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I have a question for you:  When you network, socialize, converse, connect – whatever you prefer to call it – is your style more that of an artist? Or a craftsperson?

This question came to me after reading the book Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayle and Ted Orland. The book came highly recommended by a very well-read friend who knows me – and my work – very well.  (Don’t you love those friends? The ones who offer up highly-curated book recommendations that turn out to be spot on?) 

Although Art & Fear is a short book, it’s packed with thought-provoking ideas on:

  • what we create
  • why we create
  • how we create
  • what creating really is
  • what value we get from being creative
  • what gets in the way of our creativity
  • and lots more

Doesn’t matter what your “art” is.  It can be painting, writing, acting, playing a musical instrument, singing, speaking, teaching, being a comic, coaching, designing widgets, designing clothing, building malls, fixing cars, planning events, raising puppies, or raising kids – the wisdom in this book is universal and profound.

So back to the question:  When you are meeting, talking to, building rapport or getting back in touch with other people, are you more artist? Or craftsperson?

Let me try to spell out the differences. (Note: These are my thoughts – not those of the authors of Art & Fear. And, there’s no wrong answer.)

Artist:  You’re not necessarily polished and perfect, but you are brave, unique, creative, explorative, innovative, spontaneous, and memorable.  You know how to start and continue conversations, but have no idea where they will lead (and you love it that way – it’s fun).  No two exchanges are ever the same.  You may not follow convention, but know certain techniques  that work beautifully. You have lot of creative tools in your socializing toolbox. You are interested in exploring ideas and possibilities.  The process is as important as the end result. You follow your intuition and move from one moment to the next, trusting it’s all going to produce something.  Maybe not today, but possibly tomorrow. Or down the road. You are like a modern expressionist painter who throws color on the canvas and is filled with delight as the colors meld and the design unfolds. Or a jazz musician who knows and plays your instrument well, but is less concerned with rehearsal and more inclined to riff and improvise in front of a live audience.

Craftsperson:  You are practiced, precise, and near-perfect in your socializing technique as well as direct and purposeful. You are fond of pre-designed, pre-rehearsed elevator pitches and questions that can be used repeatedly and consistently.  You have carefully curated, honed, field-tested, and polished these techniques. For you, conversations should have purpose and get to the point. You know what you want to say, who you want to talk to, and what about.  You use your time wisely, and the result is more important than the process. Think of the precision of a Stradivarius violin or a beautiful piece of architecture. (Well, maybe not the leaning Tower of Pisa).  These have to be exacting and perfect.  Ditto goes for brain surgeons.   No guesswork or riffing when the knife is in your hand, please!

Which feels more like you at this moment? And does it feel right for you and your situation? Perhaps you are a combination of the two? Or you use different approaches for different scenarios?  Maybe you’re a craftsperson by day over coffee; artist by night over cocktails.  Have you been in situations with people who had these traits?  Are there other traits to add to these categories?

Again, no right or wrong answers here.

An interesting passage from Art & Fear (pgs 98-99):

“Curiously, the progression of most artists’ work over time is a progression from art toward craft. In the same manner that imagination gives way to execution…an artist’s major discoveries usually come early on, and a lifetime is then allotted to fill out and refine these discoveries. As the Zen proverb suggests, for the beginner there are many paths, for the advanced, few.

At any point along that path, your job as an artist is to push craft to its limits – without being trapped by it. The trap is perfection…The difference between art and craft lies not in the tools you hold in your hands, but in the mental set that guides them.  For the artisan, craft is an end in itself. For the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art.”

Note the emphasis on avoiding perfection.  As the weeks unfold,  I plan to offer up some posts that discuss the trap of perfection and how it keeps us from connecting meaningfully (and purposefully) with others.  And stops us from doing a whole lot of other things.

Just returned from facilitating a workshop for the YMCA of Illinois in Chicago.  We talked a lot about the power of good questions and how they can help us be better leaders, solve problems, be more innovative and open, and move beyond the yada-yada of superficial small talk, both in our work and in our personal lives.  Have a few more engagements coming up this summer and fall, but am working on my fall and winter speaking/facilitating calendar.  How can I be of service to you and your organization? Send me an email at or call  512-970-8129 and let’s explore possibilities.