Breaking down walls

BonsaiWes

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Hello,

Thought I would flip this out here for discussion. For a little over a month I have been talking with a new person about bonsai. Answering a few basic questions, loaning out some books, blowing their mind with some pics of Walters mugos etc.. . As the discussions gets deeper I am starting to find a very thick wall, the friend has in the past worked with trees, not bonsai but ordinary stuff. So much of his info isn't very current or correct, as we know bonsai culture is a bit different than the norm but this isnt the problem so much since I have been around the block enough to know when to prune, repot etc.. etc .. . The problem is the beginners mind, the ego wall. He just won't let me teach him anything and kinda snickers when I talk about a tree that I have lost. Tonight was going to be a special night for him, we both brought some trees to the meet and the example I brought was a 10 lb. chopped stump with now great branching and a big si dao type shari along the trunk. I was wanting to get into how we cut back branches after they have grown and thickened to make taper and how the the fiber pulling/carving was started, I wanted to get into discussion of using particles for soil rather than the mud he is using. The tree I brought was also ment to be an example of something he should keep an eye out for when collecting, good sized raw material, some decent root flare and about how after we had all that the branches and leaders would be our focus mainly and in a relative short time we could have something rewarding to work with for the next few seasons. Basicly the night should of been a workshop where nothing was trimmed and worked but was discussed. I spent alot of time preparing my thoughts for what could have been a pretty dam good session.

Well we didn't get much further than me inspecting some sticks in mud buckets that were brought and the rest of the time was filled with the guy answering questions for everyone. At one point I had to get a little hostile and point out bluntly that the Japanese lady selling bonsais at the gas station who said to keep the juniper bonsai indoors, but that it could be taken out in the rain sometimes was a liar, but well I HAD to get that point across(junipers like outdoors) after spending 10 minutes explaining bonsai is not a species of tree.


So, how do we begin to help those that want it but are staying blinded to how little they really know and can do? The student is just so competetive, if I attempt to correct a mis statement I get a pretty negative reaction. Maybe I should step away from the study group and let them break a few branches and have the failure of loosing a few trees.
 
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Rick Moquin

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Maybe I should step away from the study group and let them break a few branches and have the failure of loosing a few trees.
... you answered your own question. Like a child they have to get a bloody nose, our job as parents is to be there with a "hanky" when they get up. Until they have admitted to themselves that they require help, and seek it, there is not much one can do.

I have a friend who is like that, not wrt bonsai, but archery. I gave up years ago and now only offer advice when asked and will only provide info on the fix of the moment. He has to prod the info out of me. He commented once that getting answers from me was like pulling teeth, to which I added the reason I have not provided advice is that it seemed you had all the areas covered and I didn't feel the need to expand upon it. Although it is still a struggle at times, I just wait silently by with my hanky:)
 
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irene_b

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First the mind must be willing to accept the information.
Second they need to be the student long before the teacher.
Third they need to shut up and listen to the tree.
Irene
 

agraham

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Baby steps ,Wes,baby steps.

Everyone has an ego.People resist what they don't understand.

If I understand correctly.....It sounds like you're a bit miffed that the others were asking him questions.Even if his answers were wrong....they were at the others' level.He was talking their language,while you were wanting to talk advanced technique.Shari and branch taper?Come on:D .....Most people,even in clubs have a passing interest,not a burning desire.You have to go slow or you risk losing them.


or....you could just give him a swift kick to the..........and tell him he doesn't know what the $^&*(4 letter word of your choosing) he's talking about:D

andy
 
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Hi Wes,

Speaking from experience, people can not be forced into realization, the old saying about leading a horse to water comes to mind. Sooner or later the realization will come and even then they will never equate it to anything you have said or done.

The main problem I think you have is in your thread title, "Breaking Down Walls." This leads me to believe you are going about this in the wrong way, instead of breaking down walls, you should be building a wall, a wall of solid indisputable knowledge, accomplishments, and activity.

When you brought your 'stump" in to the study group, your best option would have been to simply set down and start working on it, saying nothing, teaching nothing, just doing bonsai. Those that were interested in what you were doing would have filtered over to you, some may have even asked questions, but all would have seen you doing something instead of just saying something. If only one person was drawn to your work, that is one you have hooked and started on the right path. If the blowhard started to give advice on what you were actually doing, you could have handed him a tool and said, "Show Us."

I have shown up at a few club meetings with a tree, sat in the back and just worked, I was amazed at how many people moved closer, watched, and asked questions.

You see, building a wall is done one brick at a time, that is all we can ever do, place one brick at a time. The Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time. The problem most people have is that they start laying the bricks at the level of the top of the wall and are surprised when they tumble and fall. These bricks in bonsai are the accomplishments made, those who accomplish nothing are usually those who speak the loudest, but who have no bricks for the wall.

In short, let the windbag blow, all such bull is recognized eventually, just build your own wall and people will eventually realize the truth.


Will
 

Bill S

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Bunch of good answers Wes. I echo the sentiment of "don't leave them - lead by example", bring your trees, work them the way you know it needs to be done, those really interested will see and ask.

