A respectful response to comments on “Follow up or forget it”

If there’s one thing I can say about readers of the Lost Art Press blog it’s that you’re a thoughtful lot. Thank you for your comments on my last post. In an effort to stanch* the misunderstanding, I decided it would be better to reply this way instead of writing detailed responses to individual comments.

As I reflected on the first remarks I saw (during a bathroom break) this afternoon, I realized that I should ask the following question:

Would you have responded differently to the post if I told you it was not based on a single individual but a distillation of many email exchanges, phone calls, meetings in person etc. — in other words, to make a general point? Here is how the post was intended:

1. as insight into the reality experienced by many of us who make our living as makers of furniture, cabinetry, and similar wares while also teaching classes and writing about our work

2. as a bit of advice to those hoping to get started in the field.

The point of the piece was certainly not to air dirty laundry or blast anyone in public. To the writer of that comment: I appreciate your concern that the general tone here remain constructive. The point of my post was constructive. Please do me the favor of reading on.

Another comment writer suggested that maybe the young man in question was just too busy to respond promptly. I appreciate — very much — your interest in seeing the other person’s side. A few people have written me off over the years because they grew tired of my own insistence on doing the same. In this particular case, the person who contacted me was a recent college graduate (in Making Things Work, I altered all identifying information, places and dates included) looking for direction in summer. He did not yet have a job.

But since we’re on the topic of being busy, I am running a one-person business on which a significant portion of my family’s livelihood depends. Punctual responses may be about manners for some people (they are to me, as well), but the need for punctuality has a grittier source in my world. If I don’t respond punctually to an email such as the one I quoted in that last post, or a voicemail/whatever, it will almost certainly fall off my radar due to the pile of other crap, literal and figurative, I am juggling. My patience with a lack of reciprocity from someone who is requesting my help is limited.

The following and more are currently on that radar screen: Building a set of kitchen cabinets with a mid-June deadline. Designing a sideboard for a house that defies any architectural characterization beyond “eclectic.” Coming up with an estimate for a dining table like nothing you or I have ever seen – an estimate that requires input from specialist suppliers, not just from me. (Can you say “herding cats”?) Proofing PDFs of several forthcoming magazine articles. Planning a trip to a few northeastern states during a limited window of available time in late July/early August to promote my book on English Arts and Crafts furniture. (Note: promotion is not about ego. It’s about developing real relationships and doing my part for the publisher.) Plans for a long weekend visit to my parents and sister in mid-July. Working out contractual and logistical details for a work-related video this summer. Collecting, shooting, and organizing images for (in addition to writing) a book about kitchens for Lost Art Press. Working with design clients in various states (and in various states of progress on their respective jobs). Writing a weekly blog post for Popular Woodworking and a series of posts for the Pros’ Corner at Fine Woodworking. (Interviews with Michael Fortune and Darrell Peart are coming up.) Writing class descriptions, communicating with past and prospective students, etc. In other words, the stuff of everyday life in my line of work.

There’s also the day to day reality of home life – a life I’m blessed to have.

And weeding the garden.

Responding to a missive such as the one in my previous post is not a matter of simply typing letters on a keyboard. It involves thinking strategically about what I might realistically be able to do for the person who is making the request. I don’t take that lightly. As I wrote in that post, I made a very generous offer to this person in the past; his response indicated that he was less seriously interested in learning about this line of work than he thought himself to be. Second time around? Barring catalepsy or some equivalent scenario, the lack of a prompt reply to my message (which I sent via the same medium as the one through which I received it; I recognize that some people no longer check email regularly) indicates that the claimed interest may be more dilettantish than the inquirer may be aware. “Jacob” is not alone in this. (Heck, I probably did the same thing myself at some point in my teens, though this person is beyond that age.) There was also Caitlin (not her real name), who insisted she was dead-serious about being my apprentice and lasted…one full day. (“My boyfriend is going to be in town tomorrow on the spur of the moment so I won’t be able to work. I knew you’d understand!” Huh?) Or Ike (ditto; not his real name), who contacted me during his last semester in college and came highly recommended by his adviser, whom I respect enormously. I rearranged my schedule around Ike’s impending arrival, taking on one job in particular that I could only handle with another pair of hands. Minor problem: He didn’t show up. “Oh, sorry. I guess I should have told you I had a better offer.” Fortunately I was able to hire an experienced tradesperson to take Ike’s place, though doing so cost me a couple hundred dollars. These are just two of the numerous other characters behind today’s noon-hour post.

