“Craftsmanship” may strike you as dated. We typically apply it to antique furniture and medieval cathedrals. However, when we think about “peak performance,” we envision Olympic athletes and astronauts. Individuals at the peak of achievement.

Craftsmanship is the process which allows them to strive for their best: An effort fueled by the drive for excellence. A contemporary craftswoman or craftsman is constantly forging their skills in the techniques that drive elite performance.

It’s worth noting that “technique” matters. A lot.

There is a really good chance that many of us are kidding ourselves about our true level of performance.

Dan Coyle (Talent Code) would say that, top athletes don’t practice for the big game, practice is the big game. This perpetual state of improving their technique enables them to perform. On demand and at will.

Why should we care so much about craftsmanship? According to research, there is a really good chance that many of us are kidding ourselves about our true level of performance. (And making this even more difficult is that we likely don’t even see it.)

Over two millennia ago, the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus advised:

“Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

(If you engage with teenagers, then you know what he’s talking about.) This is easy to see in others, harder to see in ourselves.

The obstacle to craftsmanship starts with “I’m good, I don’t need help.” This progresses to a detached cynicism resulting in “I’m fine, don’t bother me.” Repeated over a career.

Anders Ericsson (Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise), the world’s expert on experts, draws on thirty years of research to show that once a person reaches a level of “acceptable performance and automatically,” any additional years of experience don’t lead to improvement. Put another way, without focus and practice ten years of experience is often one year of experience merely repeated ten times.

The Doctor, Teacher, Consultant or Athlete will, over time, become a bit worse. Those abilities gradually atrophy in the absence of deliberate training to improve their technique and skills. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), take a look in the mirror and ask yourself:

What is the “quality” of my performance?

Sadly, it’s the colleague who sees themself as an 8, and performs at a 4, that is blind to need for constant improvement. My former business partner, Mahan Khalsa, observed about these professionals, “Their skills don’t grow each year – however — their level of comfort with their lack of skills grows.”

That’s why I’m all in. I want this journey that leads to mastery– the commitment to perpetual improvement. Since I heard the clarion call of craftsmanship, I now ask a different question about my own performance.

The question isn’t, “Is my work good enough?”

The craftsmanship question is, “How can I be better today?”

Call to Craftsmanship: Consider your desire to perform at elite levels. Is this a journey that interests you? Follow my blog here.


-Craig Christensen www.kraftworx.com


Privacy Preference Center