January 7, 2009

What’s the worry? We go out to learn something new and it’s so frustrating for us because we don’t get it right off. As if everything we take on should come easy. It’s easier to forget just how long it took to master our own special skills. We get so caught up in being so good at something that sometimes we just forget to enjoy ourselves. I speak for myself alone of course.

I took a class once from Curtis Buchanan. You know those “working” vacations where you’re out there herding sheep or branding cattle or some such thing. Well they got nothing on butt kicking when it comes to a working vacation building a Windsor chair at Curtis’. I worked hard for five and a half days to make my chair with him. I had to get up at 5AM that last morning so I could finish on time. Well during the week sometime, I was forlorn. I must have been out searching for sympathy because his wife said to me that evening, “You know, when Curtis started, he really wasn’t that very good on the lathe.” What joy radiated from heaven! Light streamed down, trumpets played. Yes! I am just being slow, I am not stupid!

And that’s the key of course. To allow ourselves the time it takes to learn. Learning comes slowly. Why not? Anything good takes effort. Anything worth having shouldn’t come easy to us. I met this woman once who proclaimed to me that she was a Reike Master. I was impressed. “How long did it take you to become a Master?” I asked. “Two years,” she said. I stopped being impressed. Two years is about long enough to learn that you really don’t know that much and maybe it’s time to buckle down and actually start learning.

But can we learn at this advanced age? Can we teach old dogs new tricks? And is it worth the effort? The answer can only be yes and yes again, to paraphrase Molly Bloom, yes again.

But what needs remembering is that along the painful way, that way filled with mistake after mistake, one fabulous screw-up after another, along this way, you have to remember to enjoy yourself. Back off on the learning throttle just ever so little. You are not going to be great in one week or ten or even a year. Virtuosity is its own reward but it comes slow like aging. You don’t really notice it happening. Then one day when you look back, you can say, hmm, it was like no time had passed at all.

Gary Rogowski is the Director of The Northwest Woodworking Studio. Visit us at

Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm  Comments (2)