For most people, work is a chore that drags for eight or more hours a day. It’s a necessary evil that pays the bills. Wednesday is “hump day” because it’s half-way through the ennui. Friday is a day to celebrate because the weekend is about to begin.
Yet for a small minority, work has a completely different meaning. It’s ennobling, empowering, and gives meaning to life.
What’s the difference? Why do most people find work a burden, while a few find it a blessing?
The answer can be encapsulated in a single word: craftsmanship.
Imagine two people in the same profession. Say, they are both welders. One has become a welder because it pays well, providing a good living. Someone else loves everything about it—from putting on welding gloves to picking up a chipping hammer and hand file to begin the work of reshaping the world.
Why Craftsmanship Matters
If you’re a craftsman, you see work as something that deserves your care, skill, attention, and intelligence. You see it as an opportunity for mastery. You don’t just work for the money. You don’t just work for what it will help you do with the rest of your time.
You have a different view. Work to you is a challenge. It’s an opportunity to keep getting better at something worth doing. It’s a journey from ignorance to knowledge, from tyro to master, from wrestling with the fundamentals to mastering your trade. Work is a way to express your best self.
Work is meaningful for you because you view it as an opportunity to practice craftsmanship.
Tools of the Trade
As a craftsman, your tools help makes your project successful. If you have the right tools, you’ll get consistent results.
Let’s take a look at two lines of work—construction and carpentry– to appreciate how tools play an essential role in the quest for craftsmanship.
- Construction Tools.
In the construction trade, diggers are highly adaptable construction tools that can be used for digging up dirt and excavating in confined spaces, among other uses. There are all kinds of diggers — dragline diggers, suction-type diggers, and crawlers. This tool is essential for a variety of heavy-duty work, and it’s hard to imagine construction projects sticking to time and budget constraints without them.
There are numerous tools necessary for carpentry. One class of tools that makes the work much easier are power tools. Circular saws make it easier to work with plywood. Electric drills, corded or cordless, can come with a keyed or keyless chuck, a ½ inch or 3/8-inch chuck, hammer drills or straight drills. Electric jigsaws allow a carpenter to cut circular patterns. And, then, of course, there are random orbital sanders to improve sanding, table saws to make precision cuts, and compound miter saws for combination, meitered, and beveled cutting. All these various power tools make it possible to envision the final result–creating something beautiful out of wood.
The Renaissance Model
What made the Renaissance such an indispensable part of human history? Was it an era where more highly skilled people lived, from famous artists to superb workers? No, what made the Renaissance such an epic part of Western history is that they had a system in place to teach people the crafts. There was an abundance of skilled craftsmen because the guilds provided a path for apprentices, journeymen, and masters. Work was more than just a way of providing essential items for daily life, more than just a way to make a living at one’s craft. It was a way to find joy in work because it imbued work with meaning…the pride of craftsmanship.
In conclusion, although we have talked about craftsmanship in relation to the trades, the principles apply to any type of work. We live in a time of great abundance—an abundance of education, work opportunities, and tools of all kinds, but unless we can also find joy in work, we will not thrive, either individually or as a society.