener Waterloo.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, that's it.

Jonathan Collaton:

so you move to a new city with four new or five new roommates?

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, a one year contract on the house.

Jonathan Collaton:

Two months in decide I don't want to do this.

Robbie Berardi:

That's right. And it was for health reasons. And also, because I didn't see a future for myself there. Yeah, managing under those conditions. So it was kind of like walking in jumping into an abyss. And so I left and oh, my God, what am I gonna do now, you know, in Toronto, 35 years old, walked away from this great career with benefits and stuff like that, that I had grown tired of, right that I was ready for the next step in, by all but it was a good career. And it was an amazing career. But just I, I reached the end of my timeline there. Yeah. And so then, but the thing is, my body felt so good, you know, just not working. Yeah. Because like, I realized, because like I had developed RSI injuries working as a blacksmith at that museum as well, right, like lower left back issues and pelvis issues from leaning over an anvil that was too low for me over the years and stuff like that, right. And, and after the Achilles injury, I had this real interest in in health, and body mechanics. And I've done all that like partner acrobatic stuff for a few years. And so it really seemed to be something and I'd also been dreaming for literally a decade of, you know, maybe I'll leave my job, and I'll become a massage therapist. And then I'll be able to do like a bit of massage, make a general amount of money that's going to keep me afloat, and then do my blacksmithing on site. And I had this kind of like side dream for, like, 10 years. And I decided, well, maybe I'll look that up. And sure enough, I did Google search, and 15 minute walk from my house that I'm living in Toronto, is a college that teaches massage therapy. And they just started their semester, a week ago. And so I ran in there. And I was like, What? And it was a one year program too, because

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh, there you go.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, cuz like they're two years everywhere. And this is the last year that that they're gonna offer in Ontario to do a one year program compressed program.

Jonathan Collaton:

Oh, yeah.

Robbie Berardi:

And, and it started, we go and I go over, and I asked him if I could sign up and, like, know, our semester just started unfortunate. We don't take applicants. And I'm like, who can I talk to? (laughter) so so then we talked with the next person and then the next person, and that I just, like, stayed in the office with them for quite a while until they caved. And

Jonathan Collaton:

And I'm gonna hope and please tell me this correct that this is more of a like sweet talking them into this. Instead of like, let me talk to your manager.

Robbie Berardi:

Oh, yeah. It was sweet talking. Yeah, I was I didn't have a Louisville Slugger or a hammer with me. Although that probably would work too. Well, probably not as well

Jonathan Collaton:

No, probably not as well. That's as how you get banned from the premesis.

Robbie Berardi:

You can't massage with a hammer.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah I want to be here every day.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, they they're happy to take me in and and I told him I'd be able to catch up real quick. And so I caught up and, and then COVID hit.

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah, so this is all very recent. This is all very recent. So the program was that in January or started in late February, late February. Yeah. And yeah, that's not a great time to be going into something that involves physical touch all day. actly. Right.

Robbie Berardi:

And then all of a sudden, we got COVID. And I can't do the hands on manipulation. So we've been doing it all online, zoom meetings and stuff like that. I've been you know, practicing on friends and doing energy exchanges. So like doing massages in exchange for like personal training or food or handstand practice classes.

Jonathan Collaton:

Like you're now in the world of bartering.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes, yes.

Jonathan Collaton:

totally crazy what COVID has done.

Robbie Berardi:

So it's really nice. And actually, I wasn't expecting that massage therapy, which involves so much theory. So there's so much physiology and there's, we're laying all sorts of disorders. And uhh..

Jonathan Collaton:

I wonder if the theory is a generational thing, because a lot, I don't think back in the day, people wouldn't have asked why as much as we asked now.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes.

Jonathan Collaton:

And so problems because students are asking, they're teaching it now.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, there's a lot more..

Jonathan Collaton:

It's less just like, here's how you fix this problem. It's like, here's why this is a problem. And here's why this will fix it.