In other words, that post was about the cumulative effect that such less-than-fully-considered queries tend to have on a businessperson’s willingness to entertain future requests from others. (Note: I am talking about a micro-enterprise businessperson, not a person with “staff.”) Every individual who does not follow through makes it less likely that the next one’s going to be taken seriously. Because lack of time.

Finally, the real-life young man mentioned in my last post is a wonderful, intelligent person with a huge heart and many admirable talents. He has so much going for him and has benefited from some good connections. When I write an email message such as the one I quoted in that post, it’s intended not as negative, unprofessional, or mean-spirited, but precisely the opposite: a piece of educational truth-sharing about one of the rarely-discussed (because AWKWARD) aspects of what it really means to make one’s living as a woodworker in today’s world. And that is exactly why I wrote Making Things Work.

*It’s correct. Look it up.

About nrhiller

cabinetmaker and author
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61 Responses to A respectful response to comments on “Follow up or forget it”

  1. keith says:


  2. sryoder says:

    Well Nancy, I am with all of the commenters who basically said “Right on!” Stick to your guns.

  3. jonfiant says:

    Woman, you can write. And work wood. Great points all around, and I agree with you.

  4. Richard Mahler says:

    It is about a general deterioration of social interactions and discourse in our culture – the false idea that we can pick and choose how and when we respond, or even to whom, or if we will respond at all. It is about basic respect and treating others in a manner we would want to be treated, after all we have very strong ideas about what we ‘deserve’. Another BS idea is buying into the excuse that we are too busy to be accountable for our interpersonal interactions. I daily see instances when the mere moment it takes to express thanks for things great and small seems to demand to too much of some of us. There are the unavoidable requirements we cannot ignore if we wish to be in community. If we have the time to begin a communication, we have the time and responsibility to bring it to a conclusion.

  5. John Hippe says:

    I appreciated your first post and your further explanation in this post. One aspect that resonated with me is the time it takes you to write a reply. For the inquirer it is a simple matter of dashing out a quick email asking for a favor. Your response, however, requires thought and some amount of planning.

  6. Jimmy Beamer says:

    I can’t be alone when I say that I appreciate the direction you’ve set for sail with your post(s), but I hasten to add that this really was a private matter. You sound extremely busy and yet you spent a lot of time and thought on penning not one, but two posts now. Your attention to detail is clear and it’s perfect that you’ve found the right vocation given that clarity.

  7. Dean Hummel says:


  8. Chris F says:

    Nancy, most other tradespeople probably wouldn’t even have answered the dude. Not only did you offer him your time and talents, you offered him a valuable life lesson. In years to come he will look back on that as a valuable gift in itself…

  9. themiddleagedapprentice says:

    * by the way, it’s only correct in the US. Everyone else spells it “staunch” 😀

    • themiddleagedapprentice says:

      For some reason, my first response got lost…it was something along the lines of “you offered your time and talents, then a very nicely worded life lesson. It’s something he’s going to value when he gets older”.

    • nrhiller says:

      Hmm. My 1973 edition of the O.E.D., purchased that year in a London bookstore, says “stanch,” with “staunch” being the secondary spelling. I use “stanch” because “staunch” has a different meaning in some contexts. Plus, I love the sound of “stanch.” 🙂

      • themiddleagedapprentice says:

        Can’t see the OED (behind a paywall) but the Cambridge interestingly lists “staunch” as an alternative to “stanch” but not the other way around, even though the meanings can be the same. How very odd. I will happily admit my error on this one (and not poke an author about words in future!)

        • nrhiller says:

          Please feel free to poke. I want to be corrected when correction is called for. In this case, you taught me something: I had not been aware that staunch was a correct synonym for stanch.

  10. Luke Maddux says:

    I’ll step forward as the person toward whom some (much? all?) of this is directed.

    First off, I appreciate this post. I agree that it is, as you say in the title, very respectful.

    In my mind, this should have been the first post. This gets the message across without singling someone out. It’s the posting of the emails which I felt was inappropriate. I felt that way for the reasons stated in my original post, but also because, as you said above, your first post fails to convey that it’s not the first time a “Jacob” has happened to you.