It can be tough too choosing the right words to communicate with someone less knowledgable, it can be a fine line between teaching and talking down to from the "students" point of view.

Remember too that many of us had to learn the hard way.

Also a pat on your back for being willing to start the group and help teach our craft to others, a commendable effort.
 

grouper52

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Very thought provoking thread, Wes. Thanks for posting this.

As I reflect on your ideas and the replies, and how they resonate with my own experience, what's becoming clear to me is that such an agitated mind is always about my own ego, not that of the other person - my need, for whatever reason, to teach something, or to know that I could teach something, to know that I know something and have something to teach - and, usually, to want others to know it as well, even if I pretend I don't. There's nothing wrong with that, it's probably a fairly universal human trait, but I think it is stronger for me than in other more peaceful people, and also stronger in certain situations than in other ones, situations where this need takes on added importance or emotional charge. Those situations are always the ones in which my mind is likely to become agitated.

Heck, I'm even doing it right here, right now! I think any time I "put myself out there" (interesting phrase) in some way, I am doing it, and I think we all do it all the time, or simply shut down and avoid doing it because we dislike the agitation it leads to, or learn mental techniques to dampen the agitation and protect our self esteem when this need is thwarted.

Interesting ideas. Thanks for the post.

grouper52
 

JasonG

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Hey Wes.

Good and interesting topic here.....

If it were me, when your friend spouts off mis-information I would simply ask him "Didn't you read the books I gave you? If you did then you would know......." I would try to put it to him like that, in a way that might not hurt his ego or belittle him but rather make him think about what he read on the given topic.
As for his mud pots and not wanting to change to the good mix, heck buddy let your healthy trees speak for themselves. When your trees are putting on a healthy long growth spurt and his are just trying to stay alive I think the results will be obvious if he is paying attention.

I like the idea of not offering him advice until he asks for it, like Rick points out. Wills ideas were good too, just working on trees and letting your work bring in the people and your friend as well. Eventually he will have to ask you something and then the door will be open for you to unload on him, lol

Best of luck!!

Jason
 
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It is hard, isn't it, to know one's place and lead by example? This is the frustration I was poorly trying to express in another elitist thread a while ago. It's not about what trees are right for someone. It's about knowing the truth and how do you put it where it will be received.

However, a lot here has to do with the nature of the study group. Is it your study group? Did you start it and do you have the nominal position of leader or teacher? If so, you need to nip this stuff in the bud. If it's a club or someone else's labor of love, chilling a little like mentioned above will be the best course.
 

irene_b

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Keep
It
Simple
Stupid
Make
It
Fun


Mom

(Not aimed at anyone! Just stating the principle concept.)
 
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BonsaiWes

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If I understand correctly.....It sounds like you're a bit miffed that the others were asking him questions.




andy

Hi Andy,

This isn't it at all, it doesn't seem to matter who the question is aimed at or whom it is comming from. I think there is an insecurity issue at play here with him. I have no problems with the others, they know they have goofed up in the past and are having fun poking fun at themselves over the simple mistakes they have made before.
 

BonsaiWes

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It is hard, isn't it, to know one's place and lead by example? This is the frustration I was poorly trying to express in another elitist thread a while ago. It's not about what trees are right for someone. It's about knowing the truth and how do you put it where it will be received.

However, a lot here has to do with the nature of the study group. Is it your study group? Did you start it and do you have the nominal position of leader or teacher? If so, you need to nip this stuff in the bud. If it's a club or someone else's labor of love, chilling a little like mentioned above will be the best course.


Hi Chris,

It is a very casual meeting of friends and I went 2 years without ever mentioning bonsai trees, once they found out I was in to trees close to 2 months ago the questions and stories just kinda started rolling in. It mainly consist of me answering questions explaining all the different styles then bringing in materials every so often, books, mags, pics, stones and live examples for the first time lat night etc.. . Like I mentioned si dao earlier, I didn't want for us to try si dao but to exspose them to it, to show them another piece of the puzzle thats out there waiting for them. One of the reasons I brought the stump was to show an example of sumo style, at the end one guy came up to me off the side and said he thinks he might like sumo trees the best and kind of imitated a sumo wrestler taking his stance while he gave his reasons.
 

agraham

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wow....that's a tough one Wes.I'd hate to be in that position.Can you take him aside and explain that some of the information he's giving out is incorrect?Or get with him(as you two seem to be the leaders) and make it a bit more structured?Maybe go over what will be discussed before the meeting?

andy
 

BonsaiWes

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instead of breaking down walls, you should be building a wall, a wall of solid indisputable knowledge, accomplishments, and activity.

When you brought your 'stump" in to the study group, your best option would have been to simply set down and start working on it, saying nothing, teaching nothing, just doing bonsai.


Will

Hi Will,

What I am trying to do is have peers, people to discuss trees and pots with. The stump I left in the corner waiting for questions, what kind of tree is this?, how long have you had it? all came up naturaly from all but "one" of the group who wouldn't go near it. It is just a weird thing, he asks plenty of questions about pruning for example and I have a great time answering them it's just he reacts badly when my stuffs over laps his. I will venture a guess and say there will be no thank yous comming from this one when all is said and done but he is being taught correctly weather he wants to admit it or not, his trees will soon reflect what is being gained or lost in the sessions. He had the forsight to wire one of his trees into the pot, not in the way we normaly do but it was wired in none the less. I told him I was really happy to see he had done this for the tree and he just kinda looked at me with the expression of "what do you think I am some kind of idiot?".

