This book started out as a coming-of-age story focused on a voyage the author took “across the pond”, when he was 17 years old. Arranged by his father, this trip was meant to teach him how to tan leather and, by design or inadvertently, how to spread his wings. Over the course of writing it, the author developed a clear, conversational voice. In the process, he also came to terms with his relationship with his father and the world of work his dad carved out for him. It’s a bittersweet yet ultimately uplifting memoir, full of warmth and love, for his father, the business his grandfather founded, and everyone in the writer’s family, most of all, his wife Chloe.
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Message from the author
Dear Reader, To help you decide whether to buy my book, I’d like to share with you, remarks friends of mine made after reading it. I’ve chosen this group of individuals to give me their feedback with a hypothesis that their differing perspectives would generate an interesting array of comments and because I could trust them to be candid. I was not disappointed.
Learning to be a Leatherman is a very personal, intimate look into my humanity and what I’ve experienced. My life has been blessed with a loving family, friendships and relationships that have greatly enriched it. It has also been studded with challenges, some that strengthened me and my resolve, others that weakened and almost defeated me. It is for my family and these friends that I have taken this walk down memory lane, telling some of my life’s more interesting stories. If you buy this book, I hope you enjoy reading them and comparing my journey with your own.
With best regards
Reviews & Blurbs
After reading Roderick W. Correll’s autobiography, “Learning to be a Leatherman,” I am struck and impressed by how much this literary gem offers beyond its informative account of what it takes to learn a multi-faceted, unique profession. To me, it is an intimate sharing of a life journey, starting with coming of age and learning to become an adult.
As the book evolves, becoming an adult reveals the many aspects of adulthood the author needed to experience and master to become competent and qualified to lead. It all started, at age 17, on an overseas journey with a friend. This early exposure to international experiences helped him not only to become a more knowledgeable professional and well-connected businessman. It also paved the way for him to be a better husband and father, a more resourceful business owner and heir, as well as a communicative teacher and caring friend. In his own words: “I crafted my own way, creating intimacy, by letting people feel safe, trusted and listened to.”
The author’s path to maturity and business success was paved with careful choices based on continuous learning. Over the years, he adjusted his educational path to optimize personal strengths to help meet business needs. He sought to understand various cultures, starting with his early years of travel. He learned to balance personal and business demands differently at different times. He continuously nurtured friendships across generations, cultures and continents.
Of course, managing father-son challenges required different knowledge, understanding and skills at different times. “Being heir apparent to my father frightened rather than emboldened me,” the author writes. However, it is worth noting that - given the dearth of family business consulting specialists in the 1960s - it is surprising how well the author weathered the father-son storms before his father’s passing in 1966.
It is also interesting to note that focus on family business-related issues is relegated to the last third of “Learning to be a Leatherman” and becomes a dominant theme only in the last quarter of the book. While family business dynamics are important in any family business, their impact on the business featured in this book is not as great as what I’ve witnessed most often as a family business consultant and/or read about over the years. If anything, the author of this autobiography was better prepared for his leadership than most next-generation family members I’ve met and known.
In closing, I would like to quote one of the author’s most informative statements early in the book: “For me, the most important thing when I plan a trip is people.”
Book review by Marta Vago, Ph.D., personal advisor to high achievers. Marta Vago, PhD, daughter of one of the author’s earliest mentors, conservatory trained at Julliard to become a concert pianist, currently an advisor to high achievers
Compelling memoir: deeply detailed recollections, written cleanly, without the encumbrances of “style”. We follow the writer up the learning curve of an important commercial craft—and that curve is layered with the tale of his father, whose influence the writer ricochets between appreciating and resisting. The path of the curve remains open, for the writer carries us only through a mid-point of his life. One can hope that a follow-on extension lies ahead!
Blurb written by Edward W. Zimmerman, longtime friend of the autho rand financial advisor to the Correll family for over 50 years
This is so much more than a coming-of-age story. Rod Correll has vividly portrayed the lifelong tensions and ambiguities that exist between a dutiful son and an ambitious father.
Blurb written by Peter M. Wolf, author of New York Times best-selling memoir, My New Orleans Gone Away. A Yale friend whose book inspired the author to write one of his own.
I find this book a pleasingly written life story by a man who was aware of being born into a family with the privileges of wealth, but with the love of, the interest in and the feel for leather, which was the foundation of his family’s financial success. His grandfather started the business in 1893, continued by his father and eventually being inherited by him in the 1960s.I found the 176 pages easy to read, absorbing enough to hold my attention, although, knowing the author perhaps contributed to my attention being held a little more easily. With the saga of family misfortunes, a reader who is particularly interested in people will find it fascinating.
Blurb written by Brenda Martin, wife of one of the author’s dearest friends, a silversmith & designer of antique jewelry
This book is a learning experience in itself and a very good read. The author invites his readers aboard as he grows into the leatherman his father wanted him to be. Kicking internally yet absorbing the lessons he was pushed to absorb, Rod Correll eventually learned to love and become successful in the business he was steered into running. In the course of writing “Leatherman” it also appears to me that he not only acquired tactics of survival but also gained a better understanding and love, for his dad, his family, his business and acceptance of himself.
Blurb written by Roland Machold, former Wall St investment banker & NJ state treasurer”and college friend of the author
This memoir, by my Yale classmate, Roderick Correll, is a tale of a young man and his father.
There is an age-old struggle between fathers and sons . Fathers may have the means and experience to guide their sons to ensure the continuing success of their forebears, but it often interferes with the son's wish for autonomy and creativity.
Rod Correll's wish to fulfill his father's plan for him and also to construct his own identity is apparent through most of the book.
It reminds the reader that it is a mixed blessing to be born into a family that owns a successful business. It promises a financially comfortable life, but often there is little room to follow a vision of one's own.
Rod accepted that challenge. He continued to achieve success as a leatherman, and he conducted his life in keeping with his values and goals, and he shares the story with us, his readers.
Blurb written by Alan Lovins, retired rabbi, psychologist and family business consultant, a college friend and advisor to the author as he pursued a career in this field
Correll's smooth style and thematic emphasis on the importance of people in his life journey made this fascinating memoir a joy to read.
Blurb written by A. Reed Taylor, PhD, , award winning, retired teacher of English and , college friend of the author
Dear Rod: I so appreciate your sending me your heartwarming story. It is beautiful and compelling, a model of clear, honest self-awareness and included discussion of sad family tensions and disappointments, from all of which anyone could grasp valuable life lessons. As a skillfully woven tapestry of your fascinating, well lived life, I especially enjoyed the parts I could connect with, ie. expressing moments of insecurity and self-doubt, the familiar Yale digressions, and your 1952 bicycle adventure to Scotland…having more Scottish blood in me than any other, and as a rabid, irrationally romantic Scotophile, I really enjoyed that.
And in closing, you should know how special your and Chloe’s friendship has meant to Izabel and me, late as it developed on shared Hockstader adventures. For me you are a true kindred spirit with a rare gift of generously giving yourself to so many of us. It is so fitting that The Leatherman finally evolved into the teacher/ advocate where your talents could fully flourish in benefiting others.
Gratefully and with affection, Rob
Letter written by Robert Smith “Rob” Walker, a Yale ’57 classmate & close friend.