Learn the trade and the tricks will follow

I’ll never forget the 11th grade English class when Mr. Ervin departed from his usual lessons in literature, and lectured us on this topic for the full hour. “Learn the trade and the tricks will follow.” As he repeated this simple advice, he bemoaned the fact that everyone was looking for the shortcuts, looking for the quick and easy, trying to bypass learning any more than was necessary.

Where did he learn this advice? As a carpenter’s apprentice, he had noticed that the master carpenter always had some little trick or technique to apply in difficult situations to make them easier. Carpentry was hard work, and he though if he could learn all of these techniques, it would be much easier to learn. So he asked the master carpenter to teach him the tricks of the trade. “Learn the trade and the tricks will follow,” was the reply. (Continued)

Thank you, Duc Tran

Writing my introductory post led me to think of some of the many people who have taught me important lessons. One of those people was Duc Tran, an engineer I knew when I was a technician at Rixon. He taught me a technique for using an index register to keep track of current state, instead of relying on a flock of boolean values and “if” statements. That revelation changed the path of my life, and led me to seeking simpler, yet more powerful, constructs. I was caught in a lay-off (my first of many) not many months later, and I’ve lost track of Duc Tran. I doubt that he’s aware of the influence he had.

It’s perhaps a characteristic of the human condition that we are often unaware of the good we do in the world. We must keep trying in spite of the lack of feedback.