by Gary North
Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called (I Corinthians 7:20).
When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian church, he advised men to stay in their callings. This did not necessarily mean their occupations. A calling is a higher form of service, the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace.
Yet in some cases, your calling can be your occupation. If you can get consumers to pay you to do your best and most important work, Paul's advice becomes relevant for your career. Stick to your knitting.
In a world where men measure their success by a series of career moves, either up or out, Stan Chambers is there to remind us all: "Stick to your knitting." When you find something you do well, and someone is willing to pay you to do it, keep doing it.
MAKING BIG PLANS
Stan Chambers joined TV station KTLA in 1947, when there were about 300 TV sets in the Los Angeles area. He was a reporter — not an anchor man, a reporter. He is still there, still reporting. If there is a multi-vehicle car wreck on a major freeway, Stan Chambers will be there, telling viewers all about it.
He is among my earliest memories of television. Sometime around 1949, I watched a local TV show called (I think) "A Day at the Beach." KTLA sent a crew to the beach on the weekend to cover an entire day of its personalities doing essentially nothing in the sand. Whether the show was weekly or a one-timer, I do not recall. If it was weekly, then we get some idea of TV in 1949.
One of the personalities that day was Stan Chambers. He and his female co-host were dressed in swim suits. They had a special event planned. They would later go up in a hot air balloon. The balloon was being filled.
I don't know how long that day's show lasted. Four hours, minimum, I think. It may have been longer. I cannot imagine that I watched it from start to finish. I must have done channel-flipping — preparation for adult life — but coming back periodically to see that promised hot air balloon event. This much, I do remember: that balloon never did fill. They ended the show with the balloon flapping in the breeze, just as it had when the show began.
For a seven-year-old, that show was a good lesson for life. Plans don't always work out, especially when everyone is watching.
A LIFETIME CAREER
Because of the immense amount of capital that has been invested over the past two centuries, the modern world has an amazing range of occupations. Each additional unit of capital must fund something for which there was no previous capital available. This means that markets become increasingly specialized. New products, new services, and new careers spring up daily.
As occupations get more specialized, men find that they can match their unique talents, skills, and interests with consumers' desire to buy. Consumers want ever-more specialized products to purchase. Producers seek to supply these.
The result is the phenomenon of career specialization. Men get promoted. They leave employers. They move away. They change careers. This is considered normal. Constant change is a way of life.
Except for Stan Chambers. For him, it is the same old job, doing the same old things. Yet he covers the news, so each event is not quite the same. There is constant change around him and constant change around his viewers. He is the one visible constant.
There are viewers in Los Angeles whose earliest memories of television are of Stan Chambers on-screen. They are now approaching retirement. From kindergarten to Medicare, they have seen him reporting on car wrecks or riots in South Central Los Angeles.
This is simply unheard of, or, in his case, unseen of.
There is something emotionally comforting about his career. We rarely see stability like this. We do not see a man hone his skills, doing the same job, decade after decade. TV celebrities come and go. Tom Brokaw was a TV anchorman in Los Angeles in 1977. He is now retired. Stan Chambers was on-screen three decades before Brokaw. He is still on-screen.
He outlasted Huntley and Brinkley. He outlasted Walter Cronkite and Cronkite's replacement. He outlasted everyone.
There is that old line, "I'll dance on your grave." Stan Chambers did not dance on anyone's grave. But I suspect that he reported on the traffic jams caused by a lot of celebrity funerals.
THE CASE FOR STABILITY
His career illustrates a strategy: start at the bottom in a new industry and ride it all the way up. KTLA in 1947 looked a lot like that hot air balloon. Some people thought it would fill, but nobody knew when.
You don't have to get promoted to have influence. You don't have to move up or out. You can identify an area of service and then stick with it. Stan Chambers spotted his opportunity to serve consumers in 1947 and saw no reason to quit. Viewers came and went; station owners (including Gene Autry) came and went. He stayed put.
But did he make a difference? With respect to this or that car wreck, no. Anyone could have done what he did. With respect to a career model, I cannot think of a better example of sticking to your knitting. There, he has made a difference. There, he has become a legend, "of which there is no whicher."
If you find a niche early in life where you and consumers can work out a deal, why go looking for something new?
If you start out in your community, and you keep making contributions to your community, you will gain influence in your community. The fact that you stay put, stick to your knitting, do a serviceable job, and bear your share of responsibility, without leaving your neighbors behind in a personal quest for significance, will itself make you significant. Why? Because hardly anyone does this any more.
Stan Chambers is living proof that it can be done and should be done by those who have an opportunity to do it.
So, to Stan Chambers, I say: "Thanks for the memories, even if the only clear one I have is a hot air balloon that did not fill in the time allotted for the show."
The shows must go on.
September 19, 2005
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