Grace in Your Work

I have experienced grace.  Grace can be:

  • ...seen in the flowing moves of a gifted dancer—the simple elegance of refined movement. 
  • ...observed as a special favor of extended time when you really need it most. 
  • ...the patience that we grant ourselves in the daily process of improvement.  

And yes, grace is even found in “your work”– your unique contribution to the world.   

We don’t often think of grace this way, however it facilitates discovering and shaping your personal influence on others.  Grace allows you to feel good about deferring any harmful self-judgement in the process of forging your work. It provides a suspension of self-doubt as you figure things out.

Personally, it is tempting for me to compare myself to the talent of writers that I want to emulate.  When I do compare, it highlights the gulf between their legendary results and my meager efforts.  When I contrast my skills with theirs, I begin to see developmental areas that take me closer to their capabilities–even if that will be years in the making.  Seeing a path provides hope, and hope encourages more grace.

However, grace encourages me to be patient in developing my own writing talent, and my own work. It helps me avoid harmful comparisons and focus instead on the contrasts that clarify what I need to develop.  

Rather than fixate on ultimate outcomes in the future, I can focus on my work today.

Giving yourself the simple gift of patience allows you to experience grace as you heat, and shape, and mold your work.  And grace allows you to feel the hope of restarting a new day. 

Of forging yet again.

When Decision meets Obsession

This year I decided to write on a regular schedule. Committing
to it was a strategic decision. The decision part felt good. However, I quickly
learned that choosing is easy; doing is hard.

It was 6 am and I was staring at my computer screen, waiting for
inspiration. I was there to write a blog, and it just didn’t come. Questions came
to mind:

  • Should I come back to
  • Did I submit my expense
  • Am I really a writer?
  • Is the dryer turned on?

I was paralyzed by the blinking cursor. How was I going to create
content if I couldn’t write? (Strategies for “curating” other people’s content swirled
up in my mind as an option.)

Morten Hansen, author of Great
at Work
, sums up his research on personal productivity by observing that:

“Picking a few priorities is only half the equation. The other
half is the harsh requirement that you must obsess over your chosen area of
focus to excel.”

What Steve Jobs did for Apple embodies this quote. After being
ousted as Apple CEO, Jobs returned in 1997. He made the decision to reduce the
number of Apple products by 70%. His focus on the success of the remaining 30%
is legendary.

Not only did it save the company from insolvency, it created an
obsession for execution that is the hallmark of Apple’s success today.

Hansen encourages us to, “Do
less, then obsess.”
Only extreme dedication creates the extraordinary focus
needed for extraordinary results. Tiger Woods’ recent win of the Masters is
another example of what years of extraordinary obsession can do.

So, I stayed at my computer. For 20 minutes I did a stare-down
with the screen. I finally decided to write something stupid. And I did, and it
was. And I wrote another line, and it was less stupid. By 10 am I had three
blogs ready to go. But more importantly, I had done what I committed to do.

Make the hard decisions, then stay with them long enough to
obsess over making them better.

The Courage of “Imperfection”

We admire masters, famous athletes, and legendary musicians.

It is painfully easy to compare our worst to their best. Even easier to feel the futility of achieving similar feats.

When did LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Michael Jordan first demonstrate the courage to become NBA superstars? My bet: Long before their points added up on the scoreboard.

What enables them to push through the pain of constant failure that inevitably comes with their level of achievement? My bet: Courage.

As young children, we had unlimited determination. We tried everything courageously—walking, talking, creating, exploring. And the world around us typically applauded our efforts. Then the school-years hit, and suddenly it wasn’t okay to try and fail. We were measured and applauded for our successes, not for our efforts.

Those years of conditioning in school follow us into the workplace. We often stick to the safe places—areas that we’re good at and know we can succeed. That behaviour shields us from fear and vulnerability, but it also shields us from achieving our full potential.

To achieve what’s possible requires a return to childhood courage. We need to once again unabashedly create, explore, and risk to learn new things.

Most of us know the fear of pushing past our comfort zone to a higher potential only to feel like an impostor or fraud.

