The Road Part II: Be Your Own Artisan

Be Your Own ArtisanTo achieve the greatest results from the cultivation of your positive attributes, commit your best ability. Think of yourself as a worker “employed” by yourself to benefit your career, and then imagine that worker as a craftsman or an artisan, old-fashioned terms that predate our rapid-production, cloud computing age. Craftsmen and artisans are special people who blend art with the practical, and through excellence and care create wonderful things that enrich our lives. Think of potters, carpenters, masons, smiths, all cultivating their abilities through the everyday items they make.

The artisan model for attribute cultivation came to me while watching the renovation of an old house I had purchased years ago. The house was over 90 years old, and the renovation called for extensive expertise, including the services of many specialized craftsmen to restore its former glory. Two that fascinated me were the plasterers and the masons. The plasterers handled their trowels like surgeons with their scalpels, using their hand and eye to create classic wave patterns on the walls. When they did the ceilings it was the same, except that they performed their magic while walking on two-foot stilts, bending their heads back to look upward. The masons were equally mesmerizing. Among their tasks was the restructuring of several archways and the laying of a patio of old bluestone. They used precise calculations to a point, but when the actual bricks were placed in the arch and the stones lain in the patio, it was their hands and eyes that finished the job. There was no repair or short-term fix on these artisans’ minds. Their work was done to last a lifetime, and they created real beauty. Part of my fascination was that none of these fellows was likely ever to see their work on my house again. Nonetheless each one of them manifested an artist-like mindset, dynamically striving for a personal masterpiece.

Envision them doing their careful and deliberate work as you contemplate how to best cultivate your positive attributes. Become the craftsman or artisan of your own career.

Or think of yourself as Michael Jordan. Not Jordan playing in front of thousands in the stands and millions watching on television, but Jordan shooting shot after shot, alone in a gym except for a teenager retrieving each shot and passing the ball quickly back to him. Or Derek Jeter, who had his own cultivation challenge.

When Jeter was signed by the Yankees, much of his attraction was the leadership qualities he exuded. As Yankee scout Dick Groch advised, “Sign him. You can build a team around him.” However, Jeter was signed to play shortstop, the most demanding and important defensive position. During his first season in the minor leagues he made an astounding 56 errors. Like Jordan he had to draw upon his innate abilities and cultivate them into a valuable skill, and after two years of hard work fielding ball after ball, practicing proper footwork and throwing, he was ready to take the field as shortstop for the Yankees.

The Jeter example brings up another aspect of cultivation. In certain instances the act of cultivation itself may advance your career prospects before you even begin to share your cultivated skills. That Jeter was willing to work so hard on mastering the intricacies of fielding a difficult position caught the attention of Yankee management. It enhanced their view of him as a leader and solidified their decision to invest in him as the future Yankee shortstop.

So choose your artisan or craftsman model: the athlete cultivating a skill to be displayed in front of the full public glare, or the mason perfecting an archway that he will never see again, and where those who do will not know the name of the person who built it. Or draw from your own internal reserves of motivation. Find whatever approach works for you. The cultivation of your best attributes establishes you to be a full participant for the rest of your career, with much to share.