The Craftsman Mindset

Abraham Lincoln is often attributed with the saying:

If I had four hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first two hours sharpening the axe.

Two things:

  1. It doesn’t take that long to chop down a tree.
  2. “Honest Abe” never said that.

It only took a single google search to find that the earliest use of this phrase was in 1965 and ascribed to an anonymous woodsman, not Lincoln.

A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.” Let us take a few minutes to sharpen our perspective.

That makes more sense.

At the risk of losing the thread, the point I’m trying to make is that craftsman see the world differently than the hustlers.

It’s about going deep, not shallow.

Gaining knowledge, not appearing smart.

Hard work, not shortcuts.

The list goes on.

A personal example might help illuminate the point I’m trying to make.

Search Google for “1,000 email subscribers” and you can find numerous ways to hit that number in 90 days, 30 days, or even a week! The hustler would find the quickest, easiest way and take a stab at it. Maybe they’d only get a few hundred, but it’s still better than nothing right?

Those strategies involve tactics like giving away a lead magnet – a free email course or an ebook – cheap advertising, guest posting, etc. etc.

If you’re like me, you not only know all this, but you’ve tried it at some point.

Also, you know that it doesn’t work.

How would a craftsman approach the goal of building an email list?

Basically opposite in every way.

The craftsman would start with an idea, something that would benefit people, something their audience would value.

They build it, taking time to meticulously ensure that it is valuable, that it will help or change their audience.

They would test it and validate it.

Then they’d share it with everyone they think would enjoy it.

They’d build the marketing into their product/art/thing so that it was easy for people who loved it to share it and tell others about it.

Their number of email subscribers/patrons/customers would grow steadily over time, allowing the craftsman to find ways to better serve their audience and provide even more value, accelerating the audience to the size that they feel comfortable at.

This is what I did in 2017.

I was doing research for a book project, and had compiled over 330 verses of scripture (it’s a religious study book.)

I realized I was sitting on something valuable, and wanted to share it.

I took a few weeks to build out a daily email that would be automated and delivered whether I remembered to hit send every day.

I told a few friends and family about what I had built, and sent them a link if they wanted to sign up.

I built sharing buttons into the first few weeks of emails, thinking that if people really liked it, they’d want to share it.

This is what the first few months looked like:

569 emails in 4 months. Each of those spikes was a friend with a platform sharing the email list with their audience.

It was a slow build, but it was growing steadily, month over month, reaching just the people that it was built for.

How do I know that?

Because the typical open rate of an email list is in the 10-20% range. That’s what happens when you hustle up a list of people where only 1 or 2 out of every 10 are interested in what you’re putting out into the world.

Here’s the open rate of the list I built over the last year:

70%+ on the high end, the lowest ones are around 44%.

This is just one example of the difference between the hustler and the craftsman mindset.

What I want to start thinking about now is how to apply it to what you’re building and creating. To your business.

It takes much longer.

It’s harder.

It means you have to stress test your ideas, your beliefs, your work, which at times can be painful.

But the results speak for themselves.

Lets go a little deeper on the next page.