Mastering the Craft – Three Perspectives

I often share comments like, “You might think we’ve covered this before, and to a limited extent, you’d be right!  But mastering the craft is all about covering the elements again and again, from different angles, so as to learn new things.”  I do this because no matter how many times we cover a topic, there’s always so much more to learn, not only about that particular topic, but also about how these topics integrate into a cohesive whole.

Throughout history, trades such as carpentry, masonry, and plumbing codified various skill levels to ensure that workers would learn all the skills required at the lower levels before being allowed to learn, then be responsible for, the skills required at higher levels.

The earliest guilds were associations of artisans or merchants who oversaw the practice of their craft in a particular town.  Guilds began with “frith” or “peace” guilds, groups who banded together following the breakdown of relations between their kins (family ties).  Merchant guilds arose during periods of international trading, only to be eclipsed by the craft guilds, associations of master craftsmen, journeymen, apprentices, and associated craft trades.  A both printing and paper-making are craft trades associated with writing, at least in the days of old.

Even though the terms “guild” and “craft” have largely been replaced by the term “profession,” the apprentice-journeyman-master model is still used.  Indeed,

It’s like an ink drawing of a bear on a chunk of wood.  That’s covering it once.  I call that “exposure.”  After you’ve covered it a second time, you might have whittled a bit of the surface away, where the projection from the surrounding surface is slight, as in bas relief, but no part of the modeled form is undercut.  It’s at this point where most people say, “Ok, I’ve got this.”  There at about the same stage as a pilot is when they first learn how to hold the airplane steady in level flight, holding altitude and heading at the same time.  But there’s always more to the bear than meets the eye!  Next comes whittling away the sides, first one, then perhaps the top.  The bear is taking on the appearance of a three-dimensional image, but it’s still just a chunk of wood with a crudely cut albeit deep bas relief bear.  The pilot has mastered turns, climbs, descents, and even recovery from unusual attitudes (stalls and spins).  Now we take our bear and cut into the other side, then the backside, and bottom, separating him out from the chunk of wood entirely.  We finally have a crudely cut bear!  From here on, we’re working with the bear, not a chunk of wood.  The pilot has successfully completed takeoffs and landings, along with radio communication procedures, using visual charts, and navigating both visually and by radio navaids, including GPS. He has soloed by then, and passed his first FAA check ride with flying colors.

But it still looks like a crudely cut bear, something an aunt or uncle might pick up from a third world country for a buck.

Now we begin working on detailed features, such as the ears, eyes, and the nose, along with a couple of arms.  We include a few striations so others know our bear has hair.  The pilot is now learning the basics of flying on instruments, how to read IFR (instrument flight rules) charts, able to take off and land in reduced visual conditions before navigating his way over rough terrain and dark sky to his intended destination.

We begin putting the finishing touches on the bear, adding much more detail to the fur, giving him pupils and even eyelids for his eyes, fingers and even claws for his hands and feet.  You can now see knees and elbows under his fur, a basic expressing of contentment or anger on his face, ears canted at certain angle, possibly teeth glaring out from beneath his snarling lips.  The pilot is now flying for hours, both on trips with friends as well as alone.  He passed his FAA instrument check ride two years ago and is pushing ahead for his commercial rating so he can begin flying for hire.

The bear is now fully detailed, but smooth, a touch worn from handling.  The artisan could continue, but does, as it will only detract from, and not add to his creation.  The pilot obtained his commercial rating, then his ATP rating, and flies for Southwest or Frontier.  He’s making good money in the right seat and will soon transition to the left seat, as a captain.

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