Finding Fulfilling Work: Live Out Your Calling as an Artisan
You likely feel as though you don’t have enough time to watch a video that is 17 minutes and 47 seconds, right? But what if watching it allows you to penetrate beneath the scar tissue of busyness and distraction and transform your view of work and the satisfaction you derive from it? Would it be worth it, then?
If you’re willing to watch the video, please feel free to stop reading here, because I’m convinced that, though seemingly out of context, you’ll get the point by the end of the video—the point that there’s a vastly different, far more rewarding way to do what we call “work” than what most of us have been taught and have experienced. It’s the work of an artisan.
But first, a bit on the evolution and etymology of work: What’s the difference between a job and a profession? I ask this question more than you’d think, and the summary response I receive is, “A job is something you have to do while a profession is something you want to do. A job is a necessity—it puts food on the table—while a profession is something that you train for and build over time.”
Fair enough. What, then, is a vocation? The answer I hear most often is, “It’s a calling.”
Long thought to be the exclusive domain of pastors, priests and rabbis, it was actually a “man of the cloth” who invited me to consider that anyone—everyone—is worthy of a calling and in possession of a unique blend of skills and proclivities to be utilized in the service of their community, even if such a pursuit would more likely receive the label of secular rather than sacred.
That was a liberating thought to me. I didn’t feel called to the ministry, but I loved the notion that my purpose could be just as important as those who were in the soul-shaping business.
Although I don’t believe that one’s calling is always/only found in paid work, I dedicated myself many years ago to perpetually working toward work—a profession—that I felt I was made to do. (I’m getting there.)
Os Guinness, the great-great-great-grandson of legendary brewer Arthur Guinness, says our calling “… is ‘the ultimate why’ for living, the highest source of purpose in human existence.”
As much as I love a pint of his forefather’s handiwork, and Guinness’ poetic description, I fear that its grandiose implications may intimidate the skeptics among us. So in my book, Simple Money, I offer a list of features I’ve found consistent in those who clearly seem to be living out a higher-than-average purpose.
An activity, role or pursuit might be your calling if the following are true:
- You can say without hesitation, “I love doing this.”
- You’re good at it.
- It’s life-giving—the activity generally doesn’t tire you (mentally, at least).
- The activity is consistent with your values.
- Your goals are complementary to your calling (and vice versa).
- You’ve received recognition from multiple sources that this is “your thing.”
- It benefits others.
(For more on this, see Chris Guillebeau’s practical new book, Born for This.)
But I think there’s a step even beyond a calling that not only is evidenced in the aforementioned videobut everywhere you look for it: the people who are living out their calling as an artisan.
If you Google the word artisan, here’s what you find:
Much like the definition of “calling,” I find the short definition of “artisan” to be unhelpfully narrow. What if we expanded the term beyond simply those who used their hands to make their work to those who adopt a similar philosophy and methodology. Then, I believe, we’d discover elements that would improve all of our work.
Artisanal work is:
- Deliberate, almost to the point of being timeless. This doesn’t mean that it needs to be slow—Handel finished his legendary masterpiece, Messiah, in three weeks—but it’s certainly not hurried.
- Effective, but not necessarily efficient. Who wants the most efficiently cooked steak or the most efficiently distilled single-malt Scotch? Efficiency is overrated while optimal effectiveness is under-delivered.
- Creative, customized by the artisan and for the patron. It’s more one-of-a-kind than one-size-fits-all. It’s personal—allowing the artisan’s personality to come through—but it’s also personalized for the product or service recipient.
- Beautiful, but without sacrificing its utility. While we might tend to think of artisans as artists, the term has historically been applied most often to tradesmen and craftsmen (and women, of course). The butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker, if you will. This means there are artists who aren’t artisans and there are plumbers who are.
Are you an artisan? Yes, I realize that it is more conducive to some work than others, but what would it look like if you did the work in your job, profession or calling as an artisan?
Would the work be better? Would you enjoy it more? Would your customers or clients be more satisfied and more likely to do more business and to refer?
Instead of telling me how it can’t be done, consider how it might be.
(And if you haven’t yet, invest 17 minutes and 47 seconds in this video where an artisan singer-songwriter tells the story of how he connected with several other artisans to craft one of the most gorgeous—looking and sounding—acoustic guitars you’ll ever see or hear.)
This commentary originally appeared May 28 on Forbes.com
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