It’s often the case in life that in order to create something great, you must do it multiple times before that something great begins to emerge. Even if you have a knack for it, raw talent is no match for that same talent polished and refined over time. There’s something magical about what happens when you’ve done something enough times, that it becomes second nature to the point you don’t have to think about it. Keyboarding is probably the talent I’m most in awe of, as it was something I learned in High School and have leveraged it so much since then that it’s as closer skill to me than writing (which I do much much less of, unfortunately). Up until high school though, I didn’t know the first thing about not looking at the keyboard and certainly didn’t have the practice to type as fast and flawlessly as I do now. It’s easy to take talents you’ve acquired and honed for granted, whether it’s handling rush hour traffic in Seattle or making the perfect cup of coffee.
Too often in the workplace, we lost track of the things we do well that we’ve learned to do over time. Whether it’s how to handle yourself in a stressful meeting, or knowing just the right thing to say to your boss, these are all skills that are honed and refined over many years of work experience. I’m honored to be a consultant, in that I have to maneuver through very different situations quite often, so it becomes obvious what skills people do or don’t have from company to company, and what skills I need to work on myself. It’s taught me a lot about the things that people often consider second nature, but had no practice or experience doing prior to entering the working world.
Too often though, it’s expected that if you’re going to do something that it has to be done flawlessly the first time. Whether it’s taking a gamble on a new technology, or getting funding to launch a new project, innovation in it’s truest form requires a high level of efficiency up front. One has to work at a place like Google these days, to find a culture that believes in true trial and error, and is willing to go from one project to the next in the name of moving the ball forward for society. Though I think any company built on a try-anything-free-for-all culture is bound to eat itself alive (especially publicly traded ones) due to the need for people to build homesteads in a company then set up the turrents and guns to kick off turf wars and political battles, there is a need to try and fail.
Having some level of experimentation in your job means you’ve accepted that it’ll take time to do something new, and make it great, and you’re willing to put in the time if someone else can spare the resources. Even if it’s you in a corner doing it yourself, given enough time you’ll get better at what it is you want to excel at. The concept or idea may be flawed, but the skills you’ll take along the way can always be used elsewhere – no matter how abstract or specific those skills may seem at the time.
Trying anything new, until you hone it into greatness is something most people are sadly giving up in exchange for the easy and one-click way at greatness. Someone had to build that one-click though, by becoming great at it first. Though there isn’t much new ground to cover on this earth, pioneering is far from dead – you just have to rethink the topography you’re looking to map. And remember, if you’re the first one to do it then that makes you the best at it. Even if someone catches up to you (which someone always will) being the first can only happen once, and is often credited regardless of how many people come afterwards. Even if something has been done millions of times though, it can always be done better because true greatness is impossible to achieve but should always be pursued.
So go out, and work to create something great.