The Best Way to Learn is to be Selfish

A few weeks ago I did my first podcast with the crew at Modern Woodworkers Association. Couldn’t tell you a word I said. Utter terror does that to ya I guess. Hopefully there won’t be a petition after the episode airs in a few asking for their podcasting permit back.

As usual the episode ended with a separate “Five Questions” segment. I do remember one question. Paraphrased, “Who’s been your biggest woodworking influence?” I think my answer perplexed. So I’d like to explain.

You see, my biggest influence in this craft have been students. Influence being the people that have improved my skills, taught me the most and shaped my path. I think they were expecting the name of a great woodworker, relative or craft celebrity.

Let me paint a picture. Say you want to learn to dovetail. A general thought is repetition is the most effective path. You know, perfect practice and all. So after a hundred or so you should be fairly proficient. Now go teach a dozen others to cut a dovetail. You will learn more teaching than you will cutting 1000’s of them.

I swear students will find the most perplexing issues imaginable and a dozen of them will throw ‘em at you like a Gatling gun. It’s your job to not only correct their issue but explain it in a manner efficiently understood and remembered. You get hit with so many opportunities to learn that you’d never come across with your staid repetition process. And each one requiring a different translation that solidifies that unique tidbit of knowledge into memory and skill set.

It’s a matter of leveraging the ineptitude of a student to progress  and cement your own knowledge.

So yes, I can honestly attest that students have influenced my ability in this craft more than anyone else and always for the better.

My recommendation if you want to become better yourself. Be selfish and teach.

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One Response to The Best Way to Learn is to be Selfish

  1. Matt McGrane says:

    Excellent point! I was a teacher many years ago. During my post-teaching career I had some opportunities to teach to other colleagues some technique or other and I realized that one of the beast ways to really learn something is to have to teach it. You’ve gotta know it through and through if you’re going to be prepared to teach!