Wednesday, November 23, 2016

finding the confidence to begin...

Imagine you are standing along a trout stream for the very first time, there are small trees along side and you have your fly rod in hand. You must do some things you've never done before in order to "present" your fly at just the right point in the stream. Imagine also that there are other fly fishing enthusiasts up and down stream, and your first thought, may be related to concerns that you not embarrass yourself with an inept performance.

I've been woodworking for many years now, and have made enough mistakes in the process to have embarrassed myself many times in a field just as arcane as fly fishing and in which I've learned it best to not take myself too seriously.

I heard a radio interview with Nick Offerman last week. He is an American comedian, general all around goofball, and woodworker. He reminded his listeners (particularly those who want to do woodworking) that we all make mistakes.

I have been contacted by many people over the years, who have wondered how to start woodworking programs. I am reminded of my own hesitancy to take the plunge with regards to entangling my lines in brush, and in neighbor's lines and the embarrassment that might ensue. The thing a person has to do whether beginning to fly fish for the first time, or do woodworking, is to simply begin. Either can launched (if you prefer) as a solitary adventure. Try fishing in your back yard first. Try woodworking in your basement with the fewest possible tools. Then seek guidance. Friends can help.

Yesterday I got a phone call from a doctor in Nebraska, asking for a bit of guidance on gluing up a box. The best I could actually accomplish over the phone was to remind him that this whole thing cannot be taken too seriously. Learning must not be that way. When we remember that learning is the most natural thing a human being can do, aside from eating, and sleeping, and most things in which we find joy had to be learned for the first time.

Launch yourself. Then when you have learned a few things, share them, share the techniques through which you, yourself have learned, and launch others. Doing it yourself first will bring what seemed abstract into the concrete, in your life and in the lives of others. Gaining some small level of confidence as  a woodworker will help a great deal when it becomes time to teach others.

Tomorrow I will offer a link to the Taunton Press website, giving a 20% discount on my new book, Tiny Boxes.

Make, fix, create, and increase the likelihood that others learn likewise.


  1. Very well written post.

    I think you are correct about not very many people are happy to make a mistake, and that keeps them from even starting. Once in a while it almost feels that it is not OK to be a beginner anymore. And that is a shame.

    I know that it takes a lot of courage as an adult to acknowledge that you are not an expert, and it requires even more courage to ask for help in getting started.
    A lot of people are more than willing to help you if you just ask them for it, but few people will offer their help out of nothing, most likely out of fear that it might not be welcomed.


  2. Jonas,
    I was wondering where to begin writing this morning, as writing is just like any other thing. I thought for a few minutes that I could simply take a break for a few days, this being Thanksgiving week in the US.

    First you have to get started. Starting points are often vague and abstract. The first step is often the most difficult, as we must overcome inertia, and gain momentum. Sometimes, however, in getting started, we do things that have positive impact on others. Thanks for reading and letting me know that my own momentum has some effect.

  3. Good Advice.

    It reminded of a quote/lesson that has helped me and can be found in a book called "God Never Blinks, 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours" by Regina Brett: When in doubt, just take the next small step.

    In fact doing this one thing (I thought of this quote often) helped me not only in designing/building my own workshop but also helped me launch a family business (part time currently) of making wooden toys. It has been learn-as-you-go ever since and has been quite enjoyable for my family.

    Happy Thanksgiving!