In Practice

How to Fail Forward as A Maker

In my last post, I talked about how to become a better woodworker by stopping watching YouTube.  Let’s expand on that a little.  If you turn off YouTube and go out in your shop and start making stuff, there is a good chance you will make a mistake in some shape or form.  Mistakes are inevitable.  The longer you do something, the more cards you get stacked against you, increasing your chances of making mistakes.

There are basically three ways to react when you make a mistake.

You can get mad and throw your workpiece across the room, possibly causing more destruction and hurting yourself, releasing a chain reaction of more temper tantrums, mistakes, and regrets.

You can just give up, quit, and walk away like a pussy.

You can stop, step back and analyze the situation.  Ask yourself.  What did I do to cause this mistake?  You know that personal responsibility thing.  Was it because I was cheap and bought an inferior tool that failed.  Is there something lacking in my skill set, and I need to learn a new skill.  Was I just simply not paying attention, and I need to work on staying focused.

There are many things that could cause mistakes, but taking the time to analyze what went wrong instead of giving up or throwing a temper tantrum will allow us to learn from our failers and move forward with new knowledge for the next project.

There is also a lot of value to be had from trying to fix mistakes.  As I have continued my journey as a maker, I have realized that some mistakes are not as devastating as they appear on the surface and will be corrected in a later step.  Sometimes you have to make it worse before you can make it better.  Like when you stain a piece of wood, when the stain dries, it looks lifeless and gross.  Then you apply the topcoat of polyurethane to seal it in, and the urethane brings the stain color to life, and suddenly it pops and looks gorgeous.

Many other mistakes are like old friends, the pain in the ass ones.  You have encountered them before and know how to fix them, so there is no need to panic when they come around.

Mistakes will help us grow, keep pushing ourselves and keep making them.  Then analyze what caused them and how to fix them.


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I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

Thank you for reading my blog.

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