Week 4: The Clarity of the Craftsmen – Cal Newport

Cal Newport’s chapter surrounding the craftsmen mindset begins with an anecdote about a reasonably successful yet very modest musician and his strong devotion to getting better at guitar, spending hours a day practicing. From here, Newport uses the musician as a way of demonstrating the craftsmen mindset, and comparing it to the passion mindset. He very clearly favours the craftsmen mindset, as he uses another craftsman as an example, this time, comedian Steve Martin. He cites a quote from Martin on the question of basically ‘how do you make it?’. The quote reads ‘be so goos they can’t ignore you’. My initial reaction to this was kind of dismissive, likely due to me thinking something like ‘of course the hugely successful Steve Martin would say that’. But as I continued reading and thinking, the value of the comment became clearer, particularly when Newport described the idea as ’scary’ but ‘liberating’. This idea of being liberated or empowered by the idea that you just have to get really good, is an idea that quite works for me. Furthering his feelings, Newport explains how his frustration around blogging about things that ‘no one cared’ about was removed when he put aside the idea of ‘self-promotion’ and simply focussed on getting better. Needless to say, he states that the craftsmen mindset is ‘crucial for building a career you love’.

He then proceeds to takedown the ‘passion mindset’, describing it as a way of asking ‘what can the world offer you?’ as opposed to asking what you can offer the world. He does raise the common counter-argument that this idea gets, which is that people like the musician and Steve Martin had found their passion, and their craftsmen attitude came from this. Newport argues against this, explaining that someone like Steve Martin employed this mindset long before he was in a job he was fully passionate about. While I find his rebuttal somewhat effective, as it reminds us of the examples not being overnight successes, as well as very anxiety-ridden people, but I also can’t help but feel that the musician and Martin had found their passions – music and comedy, respectively – even if they hadn’t yet reached their ultimate goals.

So while I am not sure about Newport’s strong feelings against passion, I do find myself supporting his strong thoughts about craft.

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