American culture values warriors above all else. From a young age, children take part in sports, learning about, among others, strategies to defeat the other team, and an overall warrior ethos that helps them act as one cohesive unit. Then, video games and pop culture continue building on the exact same narrative of how violence solves everything; I cannot remember the last time Hollywood produced a film about using logic, diplomacy, and give-and-take to save the world.
All in all, this warrior ethos has served America well, in getting things done and in maintaining the rule of law effectively. However, in this day and age, when violence is proving to be an increasingly detrimental response, and things like police brutality and unruly behavior are on the rise, we need an alternative to this stream of endless violence. Thankfully, there are many ways out, and today, I will present you the one I’ve grown up with: the craftsman’s ethos.
I have been raised to get things right the first time, and always focus on the final product of my work. I believe that everything that comes out of my hands illustrates the kind of person that I am, which is why I always strive to always put my best work forward, and learn from my mistakes. Pride is dangerous, but inevitable, so my only source of pride will always be my work. As such, a job well done in itself will propel me forward to keep honing my craft. This is what the craftsman’s ethos looks like.
While the warrior’s ethos glorifies destroying your opponents, the craftsman’s ethos emphasizes building oneself and the surrounding world. When you’re a craftsman, you don’t have enemies or competition, but fellow craftsmen, with whom you build and from whom you learn.
This reminds me of the scarcity vs. abundance mindset theory. The scarcity mindset assumes that there isn’t enough to go around, so people need to fight for a bigger share of the pie. Sounds familiar? Well, the alternative to that is the abundance mindset, where there is enough to go around, and you work to expand the pie so that everyone, including you, has a larger share.
The core idea of the craftsman’s ethos is continuously improving your craft, which is why the first step is identifying your crafts. You will naturally work on yourself, so one of your crafts is automatically self improvement. Then, your responsibilities represent another one of your crafts. Finally, your aspirations and ambitions represent the third craft. These are the three crafts we all need to focus on, and some may very well align or intertwine, and that’s ideal.
The craftsman’s goal is crafting, so the focus the ethos requires is in putting your best work forward at all times, as it will represent you. This has been my motivation in and of itself to do everything I can to excel here, at Wabash, and everywhere I went. For me, assignments are not something to grind through, but elements of my craft, that, if done right, will showcase my true potential. This is why I cannot stand people who say they’re “grinding”: for me, “embracing the grind” involves not investing yourself wholly into your work, which results in you never putting your best work forward. Thus, I encourage you to throw “the grind” out the window, and think about your assignments as one of your crafts.
Nothing in life is perfect, and this ethos comes with its own downsides, chief of which is entanglement. Entanglement is focusing so hard on work that is becomes your identity and you cannot escape it; it’s basically one step removed from workaholism. I have suffered greatly from entanglement throughout the years, and have regretted deeply that I wasn’t able to block out the voice in my head that said “keep working, keep crafting.” This ethos gave me plenty of sleepless nights and frequent burnouts.
Also, when a streak of misfortune comes your way, as is in life, you will get demoralized fast as a craftsman. When you can’t craft at the level required of you, it gets personal. And, to make matters worse, the drive to keep improving and reach that goal means that you have no time for yourself and for recovery. This is probably my biggest struggle, and I’ve been at it for years, with seemingly no way out.
So, there you have it: though it’s not perfect, the craftsman’s ethos is still better than the violent warrior’s ethos. Instead of seeing life as a series of battles to win, you will be able to see it as a process of honing your craft until it becomes a reference for others to improve upon. I will leave you with a challenge: in the spirit of the craftsman’s ethos, think of ways in which you can improve upon it. I am genuinely curious to see what you come up with.