    I was in no way uncertain about your intention with the first post; I want to make sure that I make that clear. I am, whether I like it or not, part of a particularly weak generation (I’m 32) when it comes to communication, and Jacob is a classic, tried and true “Time Waster”. I get it. It’s a chronic problem among people nowadays. People get excited enough to write an email, but not excited enough to actually buy a product, follow through on a service contract, etc., and CERTAINLY not excited enough to *cringe* meet a person face to face and imbibe liquids. Last November I had someone approach me about a $1000 commission (a solid one for a hobbyist who does it as a side hustle) and then basically just shrink away when it came time for the “Ok, so we’re moving forward with this, correct?” talk, cancelling the whole thing with a “We’ll get back in touch when we’re ready” text. That was November…

    Again, I get it. I haven’t read MTW in its entirety, but I have read enough to understand its content and I understand that this is a demonstrable epilogue to much of what is said within the book and above in your post.

    With that said, I must point out the obvious: LAP may well be the foremost publisher of woodworking text in the world today. Maybe not with regards to volume, maybe not with regards to gross profit, but very possibly with regards to respect, acclaim, and sheer quality. You are a voice for that when you post on this blog, and I thought the first post was one where you should’ve taken a breather, drunk some water, and maybe stepped outside for a few minutes before hitting enter. That was my point, and, believe me, I’ve hit enter when I shouldn’t have. We all have.

    And, just to expand, I also see that being associated with LAP has probably exponentially increased your dealings with “Time Wasters”. So, one more time:

    I get it.

    Thanks for the respectful exchange, and for following up. All the best.

    • nrhiller says:

      Luke, what a thoughtful response. You bring up an important point when you mention a growing aversion to direct interaction, never mind putting your money (literal or figurative) where your words are. Here’s hoping that contact of yours will come through with the commission. Thank you for writing.

    • nrhiller says:

      One more thing. Sometimes it takes a long time for the proverbial penny to drop, where my consciousness is concerned. I just realized (d’oh) that your remark about the first post being unprofessional was probably based on your inference that it was a spur of the moment “press ‘publish now'” kind of thing — a bit of public venting. Now I see why you would call that unprofessional. For what it’s worth, I agree with you. However, that was not the reality behind my pressing the “publish now” button. This post was the result of careful thinking and writing, and as I mentioned before, various identifying details including dates were changed. (I did retain the spacing between the dates/times, as it is relevant to the point.) I don’t mean to belabor this, just want to make sure you understand where I was coming from, especially because I really appreciate your thoughtful remarks above.

  11. Roman C says:

    I thought your original post was spot on and this second post unnecessary. I shook my head in disbelief at those who found fault with the original post. I guess people will find anything to complain about. The fact that you took the time to write this second post shows your magnanimity and again I shake my head at the fact that it was even deemed necessary to do so.

    Keep doing your wonderful work!

  12. sryoder says:

    As far as the apparent inconsistency between the amount of time it took Uncle Nancy to write these posts and the amount of time she has available in her busy schedule, sometimes you just have to make the time because, as Popeye said, “I’ve had alls I can stand and I can’t stands n’more!”

    • nrhiller says:

      You got it. There’s a reason why I have not been posting here for a while: being pulled in too many other directions.

  13. Judith Katz says:

    I spent most of my working life as a subcontractor and independent serviceman. On more than one occasion I was asked to mentor or have a young person follow me to observe. As they were “interested” in my field. I know where you’re coming from and thought your response was restrained and to the point. Promptness and response to independent business persons is time and money (on occasion lot of money). Not responding even if the answer is no probably costs you a customer and a future job. Also ever heard the term “networking” it’s as effective a negative as a positive one. Jacobe needed someone to remind him of that. I’m 66 and if anything I think we’re less polite than we use to be and less respect for each other. That leads blindness of what we and others are capable of and our life is poorer for that. YOU did fine, others just like to snipe.
    Israel Katz

  14. potomacker says:

    I don’t think this type of interaction is generational. I see class conflict here, albeit mainly oblivious. To give another example, I listened to a hardware store owner explain to me his decision to close shop after a big box hardware store opened less than a mile away. The other big box was two miles away. The pattern is common enough. Predictably he saw a dip in business, but what pushed him over the edge was when lost customers would enter his premises with their newly purchased item from a cheaper outlet and ask his advice about installation. And there was no acceptable manner to respond to this type of consumer. If they hadn’t figured out how the economic system worked and how they could get items so cheaply, they never would listen to an explanation from somebody whom they expected free professional advice simply for the price of their listening to it. As it happened the hardware store owner owned the building outright and he ended up earning more renting the space out to another business, a costume rental as I recall.

