The Secret Behind the World’s Great Masterpieces
Learn the recipe the masters use to turn an inspiration, into an extraordinary result. A how-to guide for personal development.
According to the Greek philosopher Plato, a craft is defined by its goal, or knowing what the intended result is to be, as explained in a written account by the craftsperson.
The account was then used as a work plan to guide skillful practice, and achieve the desired outcome of the project. This exercise was considered central in developing one’s clarity of thought to make a masterpiece.
What separated the skilled artisan from the craftsman in the ancient Greek view of craftsmanship, was the craftsman’s ability to articulate the goal of the work to be done vs. just the mechanical ability to perform a particular task. The Greek word for this is technê; the root of our word ‘technique’.
Technê is distinguished not only by the craftsman’s ability to give an account of the ‘desired outcome’ of the result envisioned, but also the effect of those actions upon the ‘object’ of the work. The object could be the general population, a particular individual, an inanimate object, etc.
In the present context consider yourself as the ‘object’ of focus, and the recipient of your work actions upon yourself. Your personal welfare is the end result you must envision, before you apply processes, tools, and techniques to effect a change in your life.
That is, you must first understand ‘what’ is to be done; what are the outcomes you desire as results from the work, before you plunge headfirst into doing it. This is the application of technê to yourself resulting in an improved condition in your well-being
What Are My Desired Outcomes?
If you ask this question of most people regarding anything they would like to improve in their lives, they will likely answer you with a description of an end-state they consider to be a positive change from their current, or present state. For example:
1. To be financially wealthier (than I am right now)
2. To be physically stronger, bigger, or slenderer (than right now)
3. To feel happier (less stressed) or mentally (emotionally) better (than now)
It does not take much for most people to come up with an alternative ‘end-state’ they would like to inhabit. However, understanding the goal or the ‘why’ (the reason) for this desired change, and being able to clearly articulate it as in the Greek (and others) view of craftsmanship, marks the difference between those the Greek’s recognized as master ‘craftsmen’ and ‘craftswomen’, vs. those who could perform tasks mechanically, but not clearly understand or describe the desired outcome to be achieved.
Clarity is the mental state that focuses one’s mental energy to achieve the desired outcome. Lack of clarity often results in exhausting one’s energy prematurely through over-performance of mechanical acts.
Clarity of thinking is the characteristic the master’s developed in order to sustain the prolonged time and effort required to create a masterpiece. Masterpieces usually take years, perhaps decades to complete. How many people in today’s world do you think have the patience for that?
The Master’s Secret: Developing Clarity of Thought | A Recipe
Recall a Moment of Achievement — We have all had moments of achievement. A time when a sensation of power, strength, and positive energy flowed through us. Craftspeople in many trades, have been trained to use a ‘mind-tool’ known as imagineering, to reenter a state of clarity.
The goal is to reset their mental and emotional state, to a place of strength they recognize from a previous experience. We call this ‘getting in the zone’. There are many techniques to do this. If you have ever been in the ‘zone’, you know what I am speaking about. Changing your state is a learned skill acquired by study, observation, and practice until it becomes second nature.
Envision the End State — Trained craftspeople in any profession, vocation, or occupation learn techniques of how to hold an image in focus in their mind long enough to create a replica of what they see. Whether as a drawing, a paragraph on paper, a voice recording, etc., it is a model or map of the desired end result.
Energy produced by this exercise is easily recognized by the sensations of mental clarity, a change in breathing rhythm and heart rate, and a sense of happiness or well-being.
Use a Recipe — Some people are intuitive cooks. They grab whatever they find in the refrigerator, mix and match the ingredients at the stove and voila! Some people are good at intuitive cooking. But not in every situation. A recipe or account of the end state to be achieved is your hedge ensuring you will have predictable results most of the time. This is what the masters do. They don’t just make it up as they go. Anyone can do that.
The expectation of a positive outcome builds clarity of thought, and confidence in the accuracy of your predictions. Recipes have a beginning, middle, and an end. They have defined borders. They have defined parts. They can be assembled and disassembled, to understand their connections. Recipes help you understand the world, and manage it. Recipes help you create masterpieces.
Clear Your Workbench — In ancient workshops, and to this day, if your workbench was cluttered and in disarray, you would hear about it from the workshop master. Have only one work project on your workbench at a time and focus on that work alone. Focus results in clarity of mind. Clarity of mind creates positive energy to drive you forward. If you are working on two projects simultaneously have two workbenches.
This is a fundamental management principle in The Way of Craftsmanship and is alive and well in many trades, occupations and professions across the world. A cluttered and untidy workplace leads to low productivity, worker dissatisfaction and re-occurring accidents. Businesses have learned this and follow specific systems to reinforce workplace orderliness.
However in their personal lives, people quickly abandon the idea of a well organized workbench. Perhaps because the work environment structurally supports this behavior. Having a well organized workbench in your personal life will have a big impact on you developing and maintaining your clarity of thought.
Know Your Skills — By this stage in the process you will have identified a desired outcome, and will have developed an account of the desired end-state you envision. Now you must acknowledge whether you currently possess the skills required to complete the work you have set yourself to accomplish.
This is not a simple ‘gut check’. It is an unbiased checkbox assessment differentiating the skilled craftsperson, from those who believe they can achieve anything simply by adopting a positive mental attitude.
Most people fail with this latter approach abandoning project after project. However those who achieve their desired outcome through the application of learned skills vs. wishful thinking, are rewarded with a positive mental attitude as the direct result of clarity of thought, and skillful execution of their work.
Manage Your Tools — If you have ever tried to do something with your bare hands and wished you had not, you will understand the importance of this guideline. Tools can be tangible objects like a hammer or an app on your mobile device, or an intangible mind-tool such as a repetitive mental exercise to sharpen your clarity of thinking.
As you ready yourself to work on any project, be sure you know which tools to use, and that you have trained (i.e.) practiced using them on your workbench before you apply them to yourself.
Remember your welfare is the end result you must envision before you apply processes, tools, and techniques to effect a change upon your life.
Pace Yourself — Pacing does not mean going slow. It means deliberately controlling your speed and energy output. When you release your energy in a measured manner, you are more likely to complete the desired outcome, and be filled with positive energy from the experience. This is the skill that allows masters to endure the time and effort is takes to make a masterpiece.
If you get trapped into thinking ‘fast’ means ‘good’, you greatly increase the chance of sloppy work, disappointment, and abandoning your project prematurely, and never having achieved the desired outcome.
You Are The Craftsperson of Your Life
Your life is in your hands for the crafting. Will you become the skilled craftsperson shaping your life with clarity through the application of learned skills, improved over time, and make a masterpiece of your life?
Or will you leave your life to ‘foggy’ chance encounters with fate and the forces of life to randomly bend and shape it? Or simply follow your ‘intuition’, piecing things together, and hoping they stick?