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Waiting, part 2

Waiting, part 2

Patience is a virtue. That’s an old saw, and though it gets mocked on a semi-regular basis in times of crisis, I believe it. Being patient shows respect for the ebb and flow of fate. It demonstrates an understanding of reward above and beyond the Skinner box model of direct input, direct output and even in a world that is moving as rapidly as technology allows toward an A-then-B utopia, patience still pays off.

However, there is a parasitic twin of patience so insidious that most people think its a synonym: waiting. I’ve fallen prey to that confusion myself this week. Being patient is toughing it out until you get what you want. Waiting is thinking you’ve done enough to deserve it.

I’ve been alluding to making a cello for a couple casts now, and I haven’t produced anything to speak about in that time. This wasn’t for lack of time spent. I’ve been watching videos of cellists and cello makers for a few days and I’ve osmosed quite a bit of the process at this point.

So what the problem? The problem, dear machinists, is that watching is an idle activity. I’m taking notes but not asking questions. I’m not experimenting, and I’m not reaching out to other people who might know what I need in any meaningful way. In a word, I’m waiting for the knowledge I need to sink in. 

I think there’s a larger point here to discuss about the methods of lecture in formal education, but this is not how I learn effectively, and I would dare at the moment to generalize and say that the passive approach doesn’t work very well for most of the people listening either. From the beginning, this project should have started with a question, not with a platform. Would I have missed some big picture elements? Maybe, but that’s fine. I’m not aiming for Stradivarius on the first trial and, at the moment, I’m not aiming for anything. I’m just watching other people do the thing I want to do. It just occurred to me that I don’t actually know why every cello has a nearly identical body shape, so there goes the big picture argument. This project is probably going to take a month to execute well, but that’s a matter of patience, not waiting.

If this dichotomy can be applied to something as abstract as learning about how cellos are made, it can be applied to anything. Be patient and, while you’re being patient, work your ass off to maximize the probability and effect of a good outcome, and to minimize the probability and effect of a bad one. That’s four vectors of engagement. I will bet that whatever you’re worried about can be attacked in one of those four ways, no matter how grandiose or complex or hopeless that worry is.

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