Ugg frustrating.
 

BonsaiWes

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Bunch of good answers Wes. I echo the sentiment of "don't leave them - lead by example", bring your trees, work them the way you know it needs to be done, those really interested will see and ask.

It can be tough too choosing the right words to communicate with someone less knowledgable, it can be a fine line between teaching and talking down to from the "students" point of view.

Remember too that many of us had to learn the hard way.

Also a pat on your back for being willing to start the group and help teach our craft to others, a commendable effort.


Yes, lots of good replys, thanks everyone for sharing the thoughts. No need to pat my back, I didn't start it or volunteer, it just kinda happened that I have the role of being an outlet for imformation. Next week I am thinking about bringing in a concave cutter and a few more mags for everyone to see.
 
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BonsaiWes

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Very thought provoking thread, Wes. Thanks for posting this.

As I reflect on your ideas and the replies, and how they resonate with my own experience, what's becoming clear to me is that such an agitated mind is always about my own ego, not that of the other person - my need, for whatever reason, to teach something, or to know that I could teach something, to know that I know something and have something to teach - and, usually, to want others to know it as well, even if I pretend I don't. There's nothing wrong with that, it's probably a fairly universal human trait, but I think it is stronger for me than in other more peaceful people, and also stronger in certain situations than in other ones, situations where this need takes on added importance or emotional charge. Those situations are always the ones in which my mind is likely to become agitated.

Heck, I'm even doing it right here, right now! I think any time I "put myself out there" (interesting phrase) in some way, I am doing it, and I think we all do it all the time, or simply shut down and avoid doing it because we dislike the agitation it leads to, or learn mental techniques to dampen the agitation and protect our self esteem when this need is thwarted.

Interesting ideas. Thanks for the post.

grouper52


I understand what you are saying and have thought about this to. Here is an example of how I feel now, I was wanting to really dig in and detail wire, trim up one of my shohins and bring it in to see what everyone thought about it, what they would do to improve it, if there is anything they don't like. Just a food for thought kinda thing to get gears grinding for discussion, basicly the same thing we all do online everyday. Now I think this may be a bad idea and probably won't do it.
 

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Wes, kudos to you for expending the energy and effort. All you can hope for is that your nemesis will eventually come around. For now you must be like the duck and let the water roll off your back.

In most things in life there is an initial struggle when things start out. People vying for control over that event, venue, or what have you. Most times it is the person with knowledge and patience that ends up leading the group and is recognized as "credible". Keep up what your doing, it will take some time but in the end you get recognized as a bonafide source of knowledge.

I was in the same position more than a few years back. I was faced with leaving the group I was with due to the group being lead by a mallsai king (glued rocks and all). This is something I didn't want to do. I recognized that some of the people were truly interested in raising the bar and producing better material. That and I was quite fond of some of these people. So I decided that perhaps a subtle show of knowledge and exposing the mallsai guru's lack of knowledge was perhaps the best course of action. So I suggested a inter group contest. Well to make a long story short. The mallsai guy came in with what was obviously a street corner bought juniper, once again glue, rocks, and all. I came in with a yew. The difference was night and day even to the newest of the new members. The end result was the end of a reign of misinformation and precious time wasted.

As a side note, what really cinched this coarse of action was a couple of months later everyone brought back in their trees. Well almost everyone. Seems the mallsai king's juniper croaked, go figure:). He couldn't understand why, he had done what the pamphlet suggested. Watered it and kept it in a well light window over winter.
 
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Wes, kudos to you for expending the energy and effort. All you can hope for is that your nemesis will eventually come around. For now you must be like the duck and let the water roll off your back.

In most things in life there is an initial struggle when things start out. People vying for control over that event, venue, or what have you. Most times it is the person with knowledge and patience that ends up leading the group and is recognized as "credible". Keep up what your doing, it will take some time but in the end you get recognized as a bonafide source of knowledge.

I was in the same position more than a few years back. I was faced with leaving the group I was with due to the group being lead by a mallsai king (glued rocks and all). This is something I didn't want to do. I recognized that some of the people were truly interested in raising the bar and producing better material. That and I was quite fond of some of these people. So I decided that perhaps a subtle show of knowledge and exposing the mallsai guru's lack of knowledge was perhaps the best course of action. So I suggested a inter group contest. Well to make a long story short. The mallsai guy came in with what was obviously a street corner bought juniper, once again glue, rocks, and all. I came in with a yew. The difference was night and day even to the newest of the new members. The end result was the end of a reign of misinformation and precious time wasted.

As a side note, what really cinched this coarse of action was a couple of months later everyone brought back in their trees. Well almost everyone. Seems the mallsai king's juniper croaked, go figure:). He couldn't understand why, he had done what the pamphlet suggested. Watered it and kept it in a well light window over winter.

Oh man! Well done! I would love to have seen that in person!
 

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