Why You Should Be a Craftsman at Work

Jun 27, 2014
8 Min Read

I recently spoke to Jon Gordon, who is the author of The Carpenter: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All. Gordon's best-selling books and talks have inspired readers and audiences around the world. His principles have been put to the test by numerous NFL, NBA, and college coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospitals and non-profits. He is the author of The Wall Street Journal bestseller "The Energy Bus," "The No Complaining Rule," "Training Camp," "The Shark" and "The Goldfish", and many others. His clients include The Atlanta Falcons, Campbell Soup, Wells Fargo, State Farm, Novartis, Bayer and more. In the following brief interview, Gordon talks about why you should become a craftsman, how to be more creative at work, why you should start talking to yourself, and how to be more likeable.

Dan Schawbel: What is a craftsman and why should people seek to become one?

Jon Gordon: A craftsman/craftswoman is someone who pursues excellence in their work. They develop their craft by working hard year after year, showing up every day and focusing on the work in front of them. They see themselves as an artist dedicated to their craft with a desire to get better. They put their heart and soul into every aspect of their job and/or product.  They are always learning and growing and seeking ways to improve and master their craft. People should seek to become a craftsman because we were never meant to be mediocre. We are meant to learn, grow, and thrive. We are at our best when we are improving, mastering our craft and sharing our gifts with others. I meet teachers who see their work as a craft and are always looking for ways to improve their lessons and methods to better reach their students. They are the ones who win teacher of the year. I meet professional and college coaches who are always looking to improve their culture, strategy and systems and better lead their teams. I meet sales people who are always finding ways to improve how they communicate and connect with their customers. Even in a commoditized market, a craftsman will always stand out.

Schawbel: How do you harness your own creativity at work? What types of environments work best?

Gordon: First it starts with realizing that you were born to create. You may not paint or build homes but you were born to create and turn ideas into action and outcomes. Then to harness your creativity it’s essential to make time for creative thinking. For me, I’m at my most creative when I walk on the beach. If I spend too much time on Twitter and email I find my creativity is affected. However, other people get ideas from browsing social media and it's an essential part of their creativity. The key is to find the process that works best for you. I like silence. Some like showers. Others love to walk around big cities. Whatever your process is, make it a part of your routine and give yourself time to think, dream and create.

Schawbel: Why should people start talking to themselves instead of listening to themselves?

Gordon: A big part of building a life, career, and team involves struggle and challenges. We will encounter adversity during the building process. That’s why we must build with optimism and belief. We must talk to ourselves instead of listen to ourselves. This comes from Dr. James Gills, the only person on the planet who has completed six double ironman triathlons. And the last time he did it, he was 59 years old. When asked how he did it he said, “I have learned to talk to myself instead of listen to myself. If I listen to myself I hear all fear, doubt, complaints and reasons why I can’t finish a race. But if I talk to myself I can fuel up with the words and encouragement I need to keep on running and finish.”

Schawbel: How do you become someone everyone wants to work with?

Gordon: You care more! It’s that simple. You care more about the work you do. You care more about the people you work with. You care more about your product and service. You care more about the people you serve. When you care more, you stand out in world where most don’t care. We can tell when someone cares and people can tell when we care. If you don’t care people are not going to want to work with you. If you care people will be drawn to you. I have found that the most successful people and companies find unique ways to show they care. The key is care and put care into action. For example, Fitz from Rosenblums who sells me my suits writes a little note on a card and places it in the inside pocket. Every time I wear a new suit I find the card. The last cared said, “I hope you are doing something positive right now.” I can buy my suits from a lot of people but I choose Fitz at Rosenblums because I know he cares about me.

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