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There’s a lot of value in a formal education. There’s a reason, after all, that we always want people to go to school. That same formal education can’t teach you everything, though. While there’s something to be said for theory, nothing ever really beats practice. There’s something amazing about getting a hands-on education. Learning the tricks of the trade in person is simply more useful than learning from a textbook.

One of the reasons that learning in person is so important is that it allows you a chance to see the work unfold in front of you. You can read about woodworking all you want, but you’ll never really understand how a project comes together until your do it yourself. Every piece fits together in a way that just can’t be described in writing – and the feeling you get when you know things are just right certainly won’t be found in a book. Working on a project and seeing it to its conclusion is an invaluable tool.

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Hands-on learning also gives you access to real people who actually understand the process. Teachers are great, of course, but they can only do so much from the front of a classroom. A real professional – or even long-time hobbyist – who can sit down with you and explain how a task is supposed to be done is an invaluable resources. When he or she can show you how the tools work and how to get the most out of them, you’ll start to learn in ways you could never match in a classroom.

The most important thing about hands-on learning, though, is failure. When you actually get your hands on a project, you’ll get a chance to fail spectacularly. When you learn from a textbook, you’ll get a few questions wrong. If you do it yourself, you’ll quickly watch projects fall apart. When they fail, you’ll learn something every time. You might just learn that you are out of your depth, but it will at least be something you can carry forward into your next project.

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There’s nothing wrong with learning from a book, but it only gives you part of the picture. If you can actually learn by doing, you’ll gain real skills. You should always try to educate yourself, but you should also remember that the best kinds of education aren’t always found in a classroom. Sometimes, you just need to do it yourself.

Sim Fern is the founder of Upbeat Designs, a Brooklyn-based provider of custom furniture, upholstery, and millwork services for luxury residential and commercial spaces. Sim has always had a passion for furniture, as he’s been working in the business since he was a teenager. What started out as a side job turned into a career for Sim — he’s now transitioned from small projects for homeowners to a wide range of clientele with Upbeat Designs. You can connect with Sim Fern online.