Robbie Berardi:

Yes, exactly. Right. And we got to work with so many people with different disorders and stuff like that. So we need the background and all these different things, because they need require different kinds of care. And so that has been amazing. And, and while this has been going on over COVID, I've had all this extra time. So I just been doing Personal Training, I've been getting personally trained. And then now I'm just training with friends and people that aren't like track team. So my one buddies on the track team for York. And so we're just doing all the same exercises together, it's wonderful. And because I also want to get a personal trainer, I want to become a personal trainer, in addition to the massage therapy, and so I figure by the time I graduate in February, I'll have my massage therapy and personal training. And I would love to just, you know, like, take people from an injury, like, you know, maybe an injury like the one that I had, you know, get them to functional but not just stop there. Do Personal Training, make their where their injured their strong point, right. Yeah. So it's so important. So, so important to like, be there with them. From that back to a state of complete health, not just functional, that I find that very important after the stuff that I've gone through. So I'd like to do that for other people.

Jonathan Collaton:

Okay, so you you're going to be a massage therapist.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

And a personal trainer, that and you say, I mean, you still have the forge, right?

Robbie Berardi:

Yes I do.

Jonathan Collaton:

So you still want to do some of that stuff on the side.

Robbie Berardi:

I'm doing it on the weekends.

Jonathan Collaton:

There you go. So that's a different, like they there is a maybe it's a generational thing, maybe it's, you know, people I grew up around, but like that a lot of people nine to five jobs and an office and your future is not going to be that at all you're going to be because you're working with people when they're available. And and then you're working on your artwork, whenever you kind of can or want to, I guess whenever you want to take up a contractor commission for that. But you have, you're gonna have a lot of flexibility in terms of what your schedule looks like with those different careers combined. Like they actually complement each other quite well.

Robbie Berardi:

Absolutely, absolutely. Right. Because like, if I'm doing massage therapy and personal training last night, eight hours a day. It's what you want it to be. Right and, or maybe I'll just do Mondays and Wednesdays or something like that, or Fridays. Or maybe I'll just take private clients and go to their house and give massage there. What I really want to do is really train someone who is willing to put in the investment in mornings in their mornings before they go to work, right to their personal training, and give massage. Now they're ready for their day. And I'm ready for my day.

Jonathan Collaton:

So you just got to find one rich person.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah. A couple rich people. Yeah.

Jonathan Collaton:

Every every couple days. Yeah. And then you just do that in the morning. And then blacksmith during the day, and

Robbie Berardi:

yeah, yeah, I love personal training. I love training and being in shape and all those things. It feels so good. And you do it in the morning. And then the rest you in the morning you end the day, right? Yeah. And, and it really sets a tone for your life.

Jonathan Collaton:

You got a lot of loves Robbie, a lot of things that you want to you're going to do it's that's the thing. It's not like you're just talking you're doing these things.

Robbie Berardi:

Yeah, absolutely. i'm gonna make it happen

Jonathan Collaton:

Yeah good for you.

Robbie Berardi:

And I am doing projects with the blacksmithing. So that is active, right. So like, for example, I'm making a fire set, blacksmith fire set. This family wants to put in their money together to get a nice birthday present for the grandfather. So I'm doing that right now. I'm also working on like gated communities. So making decorative gates that open and close for gated communities. Railings, How'd that meeting go yesterday? Positive? I gonna say it went pretty well.

Jonathan Collaton:

Fantastic.

Robbie Berardi:

I can't give any more information but uhh.

Jonathan Collaton:

Understandable. And that's good news, though. Well, you know, this is if, if this podcast gets listened to by anyone other than my own family, maybe that'll help promote first art projects. So Robbie, thank you so much for sharing that wide variety of career experiences that you've had because I think a lot of people think they're just going to go into one and that's it. Or you know, slightly switch from one to another but you've been all over the place and and you've done all that in your mid 30s right. So Yeah, as long as you're willing to put in the work, it's clear that you can switch between careers and do it in a sort of safe and sustainable way. And there's gonna be some risk involved, obviously, but, you know.

