There's a space between where you are now and where you want to be, ought to be, are capable of being.
A gap between your reality and your possibility.
Imagine that space as a gulf or a chasm and you'll become paralyzed, stuck in the current situation.
And refuse to see it at all and you'll merely be self-satisfied, and just as stuck.
The magic of forward movement is seeing the space as leap-sized, as something that persistent, consistent effort can get you through.
The most likely paths are the ones where you can see the steps.
Your problem might not be that you're not trying hard enough. It might be that you're seeing the opportunity in the wrong way.
Umberto Eco said that when he was talking about the form of paper books.
But I think it raises a challenge for just about anyone who seeks to do something truly great in the world of design (in any of its forms):
Can you invent a thing for which no one will ever invent a better version of it?
Certainly, Dylan has done that for dozens of his songs.
And Frank Lloyd Wright did it with 'Falling Water'. No one will ever build a better version of it.
But Like A Rolling Stone and Falling Water are specific instances of general ideas (songs and houses). Not quite the same as Eco had in mind.
But you know what, that's probably worth aiming for regardless.
Can you make the thing you make next to be spoonlike in its unimprovableness?
Tracy Chapman was outsold by the Doobie Brothers by 40:1. But the Doobie's aren't 40 times as singular an artist as she is.
Lou Reed was outsold by Van Morrison at least 40:1. But again, our image and memory of Lou compares to Van's, it's not a tiny fraction of his.
Singular is the one that we can tell apart, the one we remember, the one we will miss when it's gone.
It's entirely possible that creators with scale are also singular (like Van, or Miranda), but it's not required. Many of the artists, leaders and teachers that have had an impact on you and on me have done so with very little popular acclaim.
It doesn't pay to trade your singular-ness for scale.
Singular might lead to scale, but popular is not enough.
Most people are okay with living with the consequences of what happens.
The hard part is living with our narrative about how it happened and why.
If your plane is late and you miss the meeting and you don't close the sale, well, you didn't get the work.
But if your meeting is missed because you planned poorly, the story you tell yourself about why you didn't get the sale might just be worse than the business impact of not having been to the meeting.
Stress in a typical job isn't the stress of losing or being killed in action, it's the stress of imagining the narrative of failure in advance, the self-shaming and the what-ifs. When we leave those out, we get a chance to do our real work, undistracted by drama, cliffhangers and blame.
Something rare is happening, and it might not last long.
Today, right now, anyone with a $300 laptop can use the very same tools as the people at the top of just about any industry.
If you want to write, you have the same writing tools available to you as the most successful writers in the world.
If you want to join a social network, well, the software that connects the titans of your industry is the very same software you can use.
If you want to learn, do research, make a ruckus... your local library has access to the same tools as you'll find in a skyscraper in a big company.
Of course, we haven't democratized access to closed off circles, we haven't changed the inherent and unstated biases of those in traditional seats in power.
But we've definitely given you the tools.
If you can, pick yourself.
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