James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.


The Craftsman & The Passion Mindset

Photo Dec 18, 7 41 51 AM.jpg

It takes much practice to build a craft, just like it takes much practice to choose the perfect "dibs" for a parking space.

A friend of mine, Jessica Jacobs, was telling me about the word that she was choosing to focus on in 2014. It’s an interesting concept that focuses on arranging your goals around a word, rather than general resolutions. Her response is below.

"…PRACTICE, in all its meanings: To do something again and again in order to become better at it. To do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life. To live according to the customs and teachings of."

I love hearing about the importance of practice. It’s one of the hardest and necessary parts of making good work, but also the toughest and least glamorous. There’s been a rise in entrepreneurial mush making the rounds with grand statements such as: “follow your passion and the rest will follow.” I disagree heavily.

I’m currently reading this book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport, which is all about why skills triumph passion in the workplace. It’s refreshing because it not only debunks the whole “follow your passion” advice, but explains the counterpoints in immense detail, which tickles my geek needs perfectly. There was a certain part in the book that stuck to me, called "The Craftsman Mindset vs. The Passion Mindset."

According to Cal Newport, the craftsman mindset “focuses on what you can offer the world” and the passion mindset “focuses on what the world can offer you.” The former is built upon the importance of consistent practice and developing your skills to do the work you want to do, while the latter believes that once you find what you love to do, you will magically succeed at it. Sadly, the passion mindset is force fed at virtually every conference, book, podcast, and form of media you can think of. It’s practically the Shake Weight of the working process: promises of quick and satisfying results, with little time and effort.

Ira Glass, when asked about practice, stated that “the key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase.” Practice is one of the grittiest, but most important parts of making meaningful work. Is there anything that you are looking to practice at this week? This month? This year?

This is an excerpt from my weekly newsletter, The Studio Visit, where I share a collection of thoughts and interesting writings once a week. You can sign up for it here.

James T. Green