Honing Your Craft


Everyone is looking for a short cut, but there is no way around doing the work. We can fine tune our strategy which will save time , but no matter which road we take, we must put the time into honing our craft. I interviewed a successful bakery owner in San Francisco on my podcast. He said that until he made a few thousand croissants he realized he only just had understood the mechanics of the pastry. A few thousand before he felt like he even glimpsed how it works. I had another guest on my show tell me that Jerry Seinfeld was influential on him from a young age because he heard that he wrote stand up three hours everyday. It shows in his act that he has mastered the art of writing a joke. The Beatles played in a together at a club for a eight years before they ever formed their band. Their collaboration was phenomenal and clearly something they had practiced. I once heard a athlete say that people only see the final race, but they don’t see all the years of practice.

It’s so important not to compare ourselves to others because typically we’re comparing the successful persons highlight reel to our behind the scenes moments. If we want to be successful we can’t afford to be good. We have to be outstanding and in order to get there we need to spend the time honing our craft. I took classes at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and they taught us that the brain literally changes in response to practice. Failure is not a permanent state. The  more we practice anything the better we will become and after 10,000 hours we will have mastery of that particular thing. Often people are so wired to want immediate results. Instead of sticking in something and focusing on the effort, they give up when things don’t come as quickly as they would like. We have to decide ahead of time to stay in it and trust that we will hit our target if we practice long enough.

One things that helps me to be in the habit of working on my craft is to remember that it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Creating and editing are two different processes. When I was first starting out as a songwriter is was excruciating for me to sit down and write because I was always editing myself while I was working on a song. It is un fair to yourself to worry about being perfect or trying to create a finished product from the first  moment you begin something. Give yourself the freedom to play and just go through the exercise. Taking the pressure off will allow you to be in a creative space, free from the flood of self defeating criticism. You would be surprised what great things may come out of you when yo approach the creative process in that way. Make the time every day to be creative and leave the ediitng to a different day. Whether you’re trying out new recipes or writing a song, if you give yourself room to try things without the need to be perfect, you’ll remember why you enjoy doing this craft and you’ll be much more inclined to practice as much as you need to than putting it off.

One fun way to get in the habit of being creative is to open a blank Google doc and for 15 mins a day brainstorm ideas of things you can create, people to research, things you may want to try. The simple practice of brainstorming without editing will affect other parts of your life in a good way. We need to learn to not always judge ourselves. When we were kids and we fell in love with being creative it is because we loved that freedom of playing and seeing what happened, without our mind directing us constantly.

People often complain about doing the work they want to do. I think the reason why is because we are so critical. We have a hard time with process. We want quick results because its hard to allow ourselves the time it takes to arrive. It’s time to play and remember why we love this craft. People tend to attach their happiness to an outcome rather then the journey itself. Often when this is the case then there is a great let down the day after the achievement or goal is realized. The day after the actor wins the Oscar or the astronaut lands on the moon, they may be depressed. The fulfillment comes from being present and content in the moment. Our happiness and fulfillment doesn’t come from awards or big moments. It’s the equanimity of a life worth living . An ability to enjoy our days moment by moment, that is what a happy, fulfilled life is made of.  In the end the gift of making a living doing this is to be able to do this full time. So we need to fall in love all over again with the doing of our craft. The more we love the process, the more we’ll show up to work on our craft and we will master it.