On The 5 Habits of a Craftsman

This week’s book learning is part 3 of a 5 part series from ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ by Cal Newport. (Parts 1, 2)

We spoke of the “craftsman mindset” as the best way to build career capital. Today, we will take a deep look at the 5 habits of a craftsman –

1: Decide what capital market you are in. There are 2 kinds of markets –

Winner-take-all: One killer skills with a few winners all over the world (e.g. hollywood script writer)

Auction: Diverse collection of skills. Here, there are many different types of career capital and each person might generate their own unique collection (e.g. CEO of a Fortune 500 company)

2: Identify your capital type. Ignore this if you are in a winner-take-all market as there’s only one type of capital. (i.e. be amongst the top 10 script writers in the world to make it in Hollywood)

For an auction market, however, seek open gates i.e. opportunities to build capital that are already open to you. Open gates get us farther faster. Skill acquisition is like a freight train: Getting it started requires a huge application of effort, but changing its track once it’s moving is easy. (e.g. keep moving upwards in an organization and then laterally instead of trying to move laterally and start from scratch)

3: Define “good”. Set clear goals. For a script writer, the definition of “good” is clear – his scripts being taken seriously.

4: Stretch and destroy. Deliberate practice – that uncomfortable sensation in our heads that feels like physical strain, as if neurons are physically re-forming into new configurations.

5: Be patient. Look years into the future for the payoff. It’s less about paying attention to your main pursuit, and more about your willingness to ignore other pursuits that pop up along the way to distract you.

While the craftsman mindset can be applied to most kinds of work, Cal also indicates three disqualifiers for applying the craftsman mindset. These are jobs that

1. …present few opportunities to distinguish yourself by developing relevant skills that are rare and valuable.
2. …focus on something you think is useless or perhaps even actively bad for the world.
3. … force you to work with people you really dislike.

Over to principle #3 then. Coming up next week..

Here’s to developing the 5 habits of a craftsman this week!