Being a professional is learning to not make a mess

Chocolatiers and painters are two professions where messes are easily visible. The skill in both professions can be judged by how clean they are.

It’s an interesting way to reflect on skill. Working clean and organized is the most efficient, as it maximizes the value provided work, the painting or the chocolate making, while minimizing the non-value work, cleaning up.

Thinking about this, it’s true in most fields, though the messes are a lot less visible. As a writer, over the years, I’ve developed a process for piecing things together, and it’s grown cleaner and more efficient over time. Though, I have drafts of things that need to be pieced together from days when I wasn’t as efficient.

This concept could be expanded to any creative endeavor. How efficiently ideation to implementation happens, is the level of skill. At the lowest level, it’s so inefficient, it can’t even be done. You can’t pull off the project no matter how hard you try. At the highest level, it requires no lengthy planning phase, it’s primarily implementation. This is the chef that looks in the fridge sees what he has and immediately knows what he’ll make. He’s skilled.

When judging yourself as a professional, think not of the final product, many people given enough time and resources can make a great final product, instead judge yourself on your efficiency. That’s where the pros make their money.