  15. ericfromdayton says:

    Perhaps the real issue is a “root cause” problem. The lack of shop classes in the school systems are probably the leading cause of younger people not knowing how to work with their hands (other than texting and computer games). It’s not only about woodworking either. It is all the trades. Woodworking is probably the easiest cost wise to get started with and can provide satisfaction of accomplishment fairly quickly. But they also want instant results, which is why Ikea furniture sells so well. Younger people also have difficulty making commitments or recognizing when they are interfering with someone’s “train-of-thought”.

    • smathews8234 says:

      Boom!! Exactly my thinking ericfromdayton, learning this work in high school is critical. I even had wood shop class in middle school (6&7). Also to have a variety of experience, woodworking, machine shop, forging, welding, tool making, drafting. All this used to be available to anyone who wanted it in public school and I was able to participate for free. There was also discipline and time management to learn. I graduated from high school in 75 and that doesn’t seem that long ago 🙂 We have really let “Jacobs” generation down. Don’t you think?

      For what it’s worth, and considering what I have written above, I have mixed feelings on the email to Jacob.

  16. Lou Robbio says:

    I appreciate your work situation and family considerations. However, what does all of this have to do with the rest of us who want to learn more about woodworking, improve our skills, build different style pieces, and generally enjoy our work. Lost Art Press should not be a place to air grievances about too many inquiries or rude people or what a blog responder has to say. Do you want more interest in LAP or do you want to alienate a portion of the woodworking world? I practice law (part-time now) and always get inquiries from others who read my legal work. If I can help then I do, if not, I let them know. Period. No whining about not having the time and on and on. Sitting in my office and watching me work, no, I do not think so. Come to court and watch. A time to discuss any legal issue with which I am familiar, I will accommodate as my schedule permits.

    Can we get back to woodworking now? You have so much to share!


    • johncashman73 says:

      I come here for lots of things. Woodworking was the first impetus. But I stayed because it’s a community, and communities are more complex than a single issue. From the number of replies on both these threads, the community is very interested. We’ve had plenty of discussions in the past about topics even less related to wood.

      Besides, the discussion is very much of interest to those who make their living working wood, or who someday might want to.

    • nrhiller says:

      Lou, if you’ve subscribed to this blog for any length of time you’ll be aware that Chris is interested in broadening the discussion related to woodworking beyond information about classes, how-to posts, and the like. You will find posts about the history of furniture, women in woodworking, medieval (and pre-medieval) tools, design, gender, business ethics, Chris’s musings on the types of workbench builders, satirical posts from Chris on people who drive him nuts, and so much more. I was not whining, but informing “Jacob” and subsequently readers of these posts about the variety of tasks involved in being a designer-maker of furniture and cabinetry who also writes, teaches, etc., as many of us do. The humor evidently escaped the notice of some readers. Fortunately Chris’s post about the Welsh chair class has restored the kind of content you prefer! The great thing about this blog is you can just close a post if you find it not to your liking.

      • Andrew Brant says:

        I think this kind of variety is so important, and why I read it! I think your posts have been terrific and a really meaningful contribution. Let other places be the dry, how to articles and class notices. Everything you mentioned is what is so great about this space

      • Richard Mahler says:

        Recent American culture has suffered seriously from too much specialisation both in education and business. For decades corporations wanted employees who had degrees in narrow disciplines that they thought suited their business needs until they recently woke up to the fact that many of these people could not deal with problems that arose where those few with liberal arts educations had no issues – they knew how to think for themselves and apply wider experience! I believe in liberal arts education, willingness to listen to others’ ideas and opinions, to engage in responsible discourse, to broaden their interests and continue to educate thenselves about the world they are forced to live in. Curiosity and knowing where to get the information you need important in a tech age and the internet is the greatest boon in human history to make that possible (but one needs judgement in assessing that information and comparing what one finds). Discourse in America at present divides instead of unites: if you don’t agree 100% with my world view then you are the enemy! We cannot survive as a viable culture if we cannot correct our attitudes. The readers, writers and commenters on LAP blog demonstrate the value of all of this spades. I am constantly gratified by the caliber of what I encounter here and I keep coming back for more! And it is not because it is a personal echo chamber.

