In praise of (self) teaching

I once saw “creativity” explained in neurological terms as the ability to take new information and rapidly connect it existing information.

This, in a nutshell, is what you need to succeed in upholstery.

Because you never see things you’ve seen before: You see VARIATIONS of things you’ve seen before.

The successful upholsterer, then, is one who can look at a new problem and successfully connect it to a whole network of past, possibly related, solutions.

For the candidate who lacks this ability, upholstery is a poor fit indeed.

Which makes education an interesting problem to consider. Though there is value in structure, we’ll NEVER succeed in giving students every combination, permutation and variation they’ll encounter at the bench.

NE. VER.

So even as we’re teaching upholstery, we must also teach problem solving – Or, at the very least, call it out in no uncertain terms.

YOU MUST BE A SELF-TEACHER!!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT COME BACK HERE FOR EVERY TEENY, TINY TECHNICAL PROBLEM YOU UNCOVER!!!!!!! THINK IT THROUGH!!!!!!! CONNECT YOUR DOTS!!!!!!!

Success goes to those with a resilience for struggle, and the gift of creativity.

But this phrase, “Self-taught” gives me pause.

On the one hand, I’m telling you: we’re ALL , “self-taught” in varying degrees.

What else can you call the act of struggling without supervision? By design or by disaster, successful upholstery training WILL include self-teaching.

But on the other hand . . . can any of us say we’re COMPLETELY self-taught? What does that even mean? Not a degree program? Not a single class? Not a mentor? Not a peer group? Not a video? Not a BOOK?

These are ALL forms of education. Good heavens, I don’t want to meet the professional who isn’t using SOME of these.

In fact, I don’t want to meet the professional who isn’t using AS MANY OF THESE AS YOU CAN GET YOUR GNARLY, CALLOUSED HANDS ON.

I worry when the topic arises on social media, that fear of losing this moniker “SELF-TAUGHT” occasionally discourages average upholsterers from seeking the tools that would make them EXCEPTIONAL upholsterers.

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know I’m a fierce proponent of self-taught professionals.

But listen: If you can get your hands on education DO IT.

DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!!!!!!!

DO IT!

OMG PLEASE DO IT!!!!!!!

This phrase, “self-taught” must NEVER limit our determination to seek out the people and experiences that could improve us.

Because if you’re good with trial and error, you’re gonna be great with books and videos.

If you’re great with books and videos, you’re gonna be AMAZING with a teacher.

If you’re amazing with a teacher, YOU’RE GONNA BE A FREAKING ROCK STAR WITH ANYTHING RESEMBLING AN APPRENTICESHIP!!!!!!!!!

Seek out ALL the things!!! Books! Videos! Mentors! Peers! Workshops! Conferences!

Education in all forms is infuriatingly hard to come by – you certainly won’t find enough to lose your bragging rights.

Even if you maxed out every single tool and event and resource currently available to you . . . You’d STILL be primarily self-taught.

So PLEASE: don’t hobble yourself any more than the market already has.

Random sidewalk moral support

This post comes at an interesting junction, as we’ve recently announced the pause of our live classroom for one year, in response to Covid-19 and all the inherent uncertainties therein.

Behind the scenes, we’re completely restructuring our business model and approach to education.

Because we’ve discovered two things: In spite of our exhaustive best efforts, local students who depend heavily on the classroom do not progress. They need so much more than we can reasonably deliver. Though the classroom is a valuable instructional component, it does not stand well alone – we need to coach students better on how to use ALL tools available to them – including self-teaching.

Secondly: we’ve unintentionally attracted a national (international?) audience. I had no idea that the training deficits in our local community are echoed from coast to coast. While I’m thrilled at the quality of self-taught professionals we’re hearing from, I didn’t design this business with you in mind. What can we possibly offer students who have to travel so far to learn?

Thankfully, the solution for both audiences is the same: Teach students to depend LESS on the classroom.

Hands-on instruction is a critical, highest value part of the training process: But it’s also INCREDIBLY limited. (even for our local students – surprise!!!)

The classroom’s full value is only unlocked when students understand how to use every resource available to ENHANCE their live experience.

Students who thrive are those who effectively combine the BEST of self-teaching with the BEST of live instruction. They are creative, they are resourceful and they are determined.

Our students are teaching US what works – and we’re learning.

So thank you for your patience as we rearrange our business – it’s going to be worth the wait.

(in the meantime, go self-teach your butt off. )

Cynthia 🙂

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