In his latest post, Seth Godin damn near waxes poetic about “craftsmanship,” and how the new craftsman (“craftsperson,” he writes) can be anything from “a blacksmith or a carpenter, a visual artist or even a dedicated teacher.” It’s the last sentence in that line that I think says it best: “Someone to look up to.”
Leonardo Da Vinci was a craftsman (or a “maker,” as I define it here). He did astounding things for his patrons, and used his passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity to reshape the world and invent new things. True, some of these never left his notebooks. But enough did to make him a legend, and even his cast-off ideas have had people exclaiming in surprise and amazement for centuries.
Thomas Edison (why does everyone always throw in the “Alva?” As if there are that many other Thomas Edisons in the history books), was a craftsman with thousands of world-changing inventions to his credit. He had such an impact on the world that his greatest invention, the incandescent light bulb, has become iconic as the universal symbol for “a good idea.”
Bill Gates was a craftsman who saw a way to use the resources at his disposal to build something big. Some may vilify him, but his creation of Microsoft helped build the home computer revolution and opened the door for one of the biggest innovations of all time: the Internet, right in your home.
David Ogilvy was a craftsman who defined Advertising as an industry, creating many of the tropes and concepts still used today. As a novice, Ogilvy was given a small new hotel account with an advertising budget of only $500. He took that budget, which had been beneath the notice of his colleagues, and used it to do something no one had thought of up to that point. He bought $500 worth of postcards and sent them to everyone in the local phonebook. When the hotel opened, every room was booked. Ogilvy had “tasted blood,” and had taken his first steps toward icon status in the industry.
One of the common traits for all makers/craftsmen is their ability to look at the world, consider their resources, and build what is needed. They spend their time and energy considering how things work, how ideas from one category can be applied to another, and how to leverage everything you have to build something bigger than the sum of its parts.
That’s what this “Year of the Maker” is all about — getting out there, looking at the world, and deciding what you can create to make it better. And the true craftsperson puts his or her time, energy, and care into making what they build the best it can possibly be. Use the resources you have, and build something. Be the best teacher. Be the best artist. Be the best writer. Be the best carpenter. Be the best soldier. All of it is a craft, and all of it requires personal strength and conviction, and a willingness to look at the world and constantly ask questions of it.
Get out there. Build something. Make the world great.