    • I would say that a discussion on how woodworkers (or those considering woodworking) should interact with other woodworkers is absolutely an aspect of woodworking that shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

      “Woodworking” is so much more than lumber and joinery and trying not to amass a collection of tools you don’t use. It is also a community of people and all of the social complexities that come along with it.

      There are all kinds of woodworking forums we can visit, if only to learn how NOT to act on a forum. But without a post like this, it is less likely that people who might make such mistakes would have any way of learning that this simply isn’t how you should conduct yourself.

      I’ve stopped reading pretty much all of the woodworking magazines out there, because all they focus on are the projects (I’ll likely never build) and the tools (I’ll likely never buy).

      So I for one appreciate the different approaches to woodworking I can find on the LAP blog.

  17. kaisaerpren says:

    I would have just told that person to take a class. and since I teach classes also I’ve noticed that less than 1 in 100 actually ever do anything outside of the class. Some new people want an easy way to make extra money (or any money), some want a hobby, some are fascinated with doing things. then they decide that it’s not easy, it costs too much, or there’s too much to learn. There is no time to teach when you are making, and when you are teaching, students don’t (or shouldn’t) expect it to be completely free. I try to encourage everybody. a bit of advice or a quick critique I’ll toss off. but if you need training, either find someone to hire you or go take a class.

  18. Mr Linn says:

    It’s a good thing for you to try to teach this young man some basic skills for use in interaction with his fellow humans.

    I’m more hard faced than you. Everyone deserves a second chance. But if one detects that, as far as they’re concerned, the world revolves around them? I’m done.

  19. As usual from you Nancy… the poignant truth of not only many youth, but adults as well today…

    The mindset within the modern normative culture that…our time belongs to anyone… that thinks (?) they deserve it. Regardless of what our needs may or may not be.

    Your tone and flavor were understood (I think?) by most of us. Promptness is not only professional it is a sign of courtesy and respect (also lacking in modern humans…along with humility.) If one cannot be prompt, then front load a humble mea culpa beforehand if at all possible, and/or take the feedback given for being tardy and simply apologize (which I hope this young man did.)

    As one that was with Old Order Amish as an apprenticed Barnwright from 13 to 23 years of age (when I could) and within my own family for other guild crafts and arts, just getting to “watch” is extremely transformative. So I would more than challenge that perspective. Your views on “learning methods,” it is both cultural and subjective. I understand distraction, and running a business, but see this as an excuse (one I am guilty of often myself), not a reason to fail to endure it. As seasoned experiential teacher and facilitator in several fields and disciplines, as well as being a Craftsperson, I can share that learning anything comes in many variable forms and modalities of delivery…including but not limited to “hands on.” I see many teaching in the world of craft (like woodworking) that are world-class craftspeople…nevertheless, they are anything but “good teachers.” This too is an art onto itself, and not something many are as good at as they think they may be. Just watching them work would actually be better than having them “try to teach” what they are doing. As such, “just watching” (even from a distance without words exchanged) is often more than enough to completely transform a person (especially a young person) insight not only into the craft but themselves as well…

    I’ll leave you with this as “food for thought,” from another culture’s perspective of learning, where often your not allowed to “ask questions” or even stand too close…but only watch…nothing more unless told to do so…

    …To steal the knowledge of the Master one must only watch like a cat in the shadows, from this the deepest learning is achieved…

    This is the foundational element of beginning to learn within many of the Asian Arts and culture, often for over a decade in times past…In Japanese, its called, Gijutsu o nusumu (技術を盗む) I steal the knowledge (technology) from the Master…”

    Great Post,


  20. Mike says:

    Here is some respectful feedback from a generational peer of yours, and a (potential) consumer of your work: The tone of martyrdom (frost bitten toes, deceased step son, crazy buzy schedule) is a very divisive strategy. Some will find it appealing and empathize with your situation, others will find it extremely off-putting and self-aggrandizing. Normally I keep these opinions to myself, but you seem to crave feedback and are the one calling attention to your personal life (yes, family friends calling in a favor is a personal matter, not a personnel matter).

