Thursday, December 19th, 2013

following the signs to career nirvana

Hoping for a sign or something to put you on the right career path? Follow your heart and your intuition – listen to life’s whispers and notice what gives you joy.

Ask for a sign, by popping the Universe a question such as, “what is the right career for me?” Then start paying attention, noticing tiny GO-incidences that occur. A book that falls open at exactly the right place, a person you bump into, an opportunity that presents itself…or some other seemingly random event.

I remember one of my best opportunities presented itself when I bumped into a recruitment consultant at the lipstick counter at Mac – took me on a three year contract and a huge transformational journey working for the Department of Corrections in NZ prisons.

When writing this piece I recalled a wonderful story I wrote for the Dominion Post about Carlucci (Carl Gifford) a man who listened to what excited him and followed the signs. People thought he was mad but he persevered anyway – and now…well…read my updated version 🙂


Inspiration used to carve out an opportunity

A Wellington man has turned his passion into the rock that he has built a career on.

Sometimes the work you were born to do can come from the most unexpected things and places.

When Carl Gifford left school he became a motor mechanic mainly because his father wanted him get a job and told him he had to choose before he was 10 what he was going to do for a living.

Being a motor mechanic did not really give him much satisfaction, so he switched to car wrecking, because it was a bit more lucrative. However, after trying that for a while he decided that wasn’t really him either.

Then one day what turned out to be his true calling leapt out at him.

“One day, I was driving around and I was inspired by some stone work I saw.  I thought “that’s what I want to do. Before you know it, I was off to a quarry. I started putting rocks together and thought ‘Hey! I’m good at this’ Before you knew it I had someone ringing me up, saying “come and do this.”

 Mr Gifford’s first stone sculpture can be seen at the Massey University campus in Wellington. It symbolises the struggle at Parihaka.

“It was quite a buzz for me that my very first sculpture was a very important sculpture.”

A stone mason by trade but no one sees the potential in rock like he does.  “You stare at them all day and you start seeing faces in rocks and you say “ooh I can’t sell that one- that’s a Rottweiler .Oh that’s the Virgin Mary”

“I see faces in rocks everywhere…all the time, even in the simplest of rocks…noses, faces…how weird is that?”


But as Placido Domingo once said, “When it becomes clear that no one else shares your level of passion, you are where you belong.”

And Mr Gifford certainly has carved out a special place for himself – inspiring and exciting all those who come across his works. His stone walls are in high demand and many are built for the rich and famous.

He has performed numerous jobs for the Wellington City Council beautifying the coastline, designed the baboon and tiger enclosure at Wellington Zoo, worked at Vogel house and is currently working on a big project for Peter Jackson.

However, what really seems to drive Mr Gifford is the passion and zest he has to make a world of pleasure for others.

The drive down Happy Valley road, between Owhiro Bay and Brooklyn, was anything but happy till his works of art started to appear along the roadside.

Several years ago, when I first interviewed him,  he had bought 25 hectares near the rubbish tip and started putting sculptures on it. “I’ve got big dreams for this place, but nobody believes them,” he said.

Not then anyway. With his passion and determination it wasn’t long until he realised his dream of expanding his empire. His happy place is called Carlucci Land – a fun park for adults and children, where everyone regardless of age, can recapture the joy of child-like play.

Not surprisingly, his main office is inspired by the Flintstones and he once owned a business he called Bedrock.
Too often people are afraid to stand out from the crowd. Often the innovative path is the path less followed but, as actress Drew Barrymore says “Originality is believing in your individuality, believing in yourself, and being willing to take risks, even though people might think you’re weird for doing it.”

Not only has Carlucci (Mr Gifford)  found a way to earn a living from his passion and create work that allows him to be true to himself, he has recaptured his youth in the process.

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