Newport uses his own experiences to illustrate the difference between the passion and craftsman mindsets. He started playing guitar at age 12. He formed his own band, practiced and by age 18 had a repertoire of more than 100 songs.
By contrast, musician Jordan Tice also started playing at 12 and practiced. But by age 18, he had signed his own record deal and was touring with a professional bluegrass band. Newport estimates that both put in a similar amount of practice hours, but it was the deliberate practice that Tice used that helped him excel. Tice constantly stretched himself beyond his capabilities and demanded instant feedback.
In essence, Newport suggests, "to successfully adopt the craftsman mindset, we have to approach our jobs in the same way that Jordan approaches his guitar playing ... with a dedication to deliberate practice."
Newport also lays out the strategy of another friend, Mike Jackson, and his "work-hour allocation" spreadsheet. Jackson decided to become more intentional about the way he accomplished work. For example, he used to get up, go to his email and process it until he was finished or simply lost steam or had to move on. Now Jackson uses a spreadsheet to spend his time more strategically, defining the number of hours he will use each week on specific activities. Limiting the time we spend on relatively unimportant functions opens up an array of opportunities to become the best in our field.
APPLYING THE STRATEGY
It seems that deliberate, intentional practice is the key to becoming a craftsman - and, in turn, a successful practitioner. According to Newport, there are four steps to applying this strategy in your own life:
Identify your entry point. Look for what he calls "open gates" - areas where it is easy to gain capital in the market. For example, students who graduate with a degree in financial planning may find it easier to get an entry-level job at a financial planning firm than someone who graduated with a liberal arts degree or even an MBA.
Define "good." Determine what it means to be "good" in this field and set up benchmarks to ensure that you are on a path that will move you toward this goal.
Stretch. Jordan Tice challenged and stretched himself constantly, growing his capabilities to become better and better each day. While "doing things we know how to do is enjoyable ... deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration," Newport writes. "That is what makes 'deliberate' as distinct from the mindless playing of scales or hitting of tennis balls that most people engage in."
Be patient. As Steve Martin outlined in his strategy for learning the banjo, "If I stay with it, then one day I will have been playing for 40 years, and anyone who sticks with something for 40 years will be pretty good at it."
What's my epiphany? I'm passionate about my work not because I chose it but because in the process of developing my craftsmanship I've developed a passion for my profession. I believe this is an important concept that we need to carefully consider before we cavalierly tell students or clients to chase their passion.
Deena Katz, CFP, a Financial Planning columnist, is an associate professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University. She is also chairwoman of Evensky & Katz, an advisory firm in Coral Gables, Fla.