The big idea contained in this book was that during the 19th Century, Americans that aspired to become substantially better in their passion went to Paris because that was where the expertise was located. Whether you wanted to be a great painter, sculptor, writer, physician, architect or engineer, you went to Paris and expected to work hard at your craft.
People like Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Fenimore Cooper, Charles Sumner, and Samuel F. B. Morse all went to Paris to develop their skills. The expertise in the new country of the United States was not sufficiently developed at that point in time to allow them to be the best in the world at their craft or passion.
The question I want to pose today is, “Where do people who aspire to do something great go today?”
Do you go to New York, Mountain View, Mumbai, London, Paris, Rome, Beijing, Shanghai, Atlanta, Istanbul, or Johannesburg? There are probably as many answers as there are skills.
One of the popular methods today seems to be the internet. Many young people feel that all of the information they will every need is located somewhere on the internet; it is just a matter of entering the correct string of words into Google.
A couple of years ago I met a man in Skagway, Alaska that had a shop that sold decorative colored glass items. I am not an art connoisseur, but these items were unusually attractive and I bought one.
We began talking and I asked him how he learned to make these items. He explained that he had retired from his former occupation and taken a trip to Italy where he had seen examples of the decorative colored glass and became intrigued by them.
So, he moved to Murano, Italy (a series of islands in the lagoon that forms Venice) and studied for more than a year with an expert in this craft. Then he came home to Alabama and made these items during the winter months and went to Alaska and sold them in his shop in Skagway during the summer months when the cruise ships brought tourists to Skagway.
Some things you cannot learn without putting you hands on the item and practicing your craft.
Are we developing in our companies skills that are worth emulating? Are we developing skills that are worth someone moving across an ocean to learn?
I submit to you that when we have these types of skills and/or unique products and services, then our companies and economy will truly be on the road to a full economic recovery that will sustainable.
Post your comments and let us stimulate the discussion.
Ted S. Miller
Project of the Week – Miller-Clapperton fabricated panels for Pioneer Cladding & Glazing Systems, LLC. for the entrance rotunda of the Queen City Tower in Cincinnati, OH. This challenging project was made even more so by the architect’s desire to utilize a rainscreen attachment system.