On a recent conference call, I was asked for my opinion by the Chief Executive. The call went silent. It was like I went into a slow-motion moment. The self-doubt was instantaneous:

  • Am I sure?
  • What if I’m wrong?
  • Shouldn’t I know more?

I forced myself out of freeze mode, stated my opinion, and waited. I remember physically flinching in fear (for what seemed like minutes) for her response. My insecurities started multiplying as I prepared to be criticized business-school style.

She finally broke the silence, “Very helpful insight, thank you.”

As these moments of doubt repeat themselves, I strive to embrace the challenge and push through with determination. My mantra has become, “embrace it till you make it.”

“Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly…at first.” Sound wisdom based on biology. Whether the new skill is riding a bike, speaking a language, or hitting a three-pointer, we need to get comfortable with the discomfort of imperfection.

Dan Coyle (Talent Code) observed:

Struggle isn’t an option, it’s a biological requirement.

As it was when we were small children, so it is now—without pushing beyond our comfort zones, we don’t grow. Comfort dominates at the sensitive margin where our skill and capability meet. Growth happens when we push beyond it. It takes a fierce resolution to be okay with making mistakes. Lots of mistakes.

Get up, take a few steps, fall, get up again… repeated again and again with the whole world watching. What could be more courageous than that?

Michael Jordan admits:

I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.

Worry less about being imperfect or an imposter; worry more about becoming courageous in imperfection. Try taking a scary new action this week that requires you to “embrace it till you make it.”




Eat your Verbs

What parent hasn’t told their kids to eat a well-balanced meal. Yet, the mac and cheese goes quickly and the broccoli remains on the plate.

As adults we know what’s good for us. But the mac and cheese still goes first. And we continue to struggle with the greens.

Much easier to dream about being fit someday, than to eat better everyday.

Austin Kleon, author of How to Steal Like an Artist, put it this way:

“Everyone wants to be the noun, without doing the verb.”

We want to be the “boss”, a “player” or the “winner”. We love to dream about being a noun that astounds and impresses. Not so much when it comes doing the action-verb-work of daily improvement.

Are your daily actions leading to becoming the noun you admire?

I can almost hear my Mom saying: “Craig, sit up straight. Square your shoulders. And eat your verbs.”


Call to Craftsmanship: What verbs are on your plate today?



Driven by kraft

A foundation for kraft is a love for the work that you do.  This passion generates drive and accomplishment:

  • It becomes the measure of your devotions, the strength behind your intentions.  
  • The driving force of your commitment to improve your service to serve others, and in turn, success for yourself.  
  • It is the steel rod of resolve down the back of every student who has the discipline to do their work. Every day. Days into weeks, weeks into months, years into careers.

I infuse kraft with specific meaning helpful to those developing mastery and elite performance.  My definition:


kraft is an artistic use of the Danish word for force or strength.  It is the power in each of us that drives us to do more, be more and contribute more.

It’s kraft that has driven the evolution of civilizations, the creation of symphonies and the development of artificial intelligence. It is echoed in the writings of thought leaders and imbedded in the great philosophies of the world.  Always encouraging us to become better.


Wikipedia, definition of “Arete”:

Arete to the Stoic philosophers was the idea of excellence, the fulfillment of purpose or function: “the act of living up to one's full potential.”

Marcus Aurelius, Stoic philosopher and Emperor of Rome:

Everything – a horse, a vine – is created for some duty… For what task, then, were you yourself created?  A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.

Abraham Moslow, the modern humanistic psychologist who developed the hierarchy of needs and father of positive psychology:

Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write…. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization.

Robert Greene, author of Mastery:

The first move toward mastery is always inward—learning who you really are and reconnecting with that innate force. Knowing it with clarity, you will find your way to the proper career path and everything else will fall into place. It is never too late to start this process.

Seth Godin, marketing mastermind:

Each of us can work to become the person we seek to be. A better version of the person we are right now. Doing work we’re proud of for people we care about.

Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art:

When we’re living as amateurs, we’re running away from our calling—meaning our work, our destiny, the obligation to become our truest and highest selves.

Victor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, author of Man’s Search for Meaning:

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life… Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated.  

The Buddha, or “enlighten one”:  

Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.

How much do you love what you do?  How driven are you to becoming the best version of yourself? Now is the time to unleash the power of kraft in your life.


