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How to Find Your Own Generous Heroes of Your Talent

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In the past few weeks, my fourteen year old son Caleb was able to reap still more rewards as a result of having originally taken to documenting his talent journey publicly. By doing this, I mean that he has blogged about his talent and he has been an active participant in an online forum dedicated to supporting a community of bladesmiths. In this community, professionals and serious amateurs encourage each other and share news of the the latest development in the craft and trade.

Caleb’s blogging started a couple years ago when he started to write about his interest in bladesmithing and about the progress in his learning. That consistency allowed him to convince the gatekeeper of the professional bladesmith forum that he should be accepted as a member. Since it is a serious forum dedicated to a serious craft, they understandably do not want people to join who are not going to contribute to the spirit and community of bladesmithers. That is where Caleb’s public blog acted as a calling card to open the doors. His blog was absolutely necessary to have as a young person, to demonstrate his commitment to wanting to learn. He was a novice in a field populated by adult veterans of the craft and without the asset of his blog, it was doubtful he would have been allowed in.

Once inside the forum, Caleb started learning as fast as he could the etiquette of engagement within that professional world. He also learned to ask the right kind of questions in order to make progress in his quest to becoming a better bladesmith. He dutifully read up on previously explained material when told to do so. Because of Caleb’s friendly, but respectful interaction (a couple of social mistakes along the way, from which he quickly recovered), he was able to find out many time-saving and money-saving ideas he could implement in his novice workshop without breaking his small budget. A couple of adults even generously shipped him some tools and resources to encourage him along, while others wrote him personal messages in order to encourage him in his pursuit. As a result, he started making significant progress on his knives. His interaction on this forum has been nothing short of amazing. Had he tried to acquire this level of interaction through the traditional means of networking, he would have broke his parents’ bank in trying to attend expensive summer workshops, flying to distant states, and going to specialized schools. That is even assuming that I would have allowed him to do so at such a young age, which of course I would not have.

Continuing the story of how Caleb recently reaped still more benefits from his online interaction with his talent, he was able to take advantage of an opportunity to accompany his grandparents on a European trip as a means to further consolidate his participation in a small, but vibrant world-wide community of bladesmithers. He boldly contacted four different bladesmiths from the forum that he knew lived in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. I braced him for the fact that of the four requests that he might only get one true invitation. But clearly I was wrong. I had underestimated how strong of a bond there was in this online community. Not one, but all four professionals generously invited him to visit them in their private workshops on their home properties!

Caleb is still in Europe as of this writing, but he has confirmed to me that, with the help of his grandfather as chaperone, he has indeed been able to visit all four bladesmiths and was warmly welcomed. When he comes back next week, I and the rest of the family, can’t wait to hear a full account of his in-real-life encounters with some of the heroes of his talent world. Some heroes were tough with their advice, others more gentle, but all were generous to him in his quest to become better at his talent focus. This is the power of deciding to interact in the community of one’s chosen talent.

If any of you would like to know how to jump-start your own child on his blog, please let me know and I will be glad to share with you what works and doesn’t work. Contact me through the feedback button on this website and I will personally reply back to you. If you are already convinced that blogging is the way-to-go for your son or daughter, I would like you to sign up for the “Blog to Your Talent” e-course. This e-course is designed to walk your young person through a simple 42 lesson plan for starting a new blog related to his or her interest or talent-focus.

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Mentors and Parents

Mir's Legacy - The core modules of the Interna...

Finding a mentor who is both good at his craft and good at being able to share with a younger person can be a difficult match (photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Quote by Geoffrey Colvin in chapter 5 of his book “Talent is Overrated: What really separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“:

“in sports generally, seeing the results of practice is no problem…Difficulties arise when the results require interpretation. You may believe you played that bar of the Brahms Violin Concerto perfectly, but can you really trust your own judgment? Or you may think that your rehearsal of a job interview was flawless, but your opinion isn’t what counts. These are situations in which a teacher, coach, or mentor is vital for providing crucial feedback”.

Geoffrey Colvin explains that mentors often play a big role in many of the very talented people. I agree. But actually finding a mentor for your minor child can be a difficult task for you as a parent to accomplish in getting your child to grow in his 10,000 hours of talent. Thankfully not every field of talent needs a traditional mentor, at least not at every point in the process on the path to becoming super-talented. Nonetheless, if you can enlist the help of some type of a mentor for your child, it makes the journey a lot easier.

Here are the two common difficulties when trying to find a suitable mentor or coach for your child:

  • Difficulty #1: finding an expert who has experiences that could actually benefit your child, but who is not willing or capable of sharing with a younger person
  • Difficulty #2: finding an expert who is actually willing to share and has great experiences in the particular talent field, but whose personal life is so out of control that it could inadvertently harm your child

The workaround to difficulty number one can often be found by going online to specialized forums where experts give advice to each other about their talent. They are often willing to dispense kind tips to beginners who are showing themselves serious.

The workaround to difficulty number two can often be found by breaking down the skills into still further sub-skills and then to go find new and different mentors that match up to those sub-skills.

The younger the child, the more you may want to consider the strategy of enlisting the help of multiple mini-coaches or mini-mentors. The older the child, the more your child will be able to sell himself to a skeptical mentor by the evidence of the work he would have already accumulated. The older the child, the more he will also be able to separate a person’s great expertise in one area from any of the mentor’s personal ethical problems that are outside his craft.

