Consider the following questions:
What is craftsmanship and how do you achieve it?
What effort does good craftsmanship demand?
How do you feel craftsmanship in any activity?
What can you do when you focus but still miss important things?
How do you handle situations when fear, discouragement and boredom take over?
How do you continue to advance in your work if your skill level fails?
How do you reckon with goals and awareness in the moment?
How do you integrate awareness, skill, perspective, and motivation?
Answers to these questions are critical to students and practitioners alike, across every discipline. They can guide the novice to achieve that meditative state of practicing their Craft, where time slows down and they see choices that were absent to them before. The simple routine of throwing or glazing a pot can demand intense concentration, focusing the mind while the rest of life’s concerns melt away. Answering these questions allows novices to become exceptional and the average result of effort to become memorable.
In his book Dreams Within a Dream Peter Weir reflects, “A Japanese potter explained to me how pottery to the Japanese is highly regarded as painting in our western tradition. The potter serves a long apprenticeship, working under a master, turning out plates, cups, and bowls. Every now and then the gods will touch the potter’s hands, and that object will be a work of art.” This quote is emphasizing a concept critical to craftsmanship: deliberate practice.
Not all practice makes perfect. You need a particular kind of practice—deliberate practice—to develop expertise. When most people practice, they focus on the things they already know how to do. Deliberate practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you don’t currently do well—or even at all. Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do currently that you turn into the expert you want to become.
A CEO’s Perspective
The skill of self-management is about leading the life you want to lead. It doesn’t make things perfect. Every child you have isn’t going to be perfect. Every customer you have isn’t going to behave. It is about creating more positive things in your life than negative.
The better you manage yourself, the more effectively you respond to the problems in front of you and the more your life is rewarding.
–Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman’s
Why is craftsmanship so rare? What can a novice do to cultivate craftsmanship? Answering these questions is the reason I did this research. It is also the reason I write nearly every day. I learned the importance of practice. I understand in a more nuanced way an approach to learning led by inner motivation. I’ve learned from many craftsmen—a wood turner, embroiderer, jewelry maker, felt artist, stone mason, mold maker, knife maker, and blacksmith—with the perspective of a novice, their path toward mastery.
This post is part of a series #LookToCraftsmen set for publication in 2019.