I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. Who we think we are, and how we think we fit into the world has a massive impact on how we behave. Clanning and Convergence / Divergence are two of the greatest influences on our behavior, whether we realize it or not.
One of the reasons people perceive credentials as valuable is that they impart a sense of identity: “who I am." Notice how people who have attended top business schools describe themselves: “I’m a Harvard MBA" or “I’m a Stanford MBA." It’s not a statement of skill - it’s a statement of identity. Getting the certificate is a confirmation of group identity, which has a powerful influence on behavior. Enroll in business school, and you “become" an MBA.
The Personal MBA has, thus far, lacked that strong sense of identity. No one (including me) says “I’m a Personal MBA-er" or even “self-educator." It’s a statement too broad to be of much use in shaping behavior, which is a major detriment. Identity is a useful tool - one we don’t have quite yet.
After thinking about our identity - what makes us unique - I found an answer. As it turns out, self-education is not who we are; it’s what we do in the pursuit of something far more important. It’s a means to an end, not an end itself.
We are Craftsmen
If you really grok what the Personal MBA is about, you know it’s not really about what most businesspeople say they want: getting more money, getting promoted, becoming famous, etc. Sure, studying business can lead to these things, but that’s not really why we do it. Our studies are about something deeper: the joy of developing yourself and mastering new skills that you can use to live a productive and satisfying life. Perfecting the art, and improving the quality of your life as you pursue it, in an end in itself. In short, we’re craftsmen.
Our crafts may be very different - programming, engineering, design, marketing, sales, financial analysis, systems design, writing, manufacture, or teaching. Even so, we’re all on the same path: doing everything we can to perfect our craft, using every tool at our disposal. We are craftsmen.
I put together a statement of my personal philosophy, to better define for myself what I’m after. It ended up being a very clear statement of what craftsmanship is all about, so I’d like to share it with you.
If I were ever to be on NPR’s “This I Believe" , this is what I’d say.
The Craftsman’s Creed
I am a craftsman. I am dedicated to perfecting the art and science of my craft, which I have chosen freely.
I am constantly, relentlessly searching for ways to improve my craft. I am dedicated to learning from the masters who have preceded me in every way I am able.
I create valuable things that other people want or need. I generously offer my work as a gift when it is wise, but my purpose is to help those who value my work enough to pay for what I have to offer. No one has an unlimited claim on my craft, knowledge, or the fruits of my effort. I work for people who value and support me.
I honestly promote what I have to offer, consistently and to the limit of my capabilities. I make no apologies for promoting my craft. I am proud of my work, and it is my duty and responsibility to reach people who may benefit from my craft. I can help them no other way.
I do my best to ensure that every single person who trusts me with their time, attention, or money is happy with their investment. If they are not, I will do whatever is in my power to do right by them without delay.
Skills are a craftsman’s credentials. I care more about a person’s character, what they know, and what they can do than where they grew up, where they went to school, or how many letters they have after their name. I choose to work with other craftsmen: people who are skilled, not simply schooled.
I respect other craftsmen, and I generously assist them however I’m able. I have no respect for the fool who searches for a way to enjoy the fruits of labor without effort, or the scoundrel who seeks to enrich himself by deluding others. Value, not wealth or fame, is the true measure of every craftsman.
I take good care of myself. My mind and body are the tools I use to advance my craft, so I take care of them. Rest and recovery are essential to my life: a worn-down tool is of no use at all.
I never stop pushing my limits. I am constantly testing and experimenting with new ways to expand my capabilities. It is my way of life.
I refuse to waste precious time and energy on trivial matters, trivial problems, and trivial people. I choose to focus only on the most important of demands: those that help me advance my craft or take care of the people who depend on me.
The world is an uncertain place, which I can not fully predict or control. Regardless, I will do everything in my power to prepare for every challenge and weather every storm. Nothing in this world is powerful enough to stop me from continuing to practice my craft.
Anything that I can do to improve my craft, I will do. This will keep me busy until the end of my days: a challenge I gladly accept. I am a craftsman, and always shall be.
Are you a Craftsman?
If so, you’re in good company - the Personal MBA is one of the largest gatherings of craftsmen from all disciplines on the web.
I think it’s a wonderful thing to be a craftsman, and I’m happy to be on this journey with you. My craft is teaching business, and I’m going to do everything I can to help you learn the skills you need to perfect your craft, whatever it might be. I wrote my book just for you , and I’m looking forward to walking this path with you in the years and decades to come.
If you’re not a Craftsman - if your goal is to amass some type of hedonistic pleasure using every shortcut available to you, you’re in the wrong place - you won’t find what you seek here. Best of luck to you.
Here’s to the future: the perfection of our craft.