July 11, 2018 0 Comments

What is a Master, and Does it Matter?

In the Middle Ages, unless you were born into nobility, you would have wanted to master a trade. However, it wasn’t as easy to acquire a skilled trade as it is today. Guilds protected craftsmanship secrets and required steep fees, hand tools had to be made or inherited, and competition to be chosen was fierce.


If you were lucky enough to be chosen as an apprentice, you’d be expected to live with a master tradesman for several years. Your hours of menial labor would be arduous, and your pay was simply room, board, and knowledge. Finishing an apprenticeship successfully would earn you the title of journeyman, with a small wage for yourself while you continued to learn. Becoming a master craftsperson entailed decades of backbreaking work.

Today it is easier to jump into a handicraft. We have colleges, trade schools, and libraries. The internet is rich with tutorials and insider knowledge. You can take a single class or a four year degree in many disciplines.

But can you master a trade from a few classes and online instructions? You can certainly create a solid item. If you’ve been crafting your item for a few years, you will have gained insight into your materials, processes, and techniques. Over time your hands acquire a feel for the very work itself, and you can identify a design flaw before it arises.

Malcolm Gladwell tells us that we must put in about 10,000 hours to master a skill. That is around a decade of full time labor. And although mileage may vary, his formula seems to ring true for many skills. With the exception of a few prodigies, most people at the top of their craft have spent solid time in the trenches.

And this is a good thing. Would you rather learn a recipe from an experienced breadmaker, or a new food blogger? Would you rather have kitchen cabinets crafted by a second generation carpenter, or someone who has been watching how-to videos?

In conclusion: Mastery of a trade eliminates the amateurs.

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