Grandpaw’s Lessons: Be a Craftsman

 

I have been hearing the word “craftsman” my whole life. Grandpaw taught me about it decades ago when I was just a kid. So, while this is his lesson, the truth is that I was reminded of recently when reading Seth Godin’s blog on The new craftsmanship and it had such a profound impact on me that I decided to blog about it myself. (p.s. and hint hint …if you read Grandpaw’s Lessons: My New Blog Series you would already know that!) Anyway …

What is a Craftsman?

There’s always been a bright line around the craftsperson, someone who takes real care and produces work for the ages.”

Amen Seth, I like the way you put it … work for the ages! Grandpaw would have liked that though, in his simple way, he always said

if you are going to do something, take your time and do it the best that it can be done.”

At other times he would simply say

take pride in your work.”

Amen Grandpaw! To me, a craftsman is someone who truly cares about their work and, because of that, does work of exceptional quality.

Who Can Be A Craftsman?

Anyone can be a craftsman, right Seth? Exactly—and he is right. It is not about the title of your job, what type of trade or profession you are in; rather, it is about how you whatever it is that you do. And when I say “whatever it is that you do”, this does not only apply to things you do for work but should apply equally to things you do for fun. If something matters enough to you do it, why not do it the very best that you can? (Please use your brain here folks, as I will discuss below) Why in the heck else do you think that I would be spending so much time learning about social media? I’m a lawyer for crying out loud! I am not trying to make a career out of blogging. However, if I am going to spend my precious time doing it, I want to learn to do it right and do it the best that I can within my own abilities.

As for Grandpaw, he was an automobile body repairman and, though not the most glamorous of trades, he took a tremendous amount of pride in his work. He described himself as a craftsman and he certainly was. He could take whatever materials he had at his disposal and, using whatever tools were available, through patience and care, craft a way of making something work. And when he did, he so in a way that always produced a finished product that was not only functional but “polished” as well. Grandpaw distinguished the way he worked from that of the “jack-leg”, as he called them, which was who was someone who took no pride in their work and merely tried to get it done in quickest and easiest way possible. The jack-leg’s “work” was characterized by rushed, sloppy final product that in many cases was not even functional and, therefore, had to be redone. Grandpaw was a firm believer in doing things right the first time. How about you, do you want to be a craftsman or a jack-leg? If it’s the former, then read on …

How Can You Be A Craftsman?

  1. You need a worthy purpose. The first thing you should do is make a wise choice in deciding on whatever it is that you are going to spend your time doing. This is what I mean when I said to use your brain. Taking out the trash or using your dog pooper scooper does not merit a craftsman worthy effort! In fact, all that nonsense will do is get you a spot on the new television series My Strange Addictions http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/my-strange-addiction/ with all those other, um, people, who spend their lives collecting rocks, eating toilette paper, or sucking their thumbs. If this just so happens to be you, please stop reading and use your time looking up a good psychiatrist. Aside from any strange psychosis from which you the reader may be suffering, there really are times when being a craftsman is not always the right approach for other reasons. I’ll explain this further in the next post in this series when we can talk about Grandpaw’s lesson about cold showers! (You really don’t want to miss this one)
  2. You have to make a choice. It is a conscious choice that you must make to decide that you will care enough about whatever it is you decide to do so that you will take great pride in how you do it.
  3. You should think. No, really, I am being serious. Do you have any idea how many people go off and do things without even thinking about what they are doing? If you are going to be a craftsman, you have to think through what you are doing if you really want to produce work for the ages. Ask yourself a few questions: What are you trying to accomplish? What is the final product you are trying to create? How should it look? How should it work? There are many things you should figure out and, if at all possible, figure them out before you get started lest you find yourself rushing into making a whole bunch of mistakes. If you do that, you have to start over. Wouldn’t it have been a little better to spend some time thinking in the first place? I thought you would agree.
  4. You must prepare. If you are going to do top-quality work, you have to prepare accordingly. First you must have developed the necessary skills. Then you must gather the necessary materials to use and tools that it will take to do the job right.
  5. You must use patience. Patience is a must! Rarely do you see a craftsman who hurries through his work. I’m sure there are some, but I would bet not too many. You have to take your time to think about your project, plan how you’re going to complete it, make all of the necessary preparations, and then allocate plenty of time to actually work on the project in a careful yet deliberate manner. Then you must do it.
  6. Don’t forget the polish. The polished product is the mark of a true craftsman. This is the part that most people fail to complete whether because of lack of time, motivation, experience, or desire. For whatever reason, people often times become so anxious to move on to another project as soon as they reach a point of completion that they rarely take the time to go back and raise the level of quality of that product to a point where it is truly polished. That is, truly finished.

I am sure I have left off quite a few steps and my hope is that,if there are any you think of, you will help improve the quality of this blog post by including them in the comments. At any rate, based solely upon the six steps I listed above, you can see that it is not easy to be a craftsman. It takes hard work. It takes dedication. If, however, you are properly motivated, it is something that anyone can all attain with enough effort. My motivation is not too difficult to explain: In my professional career, each and every day I aspire to be the very best that I can be, within the limits of my own God-given abilities. That is my motivation to be a craftsman. (have you read my two “life quotes”?)

Motivation is crucial. Perhaps the most important question is, “what motivates you to be a craftsman?” How about you leave a comment to help inspire me and others who read this post–let’s all motivate each other to be craftsmen!

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