Call to Craftsmanship:  What could kraft drive you to do?


Craig’s Craftsmanship Reads…

Anytime someone asks for a reading list, I pause.

Mostly because I’m not sure if it’s even helpful. Clearly a list doesn’t mean anything by itself. It’s when a book is distilled into insights that drive better outcomes that any book (on any list) actually means something.

So, below is a list. If you have thoughts on ways to organize them in a more helpful way, I’d welcome your ideas.

“Drink deep.”

By Title

1776 David McCullough
A New Earth Eckhart Tolle
A Theory of Human Motivation Abraham H. Maslow
A Whole New Mind Daniel H. PInk
Alexander Hamilton Ron Chernow
All Things Shining Kelly and Dreyfus
Awaken the Giant Within Anthony Robbins
Buddhism for Beginners Jack Kornfield
Buddhist Meditation for Beginners Jack Kornfield
Building a Story Brand Donald Miller
Checklist Manifesto Atul Gawande
Competing Against Luck Clayton Christensen
Crunch Time Peterson and Hoekstra
Daring Greatly Brene Brown
Death by Meeting Patrick Lencioni
Deep Work Cal Newport
Destiny of the Republic Candice Millard
Do You! Russell Simmons
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff Richard Carlson
Drive Daniel H. Pink
Eat Move
Ego Is the Enemy Ryan Holiday
Essentialism Greg McKeown
Extreme Ownership Willink and Babin
Flourish Martin Seligman
Flow Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Give and Take Adam Grant
Great Work David Sturt
Grit Angela Duckworth
Hero of an Empire Candice Millard
How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie
Humble Inquiry Edgar H. Schein
Influence Robert Cialdini
Inner Game of Tennis Tim Gallwey
Irresistible Adam Alter
Leaders Eat Last Simon Sinek
Little Bets Peter Sims
Loving What Is Bryon Katie
Make It Stick Peter Brown
Manage Your Day-to-Day Jocelyn Glei
Mastery Robert Greene
Mastery: The Keys to Success George Leonard
Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis
Mindfulness Ellen Langer
Mindset Carol Dweck
Mindsight Daniel Siegel
Multipliers Liz Wiseman
Peace Is Every Step Thich Nhat Hanh
Peak Anders Ericsson
Playing to Win Martin and Lafley
Power of Habit Charles Duhigg
Presence Amy Cuddy
Principles Ray Dalio
Pursuing the Good Life Christopher Peterson
Rapt Winifred Gallagher
Resilience Eric Greitens
Road to Character David Brooks
Seat of the Soul Gary Zukav
Smarter Faster Better Charles Duhigg
So Good They Can’t Ignore You Cal Newport
Start with Why Simon Sinek
Stealing Fire Steven Kotler
Talent Code Daniel Coyle
Talent Is Overrated Geoff Colvin
The 10X Rule Grant Cardone
The 4 Disciplines of Execution Covey/ McChesney
The 5 Choices Merrill / Rinne / Kogan
The Art of Learning Josh Watzkin
The Boys in the Boat Daniel Brown
The Charisma Myth Olivia Fox Cabane
The Culture Code Daniel Coyle
The Daily Stoic Holiday and Hanselman
The Defining Decade Meg Jay
The Distracted Mind Gazzely and Rosen
The Distraction Addiction Alex Pang
The Effective Executive Peter Drucker
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni
The Little Book of Talent Daniel Coyle
The Obstacle Is the Way Ryan Holiday
The ONE Thing Gary Keller
The Outward Mindset Arbinger Institute
The Power of Consistency Weldon Long
The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle
The Power of Vulnerability Brene Brown
The Practicing Mind Thomas Sterner
The Rise of Superman Steven Kotler
The River of Doubt Candice Millard
The Science of Being Great Wallace Wattles
The Speed of Trust Stephen M.R. Covey
The Talent Code Daniel Coyle
The Untethered Soul Michael Singer
The War of Art Steven Pressfield
To Sell Is Human Daniel H. Pink
Trap Tales David M.R. Covey
Trying Not to Try Edward Slingerland
Turning Pro Steven Pressfield
Unlocking Potential Michael Simpson
Walden Henry David Thoreau
What Every Body Is Saying Karlins and Navarro
What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear Danielle Ofri, MD
Wright Brothers David McCullough
You Already Know How to Be Great Alan Fine
You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard Bert Decker


