There is much to be gained by taking the craftsman approach. You show you’re here to learn and to improve. You’re working hard at it. You put in your daily skill development time and you are disciplined about it. You put in the hours. You run the miles. You seek out expertise to improve. You’re deliberate about it. You care. You get really good in a rather short period of time because of your daily discipline and dedication to the craft. You don’t want your skills to atrophy. You want them sharp. And the only way to keep them sharp is to practice them. Craftsmen are dedicated practitioners. That’s who you want to be.
Who would do such a thing? How can people be so dedicated to a craft like this? How do they find it? Is it even smart to go so deep into a craft in one’s life? Some people pick their craft from an early age and make up their minds to be dedicated to it. Others fall into it later on in life and think this is the reason why they were put here: to do this thing. Then, there are those who find their dedication to craft through trial and error. It makes no difference how you find it; it just matters that you find it. Then, once you do, practice the hell out of it.
Jerry Seinfeld is one of these craftsman. He has dedicated his life to being a great standup comedian, constantly writing, honing, and whittling away at his bits and jokes. He dedicates an hour to two hours each day to writing comedy and coming up with new things to try out on stage. He’s been so disciplined with his writing, in fact, that the time spent sitting down and doing his work flies. It is no longer a burden. It’s a joy. Seinfeld sees it as a joy to sit down and work on bits. Most writers will tell you that writing is a terrible, awful process they wouldn’t recommend to anybody, least of all their friends. They hate it, but they do it anyway because it is what they do. It is their calling. it is why they were put on this planet. Seinfeld simply loves doing it. He’s dedicated. He’s focused. He’s driven. He’s got fire. He wants to get better. His TV show’s success has made it so he never has to work again, yet there he goes, touring the country doing stand up. He doesn’t need to do it — he just loves to do it. That’s a craftsman. Someone who is dedicated to the craft, driven to succeed, got the fire to blaze through the obstacles, and desires to improve. He also knows he keeps having to put in the time. Comedy is a craft, an art form. To excel at art requires dedication and drive and creativity. It is hard. Good comedy is hard. To realize that something is hard yet worthwhile is the way of the craftsman.
George Carlin was another comedic craftsman. Carlin always wrote. There was rarely a time when Carlin wasn’t writing and thinking about comedy bits. During his life, he toured constantly, always looking for a place to work out his act. He, too, had done well enough in his career that he didn’t have to work the latter years of his life, but there he went on the road, well into his 70’s. He proved his dedication to the comedy craft through his workmanship and work ethic. He always wanted to be working. A day off meant a wasted day. That’s how craftsmen view days off: a day where I could have gotten better. When you’re dedicated and driven, you don’t really need days off. The work gives you energy, focus, and fuel for more. You’re self-propelled by your dedication and drive to improve. Carlin was self-propelled by his dedication and drive for comedy and getting better at it. He rarely took days off and when he did, he couldn’t wait to get back up on the stage and hone his act. Other comedians looked up to him as a mentor because he took the time to mentor others and exhibited a stellar work ethic. Carlin was a hardworking, dedicated craftsman. He set a great example of this for the next generation of comics to keep working, keep honing the act, keep getting better.
We talk about our why: why do you do something? For the accolade? For the satisfaction it gives you? For the meaning you inject into it? For the meaning you think you derive from it? For the sheer joy of the thing? Why is powerful because it is the best starting point as Simon Sinek pointed out in Start with Why. It is your modus operandi — your reason for doing, your motive. When we start there, we know we’re in it for certain specific reasons and we’ll likely keep at it longer. It isn’t some fly by night decision. We’ve really thought this through. We want to get good on purpose. Few actually take the time to think through their why, and not just their professional one. What about your personal ones? What about the reasons why for your hobbies? Your vacations? Where you live? Your select skills? Your education? What have you gained because of them? What have you sacrificed in order to have them?
The craftsman does the select activity for its own sake. The daily practice is its own reward. The dedication to the craft is its own reward. The craft is enough for fulfillment if you’re dedicated to it. It isn’t about the accolade. It isn’t about the pay. It isn’t about the adulation, if any. It isn’t about showing off. It is about the doing. It is about putting in the time for something you deem worthwhile. It is about dedicating yourself to a way of doing, of practicing. Those who approach their craft in this manner end up doing it for the longest and therefore enjoy the most prolific track record of its practitioners. That, and they think it is just plain fun. They don’t even think about retirement. Doing is its own reward. Dedication and discipline are their own rewards, too. These characteristics become a virtuous circle, a positive, self-fulfilling prophecy for the dedicated.