I saw Jonathan Mann perform last night at betalevel here in LA. He was talking about a project he’s embarked on wherein he writes, records, and posts online a new song every single day. He’d been doing it since January one and hasn’t missed a day yet. In the speaking part of his presentation he talked about his philosophy regarding this. His approach reminded me a lot of the Cult of Done as well as something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently in regards to my own projects and approach to them.
For the longest time when I’d start something I generally had one two things driving me, either I thought it would be cool to do and no one had told me I couldn’t do it, or someone had told me I couldn’t do it and I was hell bent on proving them wrong. I was more concerned with doing something than with what I was doing. The result of that was that I think I ended up doing some cool things from time to time, things I’m proud of at least. There were of course things that didn’t turn out so well but honestly I don’t remember most of them at this point. At some point in that process I started focusing on those cool things I was proud of and grew embarrassed of the ones that weren’t. I thought it would be better to produce less in hopes of only doing those cool things and just skipping the not so cool ones. Turns out it doesn’t work that way and you don’t get to make that choice. If you decide to only do super bad ass things the list of things you do will be very short, where as if you do a bunch of things all the time, there is a higher chance of more and more of them being bad ass.
Jonathan addressed that issue in his talk with something he calls the 70-20-10 rule that I thought was awesome and something we should all keep in mind.
I think that slide speaks for itself, but the point is you have to get comfortable with the fact that when creating things most are going to be just ok, some are going to suck, and from time to time they will be awesome. It’s being ok with the first 90% that makes the elusive 10% possible.
For me, when I look back, I never really gave a shit about other people saying I couldn’t do something or that something I did wasn’t good. I can pretty much come up with justification why anyone elses opinion doesn’t matter. It’s my own opinion I’m not so good at ignoring. I’ve definitely been my hardest critic, even if only because I’m the only critic I ever listen to. Which is exactly the problem. Once I started listening to the critical thoughts I was having I convinced myself that I couldn’t do things that previously I would have been able to do without question. If I thought the result wouldn’t be as good as what I wanted I’d often end up with no result at all. Which really, I think is worse. Jonathan’s next slide really hit home:
Those are exactly the things I know I need to overcome. For example how many times have I written here that I’m going write about something on a specific schedule only to not pull it off as planned. That’s because all of those things filled my head. I’ve felt the posts wouldn’t be good enough, and that I could do a better job later, and that I just didn’t have the time right now, and that I just wasn’t inspired, and maybe things would be better after this nap. I talked myself out of doing things I’d already said I wanted to do. I thought too much about it. I used to put that off to writers block but it’s not just in writing. If you had any idea of the projects I’ve started or wanted to start and stopped for no reason other than my own overthinking you’d be sick. Or you’d laugh at me, and you’d have every right to. And I’d thank you for doing it and reminding me what a dumb ass I was being.
We are the only ones who can stop ourselves from pulling things off. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I need to remind myself of more often.