Whatever Happened to Apprenticeship?
During India’s glorious golden eras, when the Mahabharata & Ramayana played out, when Mughal kings & Rajput queens roamed the lands, the Indian culture held its own. The world followed India for their excellent ideologies & practices.
One of these fascinating concepts that I am currently exploring is the concept of apprenticeship. People familiar with Indian terminologies will also recognize this as the guru-shishya tradition.
As a child, modern Indian history never fascinated me all that much. What really caught my attention was the caste system of India, the clear division of labor, the beauty of that arrangement. To me, the only thing degrading the beauty of the caste system was the treatment of certain jobs. Why treat one job as less worthy than another? Every job well done makes a better society!
In any case, that is all discussion for another blog post, so let me come back to the matter at hand - apprenticeship.
The 10000-hours concept
We’ve all heard this enough - practice a skill for 10000 hours, and you can call yourself a master. Ever wondered where this concept came from?
Apprenticeship is a period of learning for a mentee/protégé (shishya) as imparted and facilitated by a mentor (guru) ranging anywhere from 4 to 10 years, where the mentee is generally in his/her teens/early adulthood. (My reasoning for saying 4 to 10 years is because anything shorter would be too fleeting, and anything longer, too cumbersome)
Let’s pause here for a second and look at the link between them.
Average of 4-10 years: 7 years
Average school day/work day excluding breaks & travel: ~4 hours per day
Skill development in hours: 7 years x 365 days x 4 hours = 10220 hours
Well, now we know what apprenticeship really meant.
Imagine if every person in the world dedicated 4 hours of every day for 7 years of their lives doing what they felt they were meant to, being guided along at every twist and turn of the way by a person of experience?
Where are all the mentors gone?
The guru-shishya traditions so loved in the Indian culture has all but disappeared. The only concept of mentorship existing is in the fields of dance, music, religious & spiritual practices.
These traditions were not just for the benefit of individuals, they were important channels that helped pass down best practices, efficiency & excellency in the fields offered. The shishyas imbibed to the best of their abilities, and the gurus made sure to pass on the knowledge they learnt from their successes and failures.
These traditions were important because they kept the arts & sciences alive. We can collectively blame society (ourselves included) for abandoning this wonderful medium of education.
Why should I bother?
I’m sure you’re wondering how any of this matters to you in specific, but it does. Let me break it down for you.
Is there something you’ve wanted to learn for ages but don’t know where to start?
Is there something you’re learning & have doubts but don’t know who to ask?
Do you wish to get advice from the best in your field tailored to your needs?
All this is possible in a world where apprenticeship & mentorship is readily available to everyone.
Each one of us holds a certain key, a certain skill, a way of doing things that is beautiful in its own way. Let’s not put that to waste. Go out there and find a person to mentor you, for your betterment. If you’re good at something, offer to mentor someone else, for the better of the world around you.
Let’s not sit around and wait for the education system to get better (shout out to India’s exhausted engineering bunch), because it is going to take a while. And who said we couldn’t do something on our own? Carving our own paths is what we’ve been good at, anyway.
Collaboration is key!
P.S.: This is a topic that I will come back to exploring further.. In the meanwhile, any thoughts and suggestions are always welcome!