Whatever the relationship with mentors, always stay in charge. Do not let yourself be substituted as the parent when giving the ethical direction to your child’s life. A beloved coach or mentor should be respected for the value he adds to your child’s life, but the mentor should not be expected to carry the burden and responsibility of being a substitute parent.

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Online Writer Forum for Homeschoolers

I recommend the One Year Adventure Novel forum for homeschooled students who are serious about developing story writing skills as part of a long-term talent. The forum will do wonders for the son or daughter who no longer wants to feel alone in the serious pursuit of talent. You will not find a similar local writing club in your area composed of dedicated teenagers.

This forum is designed to young people who are writing their first novel and want a community of equally motivated peers to provide moral support and share writing techniques and tips. But in order to participate in this adult moderated forum for teenagers, you must sign-up and pay for the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum. The curriculum is designed to get your child to produce a real novel that takes advantage of their first-hand knowledge while following a strategic approach to writing, but the forum itself is more along the coffeehouse format of passionate young writers all sharing ideas with with each other.

To appreciate the magnitude of the support available for your child on this forum of almost 3,000 registered members, here are some the forum topics and statistics:

Character Development

Bring your characters to life.

  • 58 topics
  • 10,668 replies

Collective Novel

Join with other writers in producing a novel. One book by many authors.

  • 147 topics
  • 27,745 replies

Contests & Conferences

  1. NaNoWriMo

Links and information about contests and conferences open to young writers.

  • 153 topics
  • 8,767 replies

Ask the Teacher

Questions about writing you’d like to ask Mr. Schwabauer? Ask here.

  • 1,310 topics
  • 14,324 replies

The Writing Life

Thoughts on writing from Mr. S.

  • 10 topics
  • 479 replies

Story Ideas

Kick around story ideas that need shaping. Give and get help on a novel outline.

  • 1,173 topics
  • 18,404 replies

Novel Critiques

Post a chapter from your novel. Read and comment on the work of your peers.

  • 1,661 topics
  • 42,704 replies

Other Critiques – poetry

Writing something other than a novel? Get and give feedback on short stories, screenplays, poems, etc. here.

  • 1,935 topics
  • 23,389 replies

Book Discussions

Talk about books you love or hate.

  • 651 topics
  • 26,579 replies

Book Reviews

Review your favorite (or not-so-favorite) books. Check out what other people think about books they’ve read.

  • 261 topics
  • 8,017 replies

Movie Reviews

Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various movies and how they were written. Focus on the Story.

  • 695 topics
  • 60,368 replies

OYANers’ Art Gallery

  • 474 topics
  • 37,096 replies

Knights of the Brotherhood of Narnia

  1. KotBoN Assignments

Royal Servants of the OYAN Realm

  • 7 topics
  • 851 replies

Join Online Forum for Talent

Gathering in bar or club

Have your son or daughter join an online forum related to his talent. This is how he can listen in on the experts at a young age.  (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

Have your son or daughter join an online Internet forum that discusses your child’s talent. Look for one that is actively enforcing a code of conduct by making sure that newcomers are sticking to the topic at hand and willing to ban those who won’t participate respectfully. The best forums are probably those run by adults and professionals in their trade. It is not a bad idea for your child to already have his talent blog under way as it makes easier to get approved to participate. My son Caleb is a member of one such forum for bladesmiths and is learning daily from the interaction of older and more expert.

There are over 7,000 members on this forum from around the world dedicated to bladesmithing and to sharing and learning from one another. There is no local club that he could join as a substitute. Your child will find camaraderie and motivation and free advice by joining such a forum.

So you can appreciate the breadth and depth of a dedicated online forum, here are some of the statistics on the number of topics covered in my son’s forum:

Hot Work
This forum is to replace the old hot work and bladesmithing forum. Please post new topics here.
  • 1,160 topics
  • 10,693 replies
Bloomers and Buttons
For the growing field of smelting iron and steel. This forum is open to crucible and bloomery discussions.
  • 718 topics
  • 8,648 replies
Beginners Place
All “newbies” / beginners, please post your questions in this forum. Thanks.
  • 2,437 topics
  • 18,605 replies
Tools and Tool Making
The tools of the trade and how to make them.
  • 2,278 topics
  • 19,649 replies
Fit and Finish
Discussion, tips, tricks and questions about finishing.
  • 846 topics
  • 6,707 replies
Sheaths and Leatherwork
Because every blade needs a sheath.
  • 53 topics
  • 308 replies
Carving and Applied Arts
Discussion of techniques related to decorative arts such as carving, engraving, chasing, repousse, filing etc.
  • 82 topics
  • 724 replies
Metallurgy and other enigmas
Questions and discussions about heat treating.
  • 1,100 topics
  • 9,742 replies
Heat Treating by Alloy
A catalog of methods for proper heat treatment of blade steels arranged by particular alloy
  • 6 topics
  • 10 replies
The Way
Open discussion about it all.
  • 1,779 topics
  • 18,126 replies
Firey Beards
A Place for Smithing TomFoolery
  • 413 topics
  • 5,945 replies
Books, Videos, and other Media
Post your book/video and other media type recommendations here.
Links to interesting articles / websites.
Anything related to the craft.
  • 172 topics
  • 1,021 replies
Tools, Supplies and Materials
A place to sell and where to find materials and supplies. This forum is intend for the use of our members and is not for commercial purposes.
  • 1,301 topics
  • 6,936 replies
Events of Interest
Post your classes, hammerins, shows and events of interest.
  • 617 topics
  • 5,428 replies