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Friday, November 18, 2011

Craftmanship means giving your best

One of my pet peeves is when people do things only half-way. I spend a lot of time explaining this concept to my children when they leave a chore half done or complete a homework assignment that is clearly not their best work. I repeatedly tell my children that the work they do is a reflection of who they are and they should always take care to give the world the best of themselves.

I find that humans will often take the path of least resistance when left to their own devices and if we aren’t conscious, laziness and apathy can become the norm. This is why diligence must be constantly reinforced.

This is illustrated beautifully in the construction of timepieces. In the beginning of watchmaking, individual masters made one of a kind works of art for royalty. These watchmakers were artisans and they spent many months making a single timepiece that was a precise mechanical masterpiece and a thing of beauty. The inner mechanisms of the timepiece were likely never seen by anyone but that didn’t matter to the artisans. They still took care that each piece was beautifully designed and hand-crafted to perfection.

There are still many individuals in different trades that operate under that same philosophy. Those who take the time to perfect their work for the sake of pride are today’s master artisans.

I sometimes think we have lost the concept of craftsmanship. By that, I mean the diligence and effort that goes into work that leaves the creator’s spirits lifted. It is the feeling you get when you stand back and assess your efforts and are proud and inspired by the product. One does not have to handcraft timepieces to be considered a craftsman. You simply have to put your skill and mastery into whatever it is you do.

Craftsmanship is not just about physical construct. I see police officers who exhibit craftsmanship through their service to others every day. Every contact with a citizen is a chance for them to reveal their mastery. Even when issuing a citation to a driver or taking someone into custody, if they do so with professionalism and character, they are displaying pride in their work. An officer who treats someone who chooses to break the law with dignity and respect is mastering their craft. Ensuring that a police report is a thorough and accurate reflection of the incident that occurred is a practice in craftsmanship.

Giving your best in all that you do can become tiresome. I have seen people lose their motivation to work at their highest potential because they felt their effort was futile or unrecognized. There is certainly something to be said for losing inspiration and motivation because of a shattered spirit. We can all point to something that was unfair or unjust at some point in our lives and easily use that as an excuse to stop giving our best. I watched many artisans in their trade give up because they felt they were underappreciated.

Those who have mastered craftsmanship understand that the motivation to give their absolute best comes not from external praise or recognition. It is the intrinsic motivation that comes from the realization of purpose. An officer who writes tickets to please their supervisor or to generate revenue for the city will easily become frustrated by elements beyond their control. In contrast, the officer who understands that their job is to do their part to prevent traffic crashes by upholding the law has a purpose that is bigger than themselves. They understand that issuing a citation (no matter how negatively received) is their contribution to preventing the loss of life.

No matter what your life’s work, a true artisan will not let outside influences dictate the quality of their work. The pride that goes with giving the best you have to offer in all circumstances is what craftsmanship is all about.

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