Okay, so. I was teaching a spoon carving lesson and I found myself saying the same thing a lot, that I was doing the opposite of what most people do. In fact, I found myself saying this so many times that I took notice, and it gave me pause.
I carve my spoons differently from the way most professional and established carvers do. I start differently, I do different things along the way, at almost every step I'm doing it in a manner both unorthodox, and to my mind more efficient.
Now I didn't do it this way to thumb my nose at people who had gone before me. I did it because I was figuring stuff out for myself. When I started carving there was relatively little information online about actually how to carve spoons, so I pieced my information together from scraps tossed out here and there in blog posts and instagram captions, and developed my own method in response to making mistake after mistake after mistake.
What I ended up with was a process that allowed me to do things in ways that no one else was doing them. I haven't kept any of these ideas a secret, instead choosing to share them all as freely as I could. But what I've been thinking about lately is the importance of all of us, going our own way, learning things we wouldn't know otherwise.
A discovery is when you start of in a direction that everyone else scoffs at. By definition it is a risk: there is often nothing fruitful in that direction. But if you, if WE, all keep experimenting and sharing and trying new things, we will be in a better place as a community than if we trod the same footpath deeper.
Obviously this is a tricky catch 22, right? In teaching our methods, we fail to promote the very thing we found so beneficial, namely the experimental spirit. So perhaps a better way to think of it is that each of us stands on the shoulders of all the others, each lifting the group higher and higher, seeing new lands and new possibilities. I have become more conscious of celebrating and actively promoting the innovations my students bring to the table, and try to distinguish between fundamental truths and the truth as I practice it.
So if you find yourself going your own way, if you are worried that you might be doing it wrong, remember that every person who discovered something worth discovering was doing it "wrong", was flying in the face of how other people did things, and that ultimately, through their exploration, our world changes.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.