Learning a craft is like starting a business

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com


Here are some of the personality flaws I’ve spotted:

Several students in different episodes are obsessed with “expressing themselves” instead of following the brief (the job specification). They waste precious time in “creative” noodling instead of actually getting shit done.

Others indulge themselves in childish boredom and rebellion when it comes to the repetition of early stages of learning, instead of committing to the basics with all their hearts.

Several more wield perfectionism as a weapon against their own achievement… a weapon, and an excuse.

Several show a great deal of self-importance, unwarranted — they talk themselves up, they expect they’ll win, they treat the advice of the master as irrelevant, or they crumble at the slightest criticism.

Others engage in bitter self-denigration, unwarranted — fatalistically wailing, “I’ll never be able to do this,” when experiencing the simplest of setbacks. They want to throw in the towel at the first bump. And the second. And the third.

Finally, and perhaps most fatally, many of the students seem to have zero patience whatsoever. They expect to jump straight to results, straight to the fun stuff — the creative stuff. They don’t want to put in their dues. They think they’re special. So they stamp their foot petulantly when their shortcuts fail.

These students claim to want to master a craft, but they resist the very nature of “craftsmanship.” Even though, to even get the apprenticeship, they had to apply and interview and disrupt their lives for 6 weeks or more!

…Stone doesn’t care if you’ve had a hard day. Iron won’t stay hotter longer just because you’re feeling hesitant with the hammer. If you don’t get your thatch right, it will leak, and that’s that. There’s no room for error.

It must feel terrifying.

Ah, you might be thinking, but in Mastercrafts, these students are being taught & graded by a master. The master is a human. They are trying to please the master. The master is a gatekeeper, right? The master will accept excuses.

In theory, yes. But in reality? Not these masters. There’s nothing more pragmatic than a blacksmith or thatcher in 2012. They’re pragmatic because they would never survive if they weren’t.

These masters know the score. They know they serve reality and no higher authority. They know reality can’t be denied. Whether that reality is the one where the fabric is flawed, the stone doesn’t measure level, the chair breaks, or the client won’t pay… their feelings don’t matter, their excuses won’t hold, and no amount of belief in their unique value will change that.

As the master blacksmith said, when the customer asks for “10 more of these” they’re going to be bloody upset when you come back with a newer, creative design and say “But this was more fun to make.” And then you don’t get paid.

This is the 21st century condition in a nutshell: We are abstracted people living abstracted lives. We don’t know how to live any other way. When we find ourselves suddenly butting up against hard, disintermediated reality, our egos cry out like spoiled children, and kick and scream and pitch fits.

That’s what happens when these abstracted people arrive in the workshops of the master craftswoman on Day 1, thinking,

“Gee, I work with fabric a lot. I could totally weave by hand on a loom. People hundreds of years ago did it. How hard could it be?”

The answer, of course, is incredibly fucking hard. Mindnumbingly hard. Weaving is like playing a pipe organ only with the opportunity to break and snap and knot and twist. Make a mistake, and there goes hours — maybe days! — of configuration alone.