The Work Reveals Itself As You Go
Giving the work the time it needs, and not the time you want to give
Happy Saturday! Today’s newsletter count: 933 words and ~5 min.
Unsubscribe below if this newsletter no longer works for you. I turn off unsubscribe alerts. So, I won’t even know you did. 😊
In Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act, he has this chapter called “Seeds” where he wrote
In the first phase of the creative process, we are to be completely open, collecting anything we find of interest.
We can call this the Seed phase. We’re searching for potential starting points that, with love and care, can grow into something beautiful. At this stage, we are not comparing them to find the best seed. We simply gather them.
Collecting seeds is best approached with active awareness and boundless curiosity. It cannot be muscled, though perhaps it can be willed.
Having a specific vision of what a seed will become could serve as a helpful guide in later phases. In this initial stage, it may cut off more interesting possibilities. An idea appearing to hold less vitality may grow into a beautiful work. Other times, the most exciting seed may not ultimately yield fruit. It’s too soon to tell. Until we are further along in the process and the idea has been developed, it’s impossible to assess these germs of an idea accurately. The appropriate seed will reveal itself over time.
Placing too much emphasis on a seed or dismissing it prematurely can interfere with its natural growth. The temptation to insert too much of yourself in this first phase can undermine the entire enterprise. Be wary of taking shortcuts or crossing items off your list too quickly.
…generally preferable to accumulate several weeks’ or months’ worth of ideas and then choose which of them to focus on, instead of following an urge or obligation to rush to the finish line with what is in front of us today.
The more seeds you’ve accumulated, the easier this is to judge. If you’ve collected a hundred seeds, you might find that seed number fifty-four speaks to you in a way that none of the others do. If number fifty-four is your only choice, without other seeds for context, it’s more difficult to tell.
Rubin, Rick. The Creative Act (p. 145). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I feel particularly inspired by this chapter because it’s exactly the middle of the year at 1st July. And the weeks leading to it, I have been doing a few mid year reviews including what I’m doing this.
Some of you might be aware I’ve been in prolonged negotiations with my pillar customer over a renewal of my services. The negotiations and various bureaucratic procedures started since October last year and I’m happy to say I’ve signed my part of the renewal in the middle of June.
And, I’m looking at 50% increment of my revenue, which is significant. I attribute this to various factors but the biggest one might be because I was willing to be patient during the negotiations which stretched out to be nearly 8 months long.
This willingness to be patient further reminds me of this article I came across about leadership in Apple recently.
1 Big Thing: Separate How Hard from How Right A Path Is
This HBR article had this quote
A leader’s ability to be both partisan and open-minded is facilitated by two things: deep understanding of and devotion to the company’s values and common purpose, and a commitment to separating how right from how hard a particular path is so that the difficulty of executing a decision doesn’t prevent its being selected.
And then gave an example where a senior leader, Paul Hubel, wanted to introduce dual-lens camera with portrait mode in the iPhone 7 Plus in 2016 which was a significant better camera from previous versions. But as the release line nears, Hubel realized that there were still edge cases yet to be ironed out.
Sebastien Marineau-Mes, the VP to whom Hubel and the whole camera software team ultimately reported, chose to do the right thing.
Sebastien decided to
… defer the release of the feature until the following year to give the team time to better address failure cases—“a hard pill to swallow,” Hubel admits.
There are various aspects of my work, that are boring or incredibly technical for a general readership. So, I will use this newsletter as my example.
Over the past few months, there have been moments I have struggled between hitting my publishing timelines and quality concerns.
I have always chose to prioritize hitting publishing timelines over taking more time. As the Rubin quote above says, I had crossed “items off my list too quickly”. The way I convince myself is to make it it’s the right thing to do in terms of maintaining the discipline of publishing regularly.
But, of course, that’s just fear speaking.
There are plenty of writers I follow diligently and they don’t publish often. But, when they do, the quality is astounding. Julian Shapiro is such a person for me.
Giving the work the time it needs and not just the time I want to afford is also a form of Dirty Work.
The negotiations process with my pillar customer and the outcome strengthened my belief about the value of Dirty Work and patience at the right time.
And I will be taking bolder steps in that direction for the 2nd half of 2023.