The Lost Art of Mentorship

My handcrafted bookcase

Months ago I embarked on a new project – my first major woodworking project, complete with exotic hardwoods, joinery, and inlays.  Starting with raw mahogany boards, I’ve come to this picture (left)…Several times during the process I found myself stopping in frustration as I took rough lumber, resawed it down to board size, planed it, joined it, and fit pieces together.  Cutting moldings, fluting, routing, and sanding…it’s a big deal.  There are no nails in this type of building – it’s precise, cumbersome, artistic, and difficult.  How did I get here?   Mentors and reading.

Woodworking is a skill.  There are so many tricks and techniques to building jigs, joining wood, and just making things work; it’s something you could go to school for I guess, but the best way is to work alongside someone who really knows – someone with experience.  The master craftsman and the apprentice.  With our focus on schools and universities, we’ve lost a lot of this, but for thousands of years, this has proved out to be the most efficient way to learn and grow.  Co-op programs, apprenticeships, interns…business coaching; it’s all mentorship.  It’s finding someone who has been there, or has hands-on experience, who is able to take the time to walk another person through the process.  Whether you’re building, writing, drawing, parenting, or building a business – find experts to learn from.  Some are paid, others are free, but in the long run, the investments you make will return to far more than you can imagine.

© 2011, David Stelzl



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