Ask The Next Question

799. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I met John in his workshop. He was cutting pieces for a chair. He’s decided that his summer task is to learn to build chairs. I’ve known John for many years and he was a master woodworker when I met him. That he’s set himself the task of making chairs seemed at first already within his reach. I’ve sat in many many chairs that John’s designed and built. And then, like a little kid excited to open presents, he showed me his prototype and all the things he didn’t know how to do. He showed me all the things that he couldn’t wait to explore. There are new joinery, curves, and design elements. He’s incorporating metals into some of his designs. Brushing the sawdust from his shirt, he said, “I figure if I’m not learning then I’m probably wasting my time.”

John chooses his projects based on what he doesn’t know. For years I’ve admired how he orients himself to his tasks. He is a true master. Mastery is not about what you know. Mastery is about how you address yourself to what you don’t know. Mastery and curiosity are bedfellows. Most of us choose our projects based on what we know. We do stuff because we know how to do it – and sometimes we mistakenly call that expertise. We use our knowledge to distinguish ourselves from the pack. Masters have no time for such nonsense. They are too busy learning. They are too in awe of life to separate from life. They are joiners and not concerned with status games.

As we jumped into John’s truck to get some dinner and a beer I noticed that he was limping. I asked him about the limp and he was told me about the magic his naturopath was working. He has arthritis in his back. He said, “I have a lot to learn. There is so much for me to do, so many things I want to do. I figure I’ll never get to it all but I need my health. I’m too excited to stop asking the next question.”

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