My camera used to be an overpriced paperweight until I met Dave.

Above: Image Gina Milicia

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

A few years ago I decided to invest in a fancy coffee machine. You know the ones that grind the coffee for you, give you the option of making short black, long black, decaf, latte, macchiato or whatever type of coffee all the cool kids are drinking.

Dave, the salesman at the place where beautiful shiny things get sold, did an amazing job selling and upsizing this gorgeous machine. Then he proceeded to give me a demo:

“It’s easy,” he said, “here’s what you need to do…”

At this point I did what I always do when someone is giving me simple instructions or directions, I tune out, smile politely, nod approval now and then and assure them I understand the “simple” 79 steps needed to make “the best coffee ever!”

“Boiler pressure needs to be… and the burr grinder something about pumps, tamper and steam heads and most importantly descaling the Giga whosits.”

I then parted with some cash, and my left kidney (bargain) brought my new machine home, and for the next six months, it became the most expensive kettle I’ve ever owned.

Did I buy a lemon and part with my left kidney for nothing? Nope, the coffee machine was not a lemon; it worked perfectly; I just had no clue how to use it.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

The problem here is I have difficulty grasping new concepts. I’m a slow learner. I used to think there was something wrong with me. I now know that’s not true, I just need to be taught in a specific way.

Dave, the coffee machine salesman, wasn’t at fault either. He did an excellent job explaining how to use the coffee machine; it just wasn’t explained in a way that I understood.

I’m not interested in how something works; I need to know WHY it works. Dave filled my bucket, but he forgot to light my fire.

Some of you who might be reading this have experienced what it’s like to learn photography by well-meaning Daves. I can remember sitting in my first photography class and feeling like a complete idiot because I had no clue what my photography lecturer was trying to teach me.

“Exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed, boiler pressure, tamper and Giga whosits.”

I then took my camera home and used it as an overpriced paper weight for six months and told myself that I’m just not cut out to understand the science behind photography. It wasn’t until I finally met the right Dave to explain how to shoot in manual mode in a way I could relate to that everything changed.

There was nothing wrong with me after all. Everybody learns at a different pace, and everyone responds to a different teaching style.  

So next time you want to learn a new skill seek out the mentors that fill your head with knowledge and also fill your heart with fire.

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