by Lora Brinkman
Earlier this week I was showing a group of 6th grade girls how to start their string art project. I explained the steps, gave them the tools, and asked if they wanted a quick demonstration. They all agreed a demonstration would be welcome. So, I took the nail and hammer and began to hammer it into the wood block. This is something I have done a million times in my lifetime and I don’t really even think about it anymore. One of the girls asked “How did you get so good at that?” I looked at her and said “Good at what?” She replies “Nailing! It’s so straight!”. I told her I hadn’t really thought about it. I’ve done it so many times. Then, I paused and said, “you want to know how I got good at this?” The whole group says “YES!” Apparently, they love stories. I shared the following with them.
I have always been a Daddy’s girl. When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I wanted to help my Dad build a fence. I kept asking if there was anything I could do and thankfully my Dad is a patient and caring man who loves his little girl. He gave me a hammer and a coffee can of nails and told me he needed all those nails hammered into a fencepost he was going to use. I’m sure I thought it was a very important task. I remember sitting there and hammering away. They were crooked, bent over, half in, and not a very good tradesman quality of work. But, with time, I got better at it. At the end of the day, he helped me get the ones that weren’t flat to the post hammered in and then he did use it as a gate post.
Now, if you ask my Dad about this day he will smile and tell you he couldn’t believe I hammered over 100 nails into that post. He really thought I would get bored with it. He knows how many were in there because many years later, he took down that fence and pulled all the nails from the post before burning it. It took him a whole day to get all those nails out from so long ago.
Just like hammering in those nails, it takes time and practice to learn a new skill. Dad showed me how he held the hammer and how to line up the nail with your fingers for the first hit. While it’s important to watch and learn from others, there is a point where you have to just devote yourself to practice and keep going until you know how to do it. Dad understood the importance of just letting me find my own way. He was always good at showing me and then walking away to allow me to practice and figure it out. I don’t swing the hammer just like my Dad and I typically need 2 hits, instead of his 1, before I remove my fingers. But, we can both drive a nail.
So many times in life we judge our own skills based on how someone else does it. We don’t take into account how much they have practiced and how much time they have spent to get to that point. When learning a new skill, set time aside to devote to it and find your own way. Many times there are multiple ways to get the same result.