The Learning Curve

How many times have you been told that you’re never too old to learn? But how many times have you been too busy or too tired to make time to meet someone new or listen to a colleague’s ideas?

I can think of several instances in my own career, many of which happened when I was JCK‘s fashion editor. Inevitably, as I rushed around trying to get my assignments wrapped up before a big trip—Basel, Las Vegas, wherever—I’d get a phone call from someone I’d never heard of, a new designer begging for a few minutes to show me his or her work. I sometimes growled privately at the additional demands on my time, but I always smiled publicly and welcomed them in—after all, a big part my job was to find new talent.

Never—not once—was I disappointed. In fact, I was usually amazed by the designers’ creativity, and the experiences were so energizing that they motivated me to do my job even better. Not only did I not rush the designer out the door, we usually ended up going out for lunch or dinner, even if it meant I had to stay up half the night to get my work done. Often the jewelry I saw during those visits ended up in JCK‘s pages, and sometimes even on its cover. I also met some wonderful people, many of whom are good friends today.

Thankfully, many jewelers also see value in learning. In February, Jewelers of America sponsored a biannual conference called “Coming Together III: Owners & Managers Regional Conference,” hosted by four state jewelers associations in the Midwest. The weekend event, in Overland Park, Kan., drew jewelers from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Oklahoma as well as attendees from outside the region. It featured two full days of classes about store management issues from staffing to bookkeeping, and every class was full. These jewelers had been in the business for years; in fact, many could have taught some of the classes, but there they were, ready to learn something new or catch a tidbit they may have missed in all their years of experience.

What else have we learned? In Los Angeles, the industry and the city learned that cooperation is the best way to solve a problem (see senior editor Rob Bates’s report, “Safety Lesson,” p. 140). In Washington, we learned that if we work together with our adversaries we can find ways to keep jewels from financing nefarious deeds. And in New York, we learned we are not a nation invulnerable—and as Americans we learned to cherish what is dear while it is still here.

Spring—graduation time—is a good time to think about learning. Graduation marks an end of one educational chapter, but it signals the beginning of another, whether it’s college, graduate school, or meeting the challenges of a new job.

Spring is also learning time in the trade. Many other state jewelers associations’ conventions are coming up, offering a variety of seminars and classes. At press time, the American Gem Society is hosting its annual Conclave, an intense five-day learning-fest held this year in Vancouver, B.C. Both the IJO and RJO regularly sponsor learning-filled convention/shows. If you’re not a member of one of these groups, or you missed their events, you haven’t lost all opportunity to learn, as The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas Conference Program is just a few weeks away. Take the time to attend some of the classes in Las Vegas. You’ll find that the benefits—whether it’s learning from the instructor or meeting a new colleague in after-class chats—outweigh the cost of time.

Just when you think you know it all is usually when you learn the most important lesson of all—you don’t.