If you have the choice between performing a task in the same painful manner you always do or taking the time to invent a better way, always opt for the latter. If you can afford to invent in spite of deadlines, resources or the status quo, then do it. Time saved down the road often outweighs the time invested now. If you fail to make a better system, at least you tried and will know better next time. A slap on the hand is totally worth it in the scheme of things.
We are so afraid to put ourselves out into the world that we erect barriers of revision, drafts, filters, editing, testing and censorship to prevent us from making mistakes in the public eye. If we spent less time chopping our own balls off and more time giving back to the world without reservation, we could all live rich and accomplished lives.
We are afraid. Afraid to reveal our flaws. Afraid to show our true colors. Afraid to give ourselves to the public for fear that the world might reject us. Fear mutates to the point that we are afraid to invent at all. We do nothing. Live dispassionate, passive and apathetic lives. All because we do not want to be caught with a misspelled word or bad picture edit.
I do not mean to discredit editing or the role of editors. Of all the creative and technical mediums, I cannot think of a single one that accurately channels the human soul. Mistakes happen and products come to life in ways we do not intend. We need to edit and revise to connect the dots so that things make sense. If we ignore editing completely, our message will misinform or fall on deaf ears.
But we alone cannot judge whether our creations connect with others. We cannot separate ourselves from the material. The faster we create things, the more necessary it is to get a second opinion. Put yourself out there to user groups, testers and editors to give you feedback. Some of my most beloved and respected friends are editors. Editors keep people like me from making perilous or silly mistakes. They make sure my thoughts track across the medium and translate clearly. Editors volunteer to help others focus on inventing and offer the confidence to do so. Editors are noble people with a selfless and patient purpose.
Whether you share with an editor, friends, random testers or publish immediately, you need to put your creation out there as quickly as possible. The longer it stays on your table, the harder it will be for you to let go. You will despair in all the flaws, possible misrepresentations and disconnects you come to know. You will revise and remodel your work into oblivion.
Stop it. Stop editing. Get it off the table and into someone else’s hands. Let go. Let your child have a life of its own. Only time will tell how the world reacts to your work. You are not an authority on that subject and should give up trying. Focus more on inventing and less on how people see you. Be yourself. Create from within. Fear nothing.
The second you stop believing in the possibilities and start believing in the rules, you lose. You limit yourself to the things you’ve learned and make it that much more difficult to invent or imagine. Building an understanding of the world through education or otherwise is important to understanding the tools and canvases at your disposal. But growth and the human spirit should not end there. You must actually paint with the tools you’ve learned: break rules, make a mess and see what happens. Push the limits of the canvas. Or, better yet, ignore the boundaries of the canvas altogether. Invention has no boundaries and knows no rules. Sure, embrace the constraints of the tools themselves (budget, materials, people, etc.), for those limitations will focus your mission. Do not, however, embrace the rules of the game if they stand in your way to greatness and innovation.
There is a general cynicism lately about human progress in the cultural, commercial, physical, and spiritual realm. This week’s South Park had a brilliant (albeit gruesome and disgusting) commentary on contracting the disease, “cynicism,” where everything starts looking and sounding like “shit.” Many individuals (not just me) watch in angst as large companies roll out recycled shlock and menial improvements. A lot of the criticism directed at all companies showcasing video games at the E3 gaming conference this week sang to the beat of “It seemed more like a catch-up game than something completely different.” Nintendo and Playstation announced entirely new gaming consoles, and yet they came off as incremental and uninspired updates in struggle to catch up to the aggressively expanding mobile games market. Only sequels gained traction at the conference, no original game-changing titles. I hold the same criticism of Apple’s latest products: iPad 2, iCloud, OS X Lion, and iOS 5 boast only minor improvements to the user experience that update on and catch up to some superior features of competitors in the computing space. We live in a world farming updates, too distracted by the noise around us to make meaningful, poignant change.
Our world is evolving quickly, but do not mistake evolution for revolution. Evolution is a slow, gradual, step-by-step process that takes time and energy. Revolution is a leap, a blindside, a change that catches us all by surprise. Evolution is differentiation. Revolution is different. Evolution is a hybrid transition between new and old. Revolution does not look back. Evolution is missing the letter ‘R’ at the front, and that letter ‘R’ means business. I have not seen a revolution in the cultural, commercial, physical, and spiritual realm for some time.
Revolution is a modern virtue. How can you build something revolutionary? Use the Reference Test: can you or anyone else compare your creation directly to another creation already existing?
Hollywood pitch culture is a perfect example. Somewhere in the early nineties, producers made the habit of pitching movies as “this” meets “that.” “Terminator” meets “Home Alone.” “Cool Runnings” meets “Blade Runner.” “Veggie Tales” meets “Godzilla.” The problem? Mixing old shit together does not make it new. It simply makes it old shit mixed together. Can anyone compare your movie idea directly to other films already in existence?
If your work comes off as a hybrid between this and that, or an update to something already in existence, then you have not pushed the button hard enough. Push harder. Twist your perspective. See the light. Open your mind. Forget the world around you. Look deep inside. Be true to yourself. Be human. Be real. You are capable of inventing something the world has never seen.
Stop at nothing to change the world. Start a revolution.
We all have great ideas. Wonderful. Can you communicate them? Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Steven Spielberg tapped into this notion when he encouraged movie pitches to be 25 words or less. While Spielberg’s suggestion had a lot to do with the marketability of a film, the 25-word exercise forces you to boil your idea down to its core and communicate it. The exercise forces you to understand your idea more clearly.
Ideas do not need to be simple. In fact, they shouldn’t be. But they will get nowhere if they cannot be communicated simply enough to share with others.