In college I studied, and received a degree in, Management and Business. However, I would argue that more than half of my business education really came from classes and experiences outside the Business Department.
For instance, during my freshman year I took a transformative English class that helped me develop my written communication skills and taught me how to generate original thoughts. My sophomore year I took a fabulous class in the Education department that imbued in me a deep appreciation for diverse viewpoints and opinions. And my senior year I took an art history class that taught me how to formulate analogies and use them to convey my thoughts clearly and concisely.
Although, of all my college experiences outside the business department, perhaps none were more influential than the classes I took in studio art. You might think that this is a reach, but I believe that the study of jewelry and metals (my college minor) had a direct impact on my preparation for a career in business.
An example of one of the things I learned from working with metals is how to get ready for a day at the office. Allow me to explain.
When working with metals, it is extremely important to manage the hardness and softness of the metal using thermodynamics. Before any metal is workable you have to go through a very specific heating and cooling sequence to soften it and prepare it to be worked. This process is called “annealing.”
The tricky part about annealing though, is that each metal has a different annealing procedure – different temperatures, different durations and in some cases totally different treatments required to become soft and workable. Steel, for instance, has to be heated up very hot and allowed to cool slowly (sometimes using a furnace to control the speed of cooling). Annealing silver requires heating it up with a torch and squelching it quickly in water. By contrast, pewter actually gets softer the more you modify and work with it.
I think about the concept of annealing when I’m working out in the morning preparing my mind and body for a day at the office. Just like each metal is unique and requires a different procedure for making it soft and ready for work, each person is unique and requires a specific procedure to maximize effectiveness at work. For me – exercise is the perfect annealing recipe, but for other people it’s meditating, or watching TV, playing with their children or walking their dog.
Studio art taught me that, just like metals, people need to be prepared for work and that the procedure can be different for everyone. This learning helps me come in to work every day with a soft mind, ready to absorb information and react appropriately.
I find it quite enjoyable that such seemingly unrelated things, like metalworking and getting ready for the office, can be tied together to teach a common lesson.