So, “Deep Work” by Cal Newport is the most influential book for me this month. I was hiking along the beach, and the chapter I was listening to, was about a person who had a career in a tech industry, burned out, eventually honed the skill to be an artisanal blacksmith. He had delved into historical techniques for purifying & forming metal.
There was a vivid description of his forging a sword blade from a small ingot of metal and rendered, and it captured the intensity of working with metal, and having the risk that if you hammer just a bit too hard and your work is cast asunder.
That resonated with something I read once about craft: “Craft, is the predictable manipulation of material to create an object, and the deeper aspect, is when, regardless of your experience level, you’re on the edge of feeling that it is all about to blow apart. (I’m putting my own words to concepts I read in David Pye’s “The Nature and Art of Workmanship,” a book that clarified the essence of what it means to craft.
Newport draws a clear distinction between two types of work: deep work and shallow work.
Deep work is defined as:
Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate (page 3).
Shallow work is:
Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate (page 6).