The Joy of Craftsmanship

I identify a great deal with the label of “Craftsman”, but some of the rhetoric around the current “Software Craftsmanship” movement bothers me. Why?

A little lightbulb went on recently as I read “Let my People Go Surfing”, by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Patagonia was founded by a group of friends who were social misfits: “dirtbag” climbers and surfers who only worked in order to save cash for their adventures. When they came to work, they wanted to enjoy it:

I wanted to have a company where people came to work on the balls of their feet, taking the stairs two at a time.

Yvon describes in the book how they’ve worked hard to keep this culture alive at Patagonia. Increasingly over, the years, I’ve prioritised enjoying my work over how much I can earn from it, and I believe that this search for joy is a fundamental part of my model of craftsmanship. When I haven’t enjoyed a job, either I’ve worked with people to change things so that I do, or I’ve left. I think it’s impossible to truly craft something when you’re working in an unpleasant environment with people you whose company you don’t enjoy. On the other hand, when I’ve had the privilege to work with great people using great tools, I feel like nothing can stop me.

So for me, craftsmanship is about finding joy in your work. Here’s Brian Marick on Joy:

Now, I could say that a joyful employee is a productive employee, and that lack of joy on a project is like a canary keeling over in a coal mine: a sign that something big is wrong and you better pay attention. Maybe that’s true. I’d certainly like to believe it. But, fundamentally, I don’t care. I think joy is its own excuse. We deserve it. More to the point, those people around us deserve it.