Robbie Berardi:

There's gonna be a lot of wrenches thriwn in your wheels, torn tendon.

Jonathan Collaton:

That's right,

Robbie Berardi:

And field careers and stuff like that. But as long as you just like, keep on, following what you're interested in, and work, damn hard, just work damn hard. And that'll, like put you into a good position, make yourself needed. Make yourself needed by people.

Jonathan Collaton:

I like that. All right, we're gonna end off there then with make yourself needed as a final thought from you. So yeah, thanks again. And hopefully, some people benefit from hearing all this. Great. It was great being here. Thanks, Jon. Alright, so that was the interview with Robbie. And if you aren't convinced, then I don't know what else to tell you. Robbie is a man of many, many talents. If you need any metalwork done in southern Ontario, Robbie is your guy. And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that you can go check out this giant metal gate he was talking about on his Instagram account. It's @berardirobbie, just his name and reverse his name should be in the description of this episode. So go and take a look and see what it is that he built while he was nursing a torn Achilles tendon. So this is the part of the episode where we do a bit of reflection and look back at what are the things that Robbie said that resonate with me. And there were a couple different things that he said that I thought I don't even need to follow up with him, they're so clear that this is something that comes across and what he's saying. And the first of that was, make yourself useful. Robbie definitely did that in multiple scenarios, working with Habitat for Humanity and construction, he just made himself useful there. And then they offered him a role. Working at the Waterloo Regional Museum, he was working there in another role. And because he was a useful guy, they offered him the position to become their blacksmith. And then because he was good at that his former blacksmith, there was the one who recommended him taking the course with the traveling blacksmith from England, which is how he ended up going to England to study with that blacksmith. So these things are all kind of a chain, they'll fit together. And so as long as you make yourself useful in the way that Robbie did, you can get these opportunities that just show up and can work in your favor. The second thing that I noticed, and I think it was pretty obvious as well is that financial flexibility will give you the ability to take a lot of different risks, Robbie was lucky and that he got a job young before university that he was able to save so much money from that it was able to pay for his school and, and that was why he was able to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. And some of that money is what helped him get into the housing market in the first place. And being able to own a house and rent it out to other people is what allowed him to go and study in Europe for the winters and not have to worry about his income. And all that same flexibility led to his willingness to take on that giant gate project, when he didn't actually have the tools or in some cases the the total skill set yet in order to actually do it. But he knew there wasn't a lot of risk because he had a fallback. And while I understand that not everyone is going to be in a position where you're going to have the type of financial flexibility that he had, trust me, I understand that I live in the city of Toronto, there's no chance I'm going to be able to buy a house and rent it out to a bunch of other people. It's not a reality. And you might not end up in a specific situation where you make yourself useful, and you get gifted opportunities in a way that he did. However, what Robbie said at one point was that he had to work damn hard. And I think that comes up all throughout his interview that he was the catalyst behind a lot of his success. He's the one who with not great grades in high school, got himself into the University of Guelph after working long days at a car manufacturing facility. He's the one who had to do this tough physical job as a blacksmith for so many years. He's the one who got his name out there over in Germany, which is how he ended up in Germany studying under a master blacksmith. A lot of that was his own effort that he put in. And then the same thing can be said for the gates at the winery. He learned how to draw so we could submit a proposal to build these gates. And then when he didn't have a skill set in order to complete the project. He learned that skill set and all that's the work that he put in. So that is what I took from Robbie's story. And I'm curious if you had the same takeaways or if you had different takeaways than I did. So send me an email at careercrossroadspod@gmail.com and let me know if there was something that you picked up that Robbie was talking about that I didn't. And if you enjoyed the episode, I ask that you help me grow the show by sharing widely or even just with one friend who you think might enjoy it, Episode Three, it will be out one week from the date that this show releases. So in the meantime, wherever you are in your career path, try and enjoy the ride.