Most New Year’s resolutions focus on changing a specific behavior. Goals have lofty intentions and often, because they are so ambitious, people fall short of accomplishing them. We at The Craftsmanship Initiative instead suggest a shift in mindset for the New Year: Craftsmanship is about more than being a highly skilled “maker.” It’s an attitude that anyone can embrace and be the better for it. Read on to learn about how you can incorporate the ethos of craftsmanship in your own life.
1. Excellence: Do good work for its own sake.
One of the core principles of craftsmanship is to adhere to a standard of excellence and unwavering commitment to quality. In other words, doing a job well for the sake of doing it well. Craftspeople would never say, “Oh, I think it’s good enough,” and move on to the next job. They find joy in work done well and the effort put in and the durability of what they build is the reward. Whether it be making clothes sewn by hand, finding ways to be more environmentally sustainable at work, or learning a new skill like brewing beer, be mindful of doing your best on a daily basis. Not only will you be pleased with the outcome, but you will most likely become more engaged and find more pleasure in the work as you go along.
2. Mastery: Keep learning, and apply what you learn.
Craftsmanship is all about experiencing the journey. It’s not a destination, but rather a continual field of learning that is an accumulation of experiences. An apprentice observes his or her master, making note of the skills necessary to hone his or her craft, and after years of study, applies this learning to their own work. Of course we’re not suggesting you embark on years of study (unless that’s the path you’d like to take), but we do encourage you to find something you’re passionate about. Then set your vision and keep learning as much as you can. Continuous learning will also teach you how to be agile and flexible, key skills in any workplace environment.
3. Patience: Know that craftsmanship takes time.
Even if you have the skill, it takes time to hone that skill and perfect it to the point where it reaches a level of mastery. Any craftsperson will tell you that having to go back and do something again (and again and again) is a given when you’re first starting out. Understanding that you most likely won’t get it right the first or second or third time can be immensely more helpful when you have patience. Patience is worth cultivating in our fast-paced culture of instant gratification because it not only allows you to be more present in your work, but also allows you to enjoy where the journey takes you so much more.
4. Forgiveness: Remember that craftsmanship is not about having it all figured out.
We can be hard on ourselves, especially when attempting challenging work. Cries of frustration are understandable now and then, but try to view mistakes with a learning eye. Often mistakes actually lead to even better results in the long run. Yes, you do have the option of throwing a vase or other breakable knick-knack across the room, but you also have the option to forgive yourself for being human.
5. Pride: When the journey is done, celebrate your work.
When you do your best, you should be proud of the result. Having something to show for your time and effort is a very rewarding experience. Think about what you could do in your daily life that, after putting some work into it, would bring you a sense of pride and accomplishment. In our Craftsmanship Quarterly article “A Woodworker’s Tale,” master furniture maker Gary Rogowski points out, “When we can see the results of our labor — paring with a chisel; using the needle and thread; creating with paint brush, soldering gun, or pen in hand — there is a different sense of accomplishment. It is a needed blessing in a hurried world to be able to say at the end of a long day, ‘I did this. Here are the results!’”
We’d love to know: How do you apply these principles of craftsmanship to your life? Visit our Facebook page and share with our community! And make sure to check out master woodworker Gary Rogowski’s full story.