Measure Three times, Cut Once. An Ode to my Inner Craftsman

Chinese sword makingFound this article on the Art of Manliness (AOM) site and it got me thinking about…you guessed it, my inner craftsman.

This is how Brett and Kate (the two main authors of AOM) have detailed this piece.

Across cultures and time, the archetype of the craftsman has represented man’s ability to create and has been the mark of mature manhood. He is homo faber – man the creator. Instead of passively consuming and letting things happen to him, the craftsman fashions the world to his liking and proactively shapes and influences it. Ancient philosophers in both the West and the East have used the craftsman as a symbol of he who contributes to his community and as an ensign of humility, self-reliance, and calm industry.

There were many good points alluding to how a man (or woman) could ensure that they are fully functional and engaging human beings. Here are some examples:

On results: 

The problem with the consumer ethic is that it creates individuals with self-inflated and fragile egos who are unable to withstand the sometimes harsh criticisms and judgments that invariably come in life and in work. Clients and bosses don’t care if you felt “authentic” when writing a memo or if you tried really hard on a project. All they care about are the results.

On planning: 

With any project, the craftsman creates twice: first mentally and then physically. Before he sets chisel to stone or hammer to wood, the craftsman has already created his work in his mind. In other words, he plans how to bring out the object from the rough materials and tools before him.

On mastery: (This caught me off guard)

…it’s not the type of work that we do that leads to personal fulfillment. Rather it’s mastery of our work (along with autonomy and purpose) that brings us satisfaction.


Credit: The Art of Manliness
Credit: The Art of Manliness

There are other gems in the post, but I’ll let you guys read those. As I was reading this I realized the parallels of my martial arts journey to that of my life. Especially with the part of how a craftsman is not one who is passively consuming and letting things happen to him. Rather the craftsman creates his own world, creates his own solutions, creates his own world.

I found myself almost unconsciously agreeing with every little thing that the article points out. With my recent research into my personality type and such, everything just seems to match up; what if I was meant to be a craftsman? Suddenly a lot of things in my life started to make sense – eerily so.

Just how I approach life, challenges, difficulties, people, etc.

I was taken back to the times where I’d toil away for hours on end on my model battleships. I was taken back to how I would look at a piece of machinery and instantly know how to go about fixing it – or taking it apart!

I was stopped however by the statement about mastery. Is it really true that when one engages in mastery, there lies true satisfaction in one’s existence? Just thinking about that makes sense – you spend all these time honing and perfecting just that ONE thing that you will contribute to the world.

As I near the date of my black belt test, I question whether or not Aikido/martial arts is my “craft/gift” to the world. Hell, it might not be the craft – or it might not be the only gift I have to offer the world. Is it? I can only hope the answer will come soon.

Damn, I can only hope that my gift(s) will be done correctly for the world to see.


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