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I’ve been intrigued by this quote from St. Francis of Assisi for some time:

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.

 He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.

 He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

Maybe I’ve taken it too literally, but as a knowledge worker (who doesn’t work with my hands) I’ve struggled to figure out how that applies to me.

Should the words “works with his mind” replace “works with his hands” in which case I would be a laborer? Do I automatically graduate to craftsman because I work with my head or is something else involved?

I thought about the quote a lot last week, when I was very fortunate to attend the Thriveal Deeper Week(end). (Seriously, I felt like I won the lottery when I found out I would be part of this learning gathering.)

Tuesday night, Jason Blumer unveiled the new logo for Thriveal, along with the new slogan – “Love Your Craft”.  I immediately thought – “Wow, that is the perfect representation of how I want my work to be portrayed and challenge my clients to treat their work.”

Craft is such a beautifully complex word. It can mean skill or ability or to make with skill. I think of the high level of care and pride that is offered, the skill involved in the process, and finally the uniqueness and handmade quality of the end product or service.

Later, Jason talked about the importance of making time for creativity and we were given amazing, hand-made leather wrapped journals. These would become our Big Ideas Journals. Big Ideas are things that we either can’t solve, don’t know how to solve and or don’t necessarily have a solution. Think of it as a hypothesis, with the rest of the journal acting as our “scientific method” where we test, observe and record. We were challenged to do this for a year. (I can’t wait to see what Big Ideas we share at Deeper Weekend 2013.)

Wednesday we had a Design Thinking workshop with real, live customers acting as guinea pigs. Full disclosure – I was nervous going into this one. Not only had I never been exposed to the concept before, but we would have to use it to develop a new product, service or process for a customer we also just met that day. I’m one that likes to plan and think things through carefully before attempting them myself.

It turned out to be an awesome day. The great thing about the Design Thinking process is that it is structured enough to provide some guidance, but loose enough to give you the freedom to pursue some areas more deeply than others. After a few minutes, it seemed natural, even though we were discussing some difficult business issues. It was so fun to really focus our attention on one business owner and listen to what he had to say. Even though we had just met this person, I could tell everyone around the table truly cared about helping his company succeed. I think he realized this too and was very candid with his answers.

 


Deeper Weekend was a terrific experience. I learned a lot about myself from being pushed and supported by my fellow Thriveal members. I haven’t figured out my Big Ideas yet, but I’m up for the challenge.

As for St. Francis, maybe this would be the 2012 version of his quote:

“He who works with his mind is a knowledge worker.

 He who works with his mind and takes time to create is a craftsman.

 He who works with his mind, makes time to create, and opens his heart is an artist.”

Now, my challenge to you, the readers: Treat whatever you do as a craftsman would – with care and pride. Create something unique. Then share it with us and become an artist.

 

Kevin McCoy is a member of the THRIVEal CPA Network and lives in St. Charles, the first state capitol of Missouri with his wife Stefanie, son (Adam), daughter (Stella) and chocolate lab (Scout). He watches way too many TED talks and much to the chagrin of Stefanie, reads mostly non-fiction. His favorite candy bar is the Whatchamacallit.

Category:
conferences, Design Thinking
Comments:
6
  • On 10-29-2012 at 7:26 am, Michael Wall said:

    I think that the updated version of Sr. Francis’s quote is what’s going to propel us into the future.

    Each CPA has the capacity to be ‘an artist’ and serve his customers well with innovative solutions.

    If we start using the gifts of thought and creativity in what we do, it will change not only our profession, but impact the lives of those that we serve.

    Great article Kevin, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply
  • On 10-29-2012 at 2:17 pm, Adrian G. Simmons said:

    Accounting is art. Enjoyed this article – thanks Kevin!

    Reply
  • On 10-29-2012 at 5:00 pm, Brenda Richter, CPA said:

    Earlier this year after seeing a video about Raleigh Denim, I had similar thoughts about the work we do as CPAs, and that we have the opportunity to be artisans/craftsmen with our customers. When we provide financial statements, tax returns, etc,, do we just hand over the paperwork in a traditional format? Or do we take time to present the information to our customers in a way that is easier for them to understand and also to understand the impact that their management has on the numbers?

    Reply
  • On 10-30-2012 at 10:35 pm, Sue Torgerson, CCH said:

    Great article and insights! As a creative mind who was challenged by others for choosing the accounting profession early on, I can’t agree more that all CPAs have the spirit in them to believe they are part of a craft and an artist, helping others achieve their most important goals and dreams. The lessons learned while in public accounting from day 2 :-) have left a long indelible stamp on my brain! I’m looking forward to the next chapter of this craft where I believe CPAs will be stepping out of their comfort zone much more to see that their clients, and themselves, achieve their goals. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with so many talented professionals, each one reinforcing that belief, yet not able to really articulate it. Now, to go back and dig up that picture of a tax return I mocked up in a frame with lighting, ropes and crowds to rival the Mona Lisa to make the point how that document is the physical manifestation of that art! Good luck!

    Reply
  • On 11-02-2012 at 3:46 pm, Kevin McCoy said:

    @Michael & Adrian – thanks for your comments guys – glad you found it valuable!

    @Brenda – I saw the Raleigh Denim video too and it really stuck with me. That definitely influenced this post! I love your ideas for taking the “products” we sell and making something more useful out of them.

    @Sue – Thanks for the great comment. I think we are in a great position with our clients, we just need to take the initiative and show them what we can do.

    Reply

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