    Also (and this goes more to the commentators), the “get of my lawn act” is old. Today’s younger generation is no less competent than prior younger generations. I know picking on Millennials is a favorite past time of the baby boom to Gen X crowd. However, it is cliche, not constructive, and honestly just a weak move. The 20 somethings I deal with are better educated, higher achievers, and far more motivated to do both social and economic good than I was in my 20s.

    • johncashman73 says:

      Sure. But I think Nancy’s story reminds us how important it is to teach the younger generation those things that are important to us. They can use it, or not.

    • nrhiller says:

      Mike, thanks for your comment. I understand that some may read me as playing the martyr. That is emphatically not the intention; it’s part of the humorous way I convey realities that many with whom I interact today have never had to experience. I get that humor is a personal thing, dependent on the reader or listener/viewer being open to the “voice” of the narrator. This is the voice from my last book, Making Things Work, which is sold by LAP and the primary raison d’etre for this pair of posts. I just replied to another comment on the topic of generational behavior and ageism, so I won’t repeat that here; suffice it to say that my posts had nothing to do with criticizing young people and everything to do with the prevailing lack of awareness about the value of the self-employed person’s time. This is another significant topic in Making Things Work. I have found that many people my age and older, especially salaried professionals who work for large companies and institutions with personnel dedicated to dealing with many of the tasks a single micro-businessperson has to deal with him- or herself, have a different understanding of the meaning of time. It’s not just about a younger generation.

  21. johncashman73 says:

    Ah, human nature. People never change, only the things with which we surround ourselves. There are probably papyrus scrolls and stone tablets with the same story, which many boil down to the phrase “kids these days.” And the young of today will be complaining about young folks 60 years from now.

    But this really isn’t a lament on youth. It’s about time pressures, particularly on those who are self employed. And more and more are facing those struggles in this so-called “gig economy.” Chris at LAP had to pull the plug on his public email. Lawyers have always been asked for free advice. Uber drivers suffer daily impositions. I worked third shift for a couple of decades, and everyone assumed I had days free just so i could help them.

    There are lots of answers and opinions offered. But it’s a problem that has always been around, and always will.

  22. I read the original post yesterday and gave you a standing ovation next to my table saw. Yes, it was harsh. But as a former young adult myself (has it been that long?), I recall a time or two when I was on the receiving end of harsh council. At the time I was far too wise to accept it, having already spent eighteen or nineteen whole years on this earth. But looking back, I realize that it changed my life.

    You were presented with an opportunity to share an important life lesson with a young skull full of mush. You didn’t hold back, you were brutally honest, as such life lessons require should be delivered. He may not know it yet (heck, some of the critics around here don’t know it), but you gave that young man a gift far more valuable than a five-year apprenticeship. Some day he will thank you… Or he will hate you forever, it could go either way.

  23. Cliff Bridwell says:

    Excellent. Your clear concise comments are a benefit to all who take the time to read them and think about what is being said. I am retired and fortunate to still be learning from individuals like you and Chris.

  24. Marcos says:

    I do not quite understand the big deal or see the “valuable life lesson” in these posts. The fellow did not answer an e-mail in a day?

    Do we really live or want to live in a society where you have to read and answer your e-mail daily? There was a comment in the previous entry from a person claiming he has never been in a situation where he has not been able to answer an e-mail in 26 hours. I could only think: You seriously have never been without an internet connection for more than a day? That is disturbing to say the least.

    I spend at least every fourth weekend during tve year plus a few weeks in the summer without internet or even a mobile phone when backpacking or canoeing. Hope I have not offended too many people by doing it!

    By the way, I am interested, how many of you commentators dubbing this a generational problem managed to answer your letters in a day before e-mail was popularised? It would have been impossible without using a fax machine or a courier service.

    • Five years. Not a day.

      • Marcos says:

        I may have misunderstood something here. I went through the first post again and it seems to me that they did communicate five years before about Jacob not being able to come to the arranged hour. So it does not seem to be about him not replying to her message in five years?

    • I think the point is, when you ask a big favor (will you take time to teach me a trade for free…), and you can’t bother to check for a response, then how serious are you? The fact that we didn’t have email before is irrelevant. We have it now.

