Craftmanship with Dignity for Great Work

99u, byline Insights for Making Things Happen, is a very worthwhile site for actionable improvements and today it had an insightful article on The Craftman’s Guide for Working with Dignity.The 99u article makes a good case for why craftsmanship and dignity are so important in work and life. It encourages people to think about what they can do to increase their dignity. It also makes the point that this applies to modern knowledge work as much as traditional occupations.

Three attributes were identified and their relevance to dignity explained:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Craftmanship
  3. Humility

What struck me was that these attributes are also essential for innovation and creativity. Restating it in a slightly different way:

  • Having fun
  • Caring and showing care
  • Learning and applying improvements

are all important in doing great work. It seems to me that caring and attention are becoming increasingly precious in a world which seems to be tempted towards being unconsciously automated and distracted.

Networking for Results

This past Thursday I attended the Ottawa chapter of the Certified Management Consultants meeting which had the theme of networking. The meeting was in a real nice facility where Bitheads does business. It has a comfortable area for mixing and mingling and a theatre for the guest speaker Michael Hughes to present:

“Turning 3 minute Conversations into long term relationships and lasting results”

I was impressed by Michael’s content and presentation. As a toastmaster I couldn’t help but evaluate Michael’s speaking style and passion. I thought he did a wonderful job as a speaker and reinforced his points by getting the audience engaged in some short exercises. With his wealth of experience he had lots to share and he did it most effectively by breaking the information into manageable chunks.

I particularly liked Michael’s networking model that has 6 phases. He explained not only what needs to happen in each phase – he also identified the most common myths and hangups people have with each phase and what can be done to overcome them. Michael provides a free document summarizing his networking model on his web site –

Mixed in with all the practical advice and wisdom was the really effective use of stories to reinforce his points. I especially liked his story of sitting down with the chairman of the board (his wife) to do a startup company review. I think all the small business entrepreneurs in the audience could relate to the struggles and desire to do better faster.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Michael to anyone who is interested in improving their networking skills. I really believe in Michael’s key point:

Put relationships first with a sincere desire to help and business will follow.

The Compound Effect of the Growth Mindset

I have written before about the importance of attitude.

The contrast between the growth mindset and fixed deterministic mindset is just another example of the importance of attitude and mental models for perceiving how the world works and can work. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset is a valuable reference to understand the importance of mindset to living the best quality life.

The Growth Mindset presentation provides:

  • a framework on how the growth mindset relates to how our brain operates
  • problems associated with our lizard brain fears
  • how a growth mindset can help us deal with our fears and problems
  • the benefits of adopting a growth mindset
  • an action plan for achieving results with a growth mindset

Lizard Brain

It could be useful to refer back to another article I wrote on focused goals for several references on dealing with the lizard brain. This is an ongoing battle that is not to be underestimated. The lizard brain can not be shouted down, argued with, or ignored. Some say this just gives it more power. The recommended approach is to calmly listen to the lizard brain and unemotionally acknowledge that this is a point of view (usually based mostly on fear) that may not be accurate, whose risks could potentially be minimized by planning and action, and that alternatives are possible which may be better than avoiding the fear. This is similar to some techniques that are advocated in learned optimism (disputing limiting beliefs and energizing yourself to take action). This is also summed up in the excellent book Feel the Fear … and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.

Growth Mindset Chain of Events

Nigel Holmes has done an excellent graphic contrasting the fixed mindset with the growth mindset and how a series of decisions with a different mindset can lead to a cascading chain of events that leads to divergent life paths. One way, the fixed mindset, leads to a limited life based on fear. The other, growth mindset, offers the potential for ongoing growth.

The chart, A Matter of Mindset, contrasts the vicious cycle and virtuous cycle that can occur with different mindsets in a business context. Just like in systems theory the feedback loop caused by the mindset difference can cause a self reinforcing downward or upward spiral that ends up with vastly different results.

Want to have a lucky life? Here is the formula from The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy publisher of Success magazine:

Preparation (personal growth) + Attitude (belief/mindset) +

Opportunity (good things coming your way) + Action (doing something about it)

= Making your Luck

The Compound Effect makes a compelling argument that achieving success is more about the life trajectory you set yourself on by many small decisions you make each day. The compounding effect of these decisions tends to be underestimated because the results escalate over time rather than being instantly observable. Decisions influenced by a growth mindset attitude will eventually lead to results that are vastly different than those achieved by playing it safe and being limited by the fears of the lizard brain.

Growth Mindset Action Plan

If you are convinced of the benefits of the growth mindset as summarized in the attached presentation and chain of events how do you get started? Here are some suggested action steps:

  • Take the mindset test online to see what your current mindset tendencies are
  • adopt the growth mindset by practicing techniques to migrate towards this way of thinking
  • seek stage time (opportunities to practice your craft) by embracing uncertainty, seeking new experiences, and broadening your repertoire.
  • Read Carol Dweck’s Mindset book and use the resources on her web site to strengthen your implementation of the principles.

Thinking and Reading Critically

Roland Paris, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, has a nice summary on how to read critically based on a 5 step CLEAR approach.

He provides a concise explanation why critical reading is important:

Critical reading supports critical thinking which helps reduce how much your opinions are influenced by bogus information.

Critical reading and thinking are not the same as negative thinking. Critical thinking is doing some analysis to determine if there is sufficient and valid evidence for claims being made. Negative thinking is assuming the worst possible outcomes without analysis of other possibilities.

Howard Rheingold and other noted educators are creating a world-class resource for teaching critical thinking and Internet literacies. sheds some light on the truthfulness of common Internet rumours.