Two ways you can learn from my education in the school of hard knocks

Image from Library of Congress

For the past two years I’ve been posting at Fine Woodworking’s Pro’s Corner blog. Web producer Ben Strano’s invitation to write for the blog came shortly after the publication of Making Things Work, and while I don’t know whether the content of that book prompted the invitation, I can confirm that the blog posts are closely related to it.

There’s one big difference: While serious lessons I’ve learned about making a living as a woodworker form the subjects of most of the book’s chapters, I addressed them in the context of stories drawn from real experience. The narrative is meant to be as entertaining as it is instructive. You could read the entire book without noticing the pedagogical dimension, were you so inclined.

My posts at the Pro’s Corner blog are pretty much straight-up—about as close as I want to get to putting myself in the position of a counselor at a branch of SCORE, the Senior Corps of Retired Executives. (Please note that I am not retired, and probably never will be.) Over the years, I’ve consulted a few counselors at SCORE. It’s an invaluable source of business guidance, though I’ve found that most of the counselors, and so, their advice, come from companies that are radically different from a single-person craft micro-enterprise such as mine, where profit is understood more richly than in terms of a number on a bottom line and there’s no secretary or executive assistant to whom you can delegate the stomach-wrenching tasks that every business has to deal with once in a while. My hope is that my posts will give professionals and aspiring professionals the kind of perspective, and in some cases advice, that I wish I’d been able to find.

Of course, businesses, like shops and woodworkers, vary greatly. I’m writing about what works (and doesn’t) for me, given my experience, interests, values, and capabilities. Ideally readers will expand the posts into more of a conversation in the comments.

Here’s today’s post, on facing “failure.”

There are other types of content in Making Things Work, among them the blasting apart of certain widespread fantasies about woodworking and woodworkers. You’ll find those addressed occasionally at the Pro’s Corner, too. I’m honored and delighted that Lost Art Press is in the process of publishing its own edition of Making Things Work; it’s on track for publication around October.

Finally, I’m always grateful for suggestions about topics. The comments section is the place to put them.

About nrhiller

cabinetmaker and author
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3 Responses to Two ways you can learn from my education in the school of hard knocks

  1. Andrew Brant says:

    As someone who’s about to give my notice to resign my corporate job to attend a woodworking school and head out on my own (In 22 minutes, literally! Wow!), I’ve appreciated your posts more than most. I’m glad your book will stay in print with LAP, and in debt to the lessons you give, and so frequently. I’ve nothing to suggest at the moment but want to thank you from a deeply personal place.

  2. Anthony says:

    Nancy, a great post on failure. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your message, it brought home some of my own experiences. I want to let you know of the impact of your book. I was so impressed with it that I shared it with my woodworking friends. One of them read it and told me that the book gave him permission to begin to write his own story. He is still working on it, thanks to you.


  3. emjayb says:

    A lot of fiber artists intentionally add an “Arachne mistake” to each of their projects so that they are not perfect and thus will not incur the wrath of whatever deity one believes in. This is derived from ancient Greek mythology and the face-off between Arachne, a human, and Athena, a goddess. When Athena saw that Arachne was a better weaver, she attacked Arachne and turned her into a spider.

    Take this tale for what you think it is worth, supposedly perfection is only for the deities…

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