      It’s called taking the initiative, showing some ambition. You don’t have to check your email every other day, just THIS day. I can tell you, if I was expecting to hear back from someone willing to teach me a valuable trade, I’d be checking it every hour.

      • Hello Marcos,

        I debated this response as others have already, but as I kept up with those in this conversation that feel like you seem to, I find it necessary to add one anyway…

        One…Attention to detail in what Nancy was addressing regarding the overall value of someone’s time.

        Second…To be repeated…NOT 1 DAY!!!… It was considerably longer than that and happening once again. As it has to many of us here.

        As to your last paragraph…Most active and consciences professionals (regardless of the what they do) often have a “set rule” for themselves in how fast they respond to correspondence. I for one as a teacher and craftsperson have a boilerplate apology to all if I fail to respond in less than 96 hours from being aware of their request for attention. Your point about the way it was before the internet has no bearing on the current normative culture and decorum of respect as it now is. Yes, in the past it took much longer, but not for want of a better system of staying in touch. I would also add that many made a very strong effort “back then” to still be very responsive, often still meeting my personal 96-hour rule…

        I commend you for “disconnecting.” Many of us still do and are, as I, for one, still don’t have, own or keep a cell phone. That is too invasive most often and unnecessary. Nevertheless, there still is the want of others professionally and privately that have a different perspective. I try to honor and respect that desire.

        So, in closing, perhaps try looking at this from Nancy’s (et al) perspective, and the true message of respect and professional understanding that is what this post thread is addressing…


      • Marcos says:

        Stumpy, my comment about not having access to e-mail was purely about and for the people commenting about this (not being punctual) being a generational issue.

        To be clear my point is: How could it not be a generational issue if the previous generations did not even have the chance to be as punctual, as the people are demanding the younger generation to be today?

        Otherwise, I understand and agree with your argument. It seems I have been making the wrong conclusions about these blog posts.

    • Marcos says:

      I feel it is in order to clarify that I do feel the treatment Nancy received five years ago was ungrateful and disrespectful. I am sure no one here would argue otherwise.

      However, I do not agree with the underlying premise that one should be reachable 24/7. Neither do I accept the blame some people in these comments have tried to push to the whole generation. (Naturally, that was not Nancy’s message.)

      But as I said, perhaps I am drawing the wrong conclusions here and being the wiener arguing about the least important aspect of the matter. I wrote my original comment late in the evening and was not at my brightest.

      I apologise for any discomfort I may have caused.

      • nrhiller says:

        Marcos, you are not being a wiener. You are clearly a thoughtful person trying to be fair to all sides. That’s an anti-wiener! I could not agree more about being on call 24/7 thanks to electronic communication. As you’ve made clear, you understand that that was not something I was expecting or demanding. Nor (as you’ve acknowledged) did I intend to bash a generation. My husband, a general contractor, and I share experiences regularly on the topic of our clients (almost all of whom are at least in their 40s) not responding, sometimes for weeks. The problem in this case is that they (his clients, more than mine) often expect him to have kept open a slot in his schedule (bear in mind that he has people who work for him, whose livelihoods and families depend on him keeping them busy all the time) for their job that they have not bothered to confirm. This kind of scenario has little to do with my posts, other than to underscore that I was not making a jab at “younger people”!

  25. Jim Maher says:

    I don’t believe the situation you describe is an old one; it is neither new nor more prevalent in the current generation.

    In an unrelated field (computer application software), I experienced virtually the same thing in the ’70s. I gained quite a lot of that frustrating experience. By the ’80s, I’d evolved my response to a polite form of “Come back when you’ve gained some real world experience in the field”; that eliminated 95% of the problem.

    By the ’90’s, I would refer such inquiries to younger colleagues and suggest the petitioner contact me after 10 years of such mentoring; that eliminated virtually all of the problem. The very few persistent ones who kept coming back (only a handful) were not a problem; they were a joy to work with and I learned a LOT from them.

    Many people have “an interest” in a particular field. Only a few will actually work to pursue that interest. And it’s only a rare gem that will pursue that interest with passion. My time, my LIFE, is limited. I need to restrict my sharing to those precious few that actually WANT what I have to offer.

    So, I let the seekers make those decisions. I’m here, plugging along, moving in the same general direction as always. With reasonable effort, it’s simple for a seeker to catch up to me, walk along with me, and make the best use they can of my meager example.

