Week 4 Reading Response

Two different approaches to work are presented in Cal Newport’s chapter on ‘The Clarity of the Craftsman’ in his book ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’. He entitles the two approaches as ‘the passion mindset’ and ‘the craftsman mindset’. ‘Whereas the craftsman mindset focuses on what you can offer the world, the passion mindset focuses instead on what the world can offer you.’ Newport mainly concentrates on creative work, such as music and comedy, and contends that if you adopt the craftsman mindset first, then the passion and love for your work will follow. Essentially the craftsman mindset is when you are constantly working towards getting better and improving your ‘craft’ or your ‘art’. Newport quotes music veteran Mark Casstevens in saying that ‘an obsessive focus on the quality of what you produce is the rule in professional music’ as this ‘trumps your appearance, your equipment, your personality, and your connections’. This concept can definitely apply to other art forms as well.

On the other hand, the passion mindset is when you do what you love, because you think it will provide you with happiness and success. However, Newport suggests that this can lead people to become hyper-aware of what they don’t like about their art/work, which then leads to ‘chronic unhappiness’. I found this interesting because it goes against everything my parents used to tell me about finding work. When I was still in high school, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, my parents and teachers all used to tell me that I should just do what I love, because the grades and the success would simply grow out of that passion. However, this article asserts that ‘the craftsman mindset offers clarity, while the passion mindset offers a swamp of ambiguous and unanswerable questions’, like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I truly love?’.

Nevertheless, I think there is a bit of push and pull between the two mindsets. It is hard to have the craftsman mindset of trying to constantly get better at what you do, if don’t have any passion or love for what you are doing. The case studies that the writer uses for the craftsman mindset, the musician Jordan Tice and comedian Steve Martin, obviously both love what they do (at least enough to continue with the same trade for many years), as well as wanting to hone their craft. I think it is also important to sometimes think about what your work might be offering you. If you just ‘put your head down and plug away’ at work, as Newport suggests, you may ignore the fact that the workplace you are in is exploiting you or there may be a better job out there more suited to you. To counter this argument, Newport says that ‘regardless of how you feel about your job right now, adopting the craftsman mindset will be the foundation on which you’ll build a compelling career’.

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