Working out where we are, and where we might go.
Eighteen months ago, New Artisans was a very shaky first draft of a hypothesis. An observation that, in times of epochal, civilisational change from one era to another, those who played an important part in enabling that change had the characteristics of artisans—people whose drive and curiosity defined their work far more than any search for wealth or power. Work not as a means to an end, but an end in itself.
Since then, We’ve had many conversations, read many books, and accumulated deep insights.
In our monthly Zoom call last week, the feedback was that it is a good time to determine where we are with regard to the idea and where we might go next.
Here’s my take on that.
Many years ago, in my teens, when I imagined my future as a hotshot pilot, I took an "O” level in marine navigation to strengthen my interview armoury. It was in the days when navigation still had a craft element - compasses, gimbals, sextants and all the other yo-ho-ho kit.
And as with anything where we have to learn the basics before turning to automation, it has real benefits. You learn that every magnetic compass has its own unique characteristics depending on the vessel in which it’s housed. It’s called compass deviation, and you have to work it out to correct the compass reading to give you Magnetic North (which, of course, is not true north). To find True North, you must make another adjustment (variation) depending on where you are in the world. Then, to get to where you want, you have the joy of tide tables, wind, and other variables. Now, we can delegate all that to algorithms, but there is a certain satisfaction in being able to do it in a craft fashion and the awareness of the process that brings.
It is a good metaphor for where we are with New Artisans, which we can take as our vessel and its inevitable idiosyncrasies. Conversations are our compass, which are themselves subject to variation.
So, I have three questions in mind as we check our course:
Given what we’ve learned since we started, what is New Artisans for now?
Where are our conversations pointing us, what is our “Magnetic North”, and
How far is that from our “True North”
What is “New Artisans” for?
In the first post, in January 22, I wrote:
What we would like to do over the next few months is to work together to understand what we mean by craft in our own career and business contexts. What light might it shine on the lessons we can learn, and how we might incorporate that learning into our respective practices? How might we become the new artisans that trigger the change we seek?
I think that intention remains valid.
We are people defining and owning our individual agendas in a changing world, working with others doing the same. Although we are at different stages in our lives and careers and have different ambitions, we share ethics and values in how we go about it and are keen to learn from and support each other.
New Artisans is not a platform or a proposition. It is a community. Some of us may work together as opportunity or necessity requires, but that is not its purpose. We are here because we value each other’s company and the resulting conversations.
What is our “Magnetic North”?
David Whyte writes about the difference between a work day and a work-life thus:
“The tasks we face on a given day are often around specific actions, or specific conversations we need to undertake. The tasks we face in pursuing a work life often have to do with intangibles, with what cannot yet be touched or spoken, and very often with the great intangibles of our unhappiness. In a good workday, you are more often than not trying to make other people happy; in a good work life, you are trying to make yourself happy”. David Whyte, “The Three Marriages” p123.
The world in which we live makes the work day a powerful force, a Magnetic North to which we are drawn by practical necessity. That is why, in my view, we need to provide a space to determine our individual variation - the correction we need to make to our work days to achieve a work life that we are happy to define us and leave our signature, however small, written distinctly.
And our True North…?
Is I find, an ongoing story that is, I believe, different for each of us. The self-help shelves are full of different varieties of finding our purpose, our “true north”, and the wonders that it will release, and I’m sure for some people, that works.
Not for me, though, and I’m grateful because I enjoy the journey more than the arrival. For me, the correction from Magnetic North to True North is a continuing lifelong series of increments. each of which is precious, even when difficult. The magnetism of money, status, and recognition is powerful but, in the end, illusory. Encountering what we are meant to do, our craft, vocation or calling, or even being within touching distance of it, is a different and far more compelling experience altogether.
So where now?
"I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep trudging forward, thinking there is no end point to the journey"
Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE, arguably the world's greatest living explorer.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, we will likely break the 1.5-degree Celsius warming threshold by 2027. The Artificial Intelligence Genie is well and truly out of the bottle and in the hands of those who want to use it to make money. The obsession we have with everlasting growth shows little sign of abating. There is a distinct bifurcation of where work is done, office or home, and an increasing lack of trust in organisations of all varieties.
The chances, then, of “business as usual” look pretty thin.
Which is why I believe we need New Artisans. We cannot continue to submerge individual creativity beneath layers of stultifying process and dogma, and nor do I believe that there will be some coherent mass movement that will suddenly emerge.
The first lesson on resilience is to understand that nobody will come and save us, so it’s down to each of us to define and own our individual agendas in a changing world, working with others doing the same.
So, I’ll continue to post, share ideas, host conversations, connect interesting people to each other, and take things as they come.
I’ll also do a monthly newsletter to share more information, host more focused conversations, and trust that along the way, whatever needs to show up for people to help them create a more distinct signature, will join in the game.
For sake of clarity, my purpose in offering paid subscriptions is having an income from subscribers is to pay for the books I buy as I create the posts. It’s a bit clunky because, as yet, there is no “donation” feature here on substack, but I’m looking for a way to do it. When I’ve found it, I will. If you know of one, let me know, please :-)
As the old dissolves and the new is yet to become clear, we each have an opportunity to shape it.
These, of course, are only my thoughts. New Artisans is an open space for us to develop and own our own agendas, and the more ideas we can develop, the better. Please use chat to add your own ideas and suggest other topics or areas we might add.
I look forward to the next leg of the journey with you,
Have a great weekend.
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