On Beauty (2 of 3)

A few weeks back, I wrote my first of three blogs on beauty. Not beauty in the traditional sense of the word, but in how we live our lives. In that article, I suggested that if we devote, respect and cherish the problems we encounter, we will end up with a beautiful solution.

But how do we effectively devote, respect and cherish a problem? How do we ensure we are doing our best work, one that will yield a beautiful solution? After all, problems are messy, they are normally obstacles, detractions, in some cases, complete “show stoppers”. How do we remain engaged by them?

Simple. We must define ourselves as artisans or craftsmen (sorry, craftspeople sounds just so dumb) and not merely problem solvers. Because the minute we bring “problem solving” into the definition, it is all about optimisation, effectiveness and efficiency.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggests that to become an artisan:

  • you do things for existential reasons, 
  • you have some type of “art” in your work/activity
  • you have “soul” in your work – in other words, you would not “sell” something with questionable quality as this is not who you are, and
  • you adhere to certain mores you would never breach even if it increased profitability

Look around you. Is your barista an artisan? How about your driver (train, bus, taxi, limousine)? Your fellow team members? The person teaching you something? The person leading you? The person learning from you? Are they artisans in how they approach the problem at hand? Would you “goodfind” them?

I have been in Japan for the last two months and I have noticed that many people follow this philosophy. From the person that clears the snow to the cashiers at the local 7-11, to the conductor that oversees the boarding of the Shinkansen, to my good friend Masa who insists in cleaning window sills with so much method and care, they are absolutely spotless.

There is no optimisation, effectiveness or efficiency here. Just beautiful solutions. And if we take time to be patient, observe, learn and adopt some of these practices, we could get closer to being artisans and create some beauty all around us.

  • Clean window sills at Ikigai Lodge, Myoko-shi.

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