    I heartily recommend that you find some nice way to turn away apparently casual inquiries (and assume that all initial inquiries are casual). If they come back 3 or more times over a 10 year period, have them come to lunch and tell them bluntly and forcefully what you are willing to do and what you demand in return. You can then “be nice” to the rare gems worth polishing.

  26. Aquila says:

    Your first post had a, perhaps, somehwat annoyed tone, however, there was good cause. I understood that it was not aimed specifically at an individual. Your content was meaningful, useful and I still am saving it for further use as you phrased things far better than I would have in the same situation. Your time is valuable, it is necessary to plan ahead in order to accomplish the preparation and tasks in your schedule and to have someone (anyone) not respond in a timely fashion is just not acceptable. I remember my father refusing an apprentice because they were more interested in playing around elsewhere than learning the trade – he was not polite after listening to their excuses and told them to go grow up and not bother about coming back. I have had private lessons scheduled, waited for the student who never showed, didn’t call or make any sort of effort to contact me later. My time is valuable, I allow people to purchase some of that time from me to learn what I know, otherwise I have plenty of other things I need to do and I certainly don’t need to sit around waiting for someone who never shows up which wastes time for which I could have been paid. I’ve sent bills for the lesson time that was blown off by the student but have yet to receive payment from any of them. I think you were spot on in the first post and the explaination here, while helpful, was not all that necessary nor was it negative, it was a professional expecting professional behavior from someone else. That is not unreasonable in the least.

  27. Lex says:

    At one point I was trying to decide about taking a woodworking class. I randomly emailed Nancy based solely on respect for her work and mutual following on Instagram. Truthfully, I felt bad after the fact when I realized I asked for free advice from a busy person who makes a living from her time. Nonetheless, she graciously answered with thoughtful advice.

    So for those criticizing her response to Jacob, keep in mind that she starts by going out of her way to help people that ask. Her request for respect is earned by giving it first.

  28. DT says:

    “Dance like no one is watching but write emails like they will be read in a deposition.”

    That’s a phrase I’ve heard before and I think it fits neatly into your logic both here and in the previous post. I appreciate them both.

  29. JS says:

    Since this is a woodworking site I hope that my comments are appropriate. I read LAP because the information and articles are educational to me since I am a hobbyist woodworker. Is the topic presented here about respect for a craftsperson trying to make a living the main point of the post or is the point of the topic of respect for anyone who puts out effort, time and money the main point here. It works both ways from employees to employers and vice versa. This is not a generational thing. I see my daughter trying to get a job in her chosen profession being disrespected by the potential employers she has interviewed with, because for whatever reason, they have not responded to her for which she has put out considerable time, money which she has very little of, and great effort to secure a job. There has been promises by these employers that they will get back to her and nothing comes of it. Just a little respect to say you didn’t get the job and why so she can learn and apply it to the next interview would be nice. Respect for one another has gone out the window, and unfortunately this seems to be the way a great many people are today. If this is off topic I apologize for taking time and space up.

    • nrhiller says:

      JS, I could not agree with you more. Respectfulness needs to go both ways. My main reasons for this pair of posts were as follows: first, to remind those seeking help, advice, or instruction from woodworkers who make their living in the field (whose time to give such help is, in many cases, limited, especially relative to the number of such inquiries) that it is critical to follow up, regardless of whether the person you asked for help was in a position to give it. Second, the topic of this post is, as indicated by the number and passion of the comments, a difficult one. Nobody wants to be seen as uncaring or unhelpful. And (not “but”) being assertive about what one can and cannot do is not being uncaring or unhelpful. It is being honest. It is giving others an accurate view into your own field, instead of the rosy fantasy that many people have about furniture making, along with coffee roasting, farming, distilling, and so many other fields. The same goes for reminding those making requests that it’s really important to follow up.

      I think that when I identified “Jacob” as a young man, I inadvertently led people to think I was making a comment about younger people. As I’ve said in other replies to comments, this is not just about younger generations.

      I hope your daughter will find a job in her chosen field and wish that someone in whatever field that is would write a controversial post about the importance of notifying applicants that they have not been hired! I know what it’s like to be in that position; it’s easy to feel a little like a piece of trash that someone’s throwing away.

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