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The Quintessence of Ordinary Mastery
Pride in one's work and utmost care for the customer experience
Inspiration seems to come from the most surprising of sources, you can’t go and seek inspiration, it finds you when you weren’t even looking.
I open YouTube late in the evening. I’m tired. I don’t even know why I’ve gone onto YouTube, I robotically click on the red tab with the white arrow and am confronted with the familiar screen, four columns of enticing rectangles all with well-thought-out thumbnails with catchy hooks and eye-catching images fishing for my attention. There are a few thumbnails of an intellectual nature and long-form interviews from my favourite podcasters - but there’s also a recommendation or two for American cops in car chases, right next to a video showing the top 10 most scary plane landings ever. I feel a little guilty as clearly I’m being recommended these videos because I clicked on something similar in a recent moment of zombified weakness. Nestled amongst the offerings I even notice the latest Mr Beast video. However, I can excuse myself for this one as my son and I watch Mr Beast together occasionally - father and son bonding over the absurd antics of YouTube’s most popular personality.
But this evening my mouse pointer is drawn to a curious-looking thumbnail showing a point-of-view (PoV) image of someone having their boots shined at a shoe-shine stand. The ‘You Will SLEEP INSTANTLY’ title draws me in.
I click. Straight away I’m seated, looking at my scruffy boots as Angelo Shoe Shine considerately rolls up my trouser legs and begins his meticulous work. The PoV video is high quality, and thoughtfully lit, with attention to the microphone set-up to capture all the ruffles, brushes and scrapes. It’s immersive. You soon realise you are in the hands of a craftsman, someone taking the utmost pride in their work with the customer experience as the focus of their attention.
Angelo’s boot work is ritualistic. Everything he does is with care and respect for the craft. He works around the boots with the spirit of what the Japanese call Kodawari, paying attention to the smallest details that others may not even notice. He has honed his rituals through hours of surrender to the practice.
For me, Angelo’s work is the quintessence of Ordinary Mastery. He has turned the everyday service of shoe shining into an art form. The combination of function and beauty, serving the needs of the customer and sharing the experience with millions. It’s inspiring. Perfecting our craft and bringing our unique personality to its service is available to any one of us. And we need this. In our productised world, craftsmanship has lost out to machined efficiency and homogenisation. Angelo’s dexterous work recaptures the feeling of personal care and reignites the spirit of the artisan.
I was captivated and mesmerised by Angelo’s elevation of an ordinary shoe shine into a sublime experience. I can’t believe I’m sitting here watching a whole 35 minute video of someone having their boots restored to their former glory, but I’m clearly not alone - one of Angelo’s videos has 5.5 million views which perhaps illustrates our collective hunger for mastery.
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