The Craftsman Mentality

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
– Chuck Close

A recent episode of the Tropical MBA left a big impact on me.

If you’re not that satisfied with your career so far, or if you know your “value-produced” (true productivity) could be better, it’s a must-listen.

“Creative production at the professional level is very fulfilling but it’s craftsmanship… Focus as hard as you can. Wrack up the hours. Repeat. Good things come out of it.”
– Cal Newport

The conversation is with Cal Newport, a professor of advanced distributed algorithms, and a thought-leader in how to get more out of your work, both in terms of the value it creates for the world and in the satisfaction in creates for you.

At 25:22, Cal digs into the second (of two) primary assumption behind “follow your passion” advice:

“…it depends on this assumption that if you really like something and then you do that for your work, it will transfer over and you’ll really like your work.

It’s one of these syllogisms that kinda makes sense when you hear it, but we don’t have a lot of evidence that that’s true, either.

Professional satisfaction is a pretty complicated thing, and there’s a lot of research on it. What you don’t find in that research is any sort of emphasis on a match of the work to a pre-existing interest as being a really important factor as to whether or not you find work interesting.”

We’ve all heard of the amateur something-or-other who starts making money from their hobby, gets excited and does it full time, and find that it completely kills their passion for the thing.

A knee-jerk reaction for many of us is to say that “money corrupts things that are otherwise pure!”

But in fact, the more likely reason is:

“…what makes you love your work is very different from what makes you love a topic from a personal or a hobby point of view.”

That’s the key…right there…to understanding how we can love our work.

It’s the knowledge that love for our work comes from a different place entirely than love for our interests.

What makes us love our work is mostly this:

And probably some other things besides.

It’s been on my reading list for a while – I think it’s time I finally whip out So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal’s book on approaching work like a craftsman.

Here’s Derek Sivers’ rave review of the book.


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