I really enjoyed this week’s reading, ‘The Clarity of the Craftsman’, from Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which is a quote from the comedian Steve Martin. In this chapter, Newport outlines two approaches to work: the Craftsman Mindset and the Passion Mindset.
The Craftsman Mindset is an output-focused approach, where you focus on what value you are producing in your job. Newport provides examples from performers, where your output is the only thing that really matters. He talks to a musician who spends hours everyday working at getting better and better at what they do. This approach is working towards being ‘so good [that] they can’t ignore you’.
The Passion Mindset is the way that most people approach work, which is to focus on what value their job offers them. Most people are focused on the big question: “who am I?”, and the answer is often linked to the idea of doing work that one loves. This self-centred approach to work makes you hyper aware of what you don’t like about your job, which is especially hard for people in entry-level positions. Newport argues that adopting the Craftsman Mindset and leaving behind the Passion Mindset will not only make your work better, but will help you towards finding a fulfilling career.
What I found most useful from this reading was the importance of incremental work. I have read the books and the blogs to know that you need to work everyday to get better at something. I have a number of hours that I schedule everyday towards different tasks (such as university, exercise, work, art), but often I lose track of my goals and focus a lot of my time on one thing or the other. Making sure you have done the hours is not the singular way to get better, Newport states that you must also track the progress of the quality of your output. I know that doing this will also help with my long-term focus, because I know that for me, seeing me progress will be incredibly uplifting.
But, on the other hand, I know from living with musicians that if you go too hard, you can burn out really easily. I know musicians who used to put in 6-8 hours of practice in everyday, which for them was normal and the standard (in relation to jazz musicians of the past). I think that without balance, this can be really harmful, and many musicians in music school get wrecked by 8-hour practice days and get irreversible injuries. I know this is true of any profession that is taxing on the body (such as dancing, sports, singing). So I would like to add a disclaimer to this reading, and that is to not go overboard, and seek balance in your life.