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Learning From a Master

Updated on September 13, 2017

This summer I was able to spend some time working alongside a master machinist. When it came to making the different parts he knew exactly what he was doing, and he had all of the tools necessary to do the job correctly.

He was also very good at teaching me things like how to run the mill. Under his tutelage I was able to use tools that I had never used before and learn how they work. There is no chance that I am anywhere near as good as he is, but he did show me the basics. This man whom I worked with has been a machinist for almost forty years, and over that amount of time he has truly become a master of the trade. Who better to learn from than someone who has spent his whole life doing something?

This semester I am taking a shop class. Even though it has only been one day of instruction, it is remarkably easy to see how much better the master was than our teacher's assistants. In class we are supposed to learn how to use the mill and the lathe. When it came to the lathe portion of the class the TA's were not able to get a smooth finish across the end of the stock, since they did not have the tools properly set up.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the "10,000 hour rule." This is the average amount of time that was needed to truly become a master of something. For any skilled worker after some time that level of mastery is reached. This mastery can be reached in many things including music, carpentry and welding. These are all skills where you can only get better with practice.

Seeing the difference in the skill levels of the TA's and the master machinist I began to wonder just how long the TA's had been in the shop area. When things didn't go exactly the way that they hoped that they would our TA's were quick to call over the people higher up to see what the problem was instead of working to solve their own problems.

Working along the master machinist was eye opening because I knew that regardless of how much I thought I knew about what was going on, his skills and experience would always prove him right, and leave me standing in shock that he was able to perform some task with so little apparent effort.

No matter what we do in our lives or for our business there is always someone of a higher caliper skill set. So often these people are willing to help share their knowledge because they wish to see their skills passed on to the next generation. So often when we run into a problem with trying to solve something we decide that the best way to learn something is by going to YouTube. However, this is rarely the case that that is the better way to learn something. If instead we took the time to talk to the masters of our respective industries, we would be shocked at the fountain of information that flows out of them.

-God Bless

Christopher Benner

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