March 18, 2021

Everything is produced within an inch of its life


All of us fall prey to desiring the illusion of a perfect future.

In our search for the platonic ideal, we become so enraptured by the opportunity to choose, that we kill ourselves trying to optimize a melting ice cube.

But we only end up getting in our own way. Delaying our decision and causing more stress than we need.

When in reality, the best way to get any process moving is to step aside and give it a chance to find its own way.

Hiring at a startup is a common example of this phenomenon. Company leaders will drag out their interview process, hoping their perfect candidate will walk through the door. Over analyzing every micro interaction and spelling error and nonverbal cue, they find nuance where there is none.

Did anyone else notice how the last woman kept fiddling with her wedding ring the whole time? She’s clearly manic and has trust issues. Let’s keep looking. We can do better.

And my thought is always, well, you’re right, we could do better. But when speed is our number one priority, good enough will do.

Hoffman’s book on startup growth addresses this issue beautifully. He says that our job is to make decisions and commit to them, even though our confidence level is substantial lower than one hundred percent. We accept the risk of making the wrong decision and willingly pay the cost of significant operating inefficiencies in exchange for the ability to move faster.

This is actually something you learn as a writer, which is how to develop the ability to stop gathering data and start judging it. Having written dozens of books, hundreds of songs and thousands of articles in my career, my head and heart have found their own way of knowing when something is done.

It’s not a formula, it’s just a feeling.

You think to yourself, look, being petty and picky about this thing will only waste time, so let’s decide to call the work finished for now and move on.

Most people are really bad at this. Particularly under high stress situations, their terror of losing control compels them to grasp for order and certainty. And one of the ways they soothe themselves is by being petty and picky.

But as the legendary football coach said about his decision making process for which quarterback to play, you don’t have to spend a lot of time circumcising the mosquito.

Look, it may sound sacrilegious to suggest good enough standards, but the risk and cost of being too slow is simply too high.

Find the confidence and resolve to just say yes or no, and then stand firm in that decision.

This isn’t a pop song that needs to be produced within an inch of its life. In art, as in life, seek for expression, perfection.

What is the decision you have been avoiding?