By Author

Abraham H. Maslow A Theory of Human Motivation
Adam Alter Irresistible
Adam Grant Give and Take
Alan Fine You Already Know How to Be Great
Alex Pang The Distraction Addiction
Amy Cuddy Presence
Anders Ericsson Peak
Angela Duckworth Grit
Anthony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within
Arbinger Institute The Outward Mindset
Atul Gawande Checklist Manifesto
Bert Decker You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard
Brene Brown Daring Greatly
Brene Brown The Power of Vulnerability
Bryon Katie Loving What Is
C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity
Cal Newport Deep Work
Cal Newport So Good They Can’t Ignore You
Candice Millard Destiny of the Republic
Candice Millard Hero of an Empire
Candice Millard The River of Doubt
Carol Dweck Mindset
Charles Duhigg Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg Smarter Faster Better
Christopher Peterson Pursuing the Good Life
Clayton Christensen Competing Against Luck
Covey/ McChesney The 4 Disciplines of Execution
Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People
Daniel Brown The Boys in the Boat
Daniel Coyle Talent Code
Daniel Coyle The Culture Code
Daniel Coyle The Little Book of Talent
Daniel Coyle The Talent Code
Daniel H. PInk A Whole New Mind
Daniel H. Pink Drive
Daniel H. Pink To Sell Is Human
Daniel Siegel Mindsight
Danielle Ofri MD What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear
David Brooks The Road to Character
David M.R. Covey Trap Tales
David McCullough 1776
David McCullough Wright Brothers
David Sturt Great Work
Donald Miller Building a Story Brand
Eckhart Tolle A New Earth
Eckhart Tolle The Power of Now
Edgar H. Schein Humble Inquiry
Edward Slingerland Trying Not to Try
Ellen Langer Mindfulness
Eric Greitens Resilience
Gary Keller The ONE Thing
Gary Zukav Seat of the Soul
Gazzely and Rosen The Distracted Mind
Geoff Colvin Talent Is Overrated
George Leonard Mastery: The Keys to Success
Grant Cardone The 10X Rule
Greg McKeown Essentialism
Henry David Thoreau Walden
Holiday and Hanselman The Daily Stoic
Jack Kornfield Buddhist Meditation for Beginners
Jack Kornfield Buddhism for Beginners
Jocelyn Glei Manage Your Day-to-Day
Josh Watzkin The Art of Learning
Karlins and Navarro What Every Body Is Saying
Kelly and Dreyfus All Things Shining
Liz Wiseman Multipliers
Martin and Lafley Playing to Win
Martin Seligman Flourish
Meg Jay The Defining Decade
Merrill / Rinne / Kogan The 5 Choices
Michael Simpson Unlocking Potential
Michael Singer The Untethered Soul
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow
Move Eat
Olivia Fox Cabane The Charisma Myth
Patrick Lencioni Death by Meeting
Patrick Lencioni The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Peter Brown Make It Stick
Peter Drucker The Effective Executive
Peter Sims Little Bets
Peterson and Hoekstra Crunch Time
Ray Dalio Principles
Richard Carlson Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Robert Cialdini Influence
Robert Greene Mastery
Ron Chernow Alexander Hamilton
Russell Simmons Do You!
Ryan Holiday Ego Is the Enemy
Ryan Holiday The Obstacle Is the Way
Simon Sinek Leaders Eat Last
Simon Sinek Start with Why
Stephen M.R. Covey The Speed of Trust
Steven Kotler Stealing Fire
Steven Kotler The Rise of Superman
Steven Pressfield The War of Art
Steven Pressfield Turning Pro
Thich Nhat Hanh Peace Is Every Step
Thomas Sterner The Practicing Mind
Tim Gallwey Inner Game of Tennis
Wallace Wattles The Science of Being Great
Weldon Long The Power of Consistency
Willink and Babin Extreme Ownership
Winifred Gallagher Rapt



-Craig Christensen

Just Because You Don’t See It…

“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