Which Craft Should I Hone?

Having written an article for Harvard Business Review called The Case For The 6-Hour Workday, I was invited to the Startup Grind APAC 2020 conference to talk on the topic of time-rich entrepreneurship.

While the startup media likes to sell us the #hustle narrative, nobody lay on their deathbed wishing they hustled harder, or worked longer, or made more money.

However, this doesn’t mean that we instead spend all of our time surfing, or watching Netflix. Far from it. As Aristotle said in the Nichomachean Ethics, we should strive to cultivate a life at the mean between excess and deficiency.

After my talk, I was asked about my writing process by a couple of young, budding entrepreneurs, and how long it took me to write my previous book, Employee to Entrepreneur. I said that I wrote the first 50,000 words in about two weeks, while on a writing trip in Thailand.

However, I could only write 50,000 words in two weeks because I had spent the previous seven years writing several hundred blog posts on the topic — amounting to several million words worth of content. I was able to write the book in a short amount of time because I had deep experience in the subject matter, I read widely and I wrote extensively.

I had honed my craft.

As Van Halen’s David Lee Roth said, the band was able to write Running With The Devil in something like 15 minutes….after they had honed their craft playing clubs for 15 years.

Van Halen: Honing their craft in 1975, three years before their first album was released

Which Craft Should I Hone?

As such, the question of ‘which craft should I hone’ is a huge one.

The answer to this question can help one to both create a successful business, without sacrificing personal relationships, health or one’s exploration and enjoyment of life’s many fruits.

It can help you to live a life at Aristotle’s mean.

So, how do we go about determining which craft we should hone?

Step 1: What Do You Value?

First, take stock of what you value deeply.

Family, community, mental health, physical health, the ocean, freedom, music, surfing and so on.

Step 2: What Are Your Goals?

Based on your values, what difference do you want to make in the world? What do you want to contribute? If you value mental health, perhaps your goal is to help as many middle-aged males as possible to fight depression?

Step 3: Which Crafts Can Help You Reach Your Goals?

To help middle-aged males successfully fight depression, you might:

  • Become a psychologist
  • Become a yoga or meditation instructor
  • Start a podcast where you interview mental health experts and share stories of recovery
  • Write a series of blog posts or even a book, providing actionable insights for people suffering from depression
  • Become a personal instructor and help people fight depression through keeping an active lifestyle
  • Become a naturopath or a chemist and prescribe supplements that can quell one’s anxiety
  • Raise funds for an organisation that works in this space
  • Create a support group and run activities where victims can share what they’re going through with fellow victims, and as such feel less alone and more positive by virtue of talking about things
  • Volunteer at your local mental health institute

The list goes on and on…

Step 4: Which Of These Crafts Are You Predisposed To?

Whether it’s community building, writing, speaking with people, maintaining fitness, or sales, the above-mentioned crafts embody one or more of these skill-sets.

You don’t need to be good at everything, but you need to be awesome at that one thing that is going to set you apart — like a hedgehog that only needs to curl up into a ball and have its spikes see off any predators.

Jim Collins’ Hedhehog Concept

Adapting Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept (above), you’ll want to ask yourself:

A. Which of the crafts are you naturally good at?

If the craft aligns with your strengths, then you’re more likely to get results sooner, which is a source of motivation and will have you feeling like you’re rolling a boulder downhill than uphill.

Depending on which stage of life you’re at, you might not know the answer to this question. If you’re in your early 20s, you’ll want to do as Steve Jobs urged, and collect as many dots as possible in order to know where your strengths lie. If you’re a little older, then you’ll hopefully have a better idea — providing you’ve tried lots of things and have lots of experiences.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to self-determine what our strengths are, so ask your friends, colleagues, customers, and associates what they think, and you’ll no doubt begin to see a pattern emerge in their responses.

B. Which of the crafts do you enjoy?

Sometimes we’re good at things that we don’t necessarily enjoy.

As such, it’s easy to throw in the towel. If you’re both good at something and enjoy it, it’s like striking the jackpot. By virtue of your enjoying it, you will jump out of bed with a spring in your step and invest bucket loads of positive energy into your work.

C. Which of the crafts will efficiently reach your goals?

I might be good at writing, but perhaps the road to getting a book deal, and coming up with a marketing plan to sell a large number of books — enough to make a serious difference — is a long one.

I might be awesome at sales and raising funds, but perhaps all of the mental health organisations in my area aren’t evaluated highly by the likes of GiveWell, and therefore my fundraising efforts might be for naught or for very little impact.

In this case, I might look to find an organisation that does rank highly on GiveWell’s list, or I might look to one of the other crafts that are aligned with both my strengths and what I enjoy.

What About Money?

As a general rule, if you’re doing work that legitimately creates a material amount of value in the world for others, then you should be able to find numerous ways to monetise it.

Final Thoughts

By taking this approach, you can better determine which craft is worth honing. By doing this, you better set yourself up for a meaningful life, and one where you won’t end up — like so many others — laying on your deathbed wishing you hadn’t worked so hard and neglected so many relationships.