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Today is Friday, March 7th, 2014. We were married 986 days ago, on June 25th, 2011.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Watch the Craftsman's Tools

The guitarist and guitar teacher Robert Fripp is known for his precision and attentiveness, as well as for his aphorisms, some of which have a Yoda-like enigmatic quality.  "We move forward by coming from," for instance, or "Make better mistakes."  But here's one that has stuck with me for years.
How we hold our pick is how we organise our life.
Watch a good worker attend to her tools.  The cue is assembled and cleaned with attention, protected both during and after use.  The drafting triangles are kept in a Tupperware box during the subway ride, not dumped into a backpack with books and lunch and the iPad.  The knife blades are sharp, and stored with the edge away from the seam of the sheath.

Part of this would be considered common sense.  If we want our tools to work well, we treat them well.  We cannot count on a true edge if we do not keep the edge true.  But another meaning of this, the meaning that Fripp refers to, is that a craft does not begin and end with its nominal performance.  A craft includes its practice, preparation, maintenance, and clean-up.  If we can treat all of those aspects with the same care and focus as the performance itself, the quality of our work improves, and we become better people because of it.

This is one of these lessons I try to teach myself over and over.  (Everything important I've ever learned, I've learned a thousand times.)  And I watch others, to see if I can discern new ways of acting with respect toward the totality of my work.

Sometimes, though, you get negative examples that are equally beneficial.  I mentioned yesterday that the two movers we'd hired for Thursday had been truly awful.  A glass table top broken, two mattresses scuffed and soiled, a chaise lounge cracked, always waiting to be told what to do, and a LOT of impromptu breaks from work while we and our friends continued full speed.  The fact is, if I'd been paying attention, I'd have known from 9:00 a.m. how bad it was going to be.  Their pickup had a crushed rear quarter panel, a broken taillight lens, and the front bumper was half-detached and about ten degrees off level.

This truck is their work tool.  This is what they rely upon to make their living.  And they've run it into trees and garage edges and other vehicles (and on Thursday, drove it over the side of the chaise lounge).  Their horrific performance could have been predicted by their horrific preparation and maintenance. 

So learn from our mistakes.  When you hire someone to do work that needs to be done well, when careful effort is required, have a look at their tools, and be willing to say "no, thanks" when you see a poorly maintained kit.

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