How a System of Learning from the Middle Ages Can Help You Grow Your Business [EWS11]

How a System of Learning from the Middle Ages Can Help You Grow Your Business [EWS11]

How would you like it if you had to study, like an apprentice, every day for seven years and then pass a test before being able to start your business?

Today on the Ellory Wells Show, you'll hear how a system of learning and skill-building from the middle ages could be the key to successfully starting a business.


The system of apprenticeship first developed in the later Middle Ages and was regulated by groups called guilds and local governments. You could start as an apprentice as early as ten years old. You could be hired by a master craftsman who wouldn't have to pay you much, and they could pay you in the form of providing food, lodging and formal and structured training.

Most apprentices aspired to become master craftsmen themselves, but most would never make it. Instead, they'd spend they're working lives as a journeyman, and therefore could not own their own business.


The typical apprenticeship lasted around seven years. If you pass a bunch of tests, you become a journeyman.

The term journeyman was originally used in the medieval trade guilds. Journeymen were paid each day, and this is where the word ‘journey’ derived from – journée meaning ‘a day’ in French. As a new journeyman, you would be considered competent and authorized to work in that field as a fully qualified employee.

But, even after seven or so years as an apprentice, as a journeyman, you weren't qualified or experienced enough start your own business. Although a journeyman has completed a trade certificate, sort of like a modern-day diploma, and can work as an employee, they are not yet able to own their own business or work as a self-employed master craftsman.

Modern Day Apprenticeship

In more modern times, we still have organizations like the “Screen Actors Guild,” the “Writers Guild,” and even Steven Spielberg is a current member of the “Directors Guild of America.” And, if you look, you can also find guild-like groups across the United States. The real-estate industry the National Association of Realtors, doctors have to go through medical school, pass exams, do a residency, pass the boards and, after all that, they still have to apply for jobs.

I wonder…

Even in this age of the internet, social media and constant connectivity, should entrepreneurship, the idea of starting and building a business, be so different from the proven methods developed in the middle ages?

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