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Columbia Law Professor’s Wisdom Applies Perfectly to Scale Modeling

In Praise of Mediocrity

I couldn’t have said it better myself:

11 responses to Columbia Law Professor’s Wisdom Applies Perfectly to Scale Modeling

  1. Thanks for sharing this lovely sentiment, Bill. I’m happy to ‘gently pursue modest competence’ and learning and improvement! It is always encouraging to read someone’s eloquent expression of exactly how you feel about something. Cheers!

  2. Like you Paul, I have also decided to pursue modest competence- but before learning the term via the article- it can be evidenced by all the builds I have finally completed and posted this year! I got tired of trying to win the Imodeler build of the month, and decided to just get stalled shelf of doom kits finished and posted! Its been a blast getting things built.

  3. Brilliant article! It’s lucky that everything I do is already perfect however. 😆

  4. When I first returned to this hobby properly it was because my job changed and now gave me tons of free time being as I now was a shift worker , I had always since my childhood loved sticking plastic together to produce something that looked roughly like the box artwork and would every now and then buy a kit, slam it together and then forget about it for a year or so until the urge to create something came to me again, this was all well and good until the day I discovered that there were websites highlighting other peoples modelling creations and lo and behold these were amazing ! they didn’t looked like my stuff they looked like the real thing and I wanted that … at first I set out to improve kit by kit until I was at the level of these guys sounds easy right ? , sure enough I saw my abilities improve and things were going well until I reached a level that I couldn’t seem to improve beyond , I would try techniques learned from the internet but somehow they didn’t look like the stuff on the screen, I couldn’t get that certain something , that depth of realism that I craved and this was disheartening to the point that I almost packed it in until one day with that feeling of wanting to build a kit but with that little demon in my ear whispering ” Oh why bother, it’ll just be rubbish like all the others” I thought so what if I’m not as good as my peers ,I’ve learned some skills and I enjoy building to my own standard ,I suppose it’s fair to say my stuff turns out better than some modellers and not as good as a lot of other guys stuff. my skills may slowly improve but I’m no longer chasing excellence I’m just enjoying what I do . If you delude yourself that you must be the best at all costs it stops being a pleasure and starts being a pressure.

  5. Bill, thanks very much for sharing this. I work with students from two universities in London and every day I see kids who over-identify with one particular aspect of their lives and define themselves in terms of how well they do it. It’s not a sustainable recipe for success, it’s fragile, and it leads to low self esteem and self doubt.

    In respect to modeling, as in life, there is always someone ‘better’. Personal confidence and growth comes from stretching your comfort zone, not being the ‘best’. I spend a lot of time encouraging a ‘growth mindset’ and the table below is every bit as relevant for modeling as it is for general psychology…

    I’m glad you posted this, it’s a very important message that enjoyment and pleasure beat perfection (strange as it may sound to say) every time.

  6. i don’t see any mediocrity in any of you guys work…you must always strive to get better or you won’t…mediocrity is exactly what you’ll get…and Bill just what’s mediocre about your P-40n…your dreaming my friend…what you guys call modest competence is pretty splendid in my book…everybody can’t win a medal and many times awards are political and very few can crank em out like lightning Tom C…if a model looks like crepe i step on it and i’ll never be world class…i can’t even spray or brush future without it running down my leg…a man’s got to know his limitations (Dirty Harry)….the trouble with perfection is it’s unobtainable

  7. “I don’t deny that you can derive a lot of meaning from pursuing an activity at the highest level. I would never begrudge someone a lifetime devotion to a passion or an inborn talent. There are depths of experience that come with mastery. But there is also a real and pure joy, a sweet, childlike delight, that comes from just learning and trying to get better. Looking back, you will find that the best years of, say, scuba-diving or doing carpentry were those you spent on the learning curve, when there was exaltation in the mere act of doing.”

    I just watched an interview with Sir Paul McCartney, in which he talked about the joy he gets every time he tries something different and new, and “figuring things out.”

    I remember walking into the new Squadron Shop up in Northern California way back when and seeing a case full of models by Dave Boksanski, and thinking “Gee… you can do that?” Went home and wanted to throw mine away, but decided to learn how to “do that.” Been doing it ever since. Came on the internet 20 years ago and saw what people were doing and said “Gee… you can do that?” and wanted to go throw mine away. Decided to learn how to “do that.” I come here and do the same thing. I see something new and different and it makes me want to see how to “do that.”

    Once they’re done, they’re dust-catchers. It’s the doing and the learning and the trying something I hadn’t done before that’s the fun.

    So far as “crankin’ ’em out,” that’s what comes with “self (un)employment” and the need to keep my chattering mind under control while I wait to see if *this* time “They” are going to finally spot me for the fraud I am.

    Oh, and David – that list is spot on.

  8. I read this article as soon as Bill had shared it here, and after I had read it a second time, something still did not sit right with me. Took me some days to figure out what it was, but I think I got it now. It is two things:

    First, contradictions. The title directly contradicts what the author states a couple of paragraphs later on: “But there is also a real and pure joy, a sweet, childlike delight, that comes from just learning and trying to get better.” Mediocrity to me is the exact opposite of trying to get better. And the author goes on to write “Looking back, you will find that the best years of, say, scuba-diving or doing carpentry were those you spent on the learning curve, when there was exaltation in the mere act of doing.” Hm. Learning curve or mere doing, what’s it going to be?

    Second, borderline logical fallacies. “Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.” If this is the case and we are really left with the ones who do stuff because they are “good at it”, then I wonder how these folks got good. Does it mean these people were good right from the moment they started their hobby? Genetic predisposition for weathering with Acrylics? Is this really a thing?
    What strikes me as odd is the complete disregard of a third – and maybe the most common – option: we get better by simply doing things over and over again, unless we make an almost conscious effort to not do so. The mere repetition of certain tasks can improve and even automate our skills, freeing up our minds for the next challenge. There goes your seam filling, airbrush cleaning, canopy masking…
    On top of all of that, what if “getting better” is just another aspect of the hobby one choses to pursue? Just as some people enjoy research or taking pictures of their models, some enjoy the idea of trying out something new with their next build. If they succeed, fine. If they don’t, fine as well, let’s try it again next time.

    To me, this whole topic is more about managing expectations than about setting a competence goal and doing one’s utmost to not go further. If someone enters this hobby and picks a Panzershurtzenwagen XIV Ausf. LOL with full interior and workable commander’s zipper for their first build, they might not enjoy the experience. If, on the other hand, they start with something resonable and build up their skills from there, at their own pace and in their own time, the possibilities are almost unlimited.

    Enjoying the trip is the ultimate goal of every hobby. But as I see it, this article does a bad job of advocating the movement inherent in a trip and wants to tell us waiting at the bus stop is the real fun.

  9. “workable commander’s zipper” – I lost my coffee right there. Thanks, Boris!

  10. Bill, Many thanks for this – I enjoyed the article, and also the contributions of those iModelers who developed the theme from there – iModeler in miniature really!

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