Sunday, March 18, 2007

You'll suck at what you do, for a long time, but...

Who's Ira Glass? Nevermind. Watch this video first (hat-tip to David Silver). David wrote that it's "five minutes and nineteen seconds of smart advice". I've transcribed the parts which I felt was the essence of the video.

Starting from 0:39 min:
"... For the first couple of years that you're making stuff, what you're making isn't so good... ... it has an ambition to be good but it's not quite that good.

But your taste... ... is good enough that you can tell that what you're making is kind of a disappointment to you. You can tell that it's still sort of crappy. A lot of people never get past that phase... ... they quit.

The thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that... everybody I know, who does interesting creative work, they went though a phase of years where... ... they knew that it fell short... ... it didn't have that special thing that we wanted it to have. ...Everybody goes through that.

... You gotta know that it's totally normal.... ... the most important, possible thing, that you could do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.

Put yourself on a deadline, so that every week or every month, you know that you have to finish one story... whatever it's going to be... ...even if it's not somebody who pays you, but you're in a situation where you have to have to turn out the work.

It's only by going through a huge volume of work that you're actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work that you're making will be as good as your ambitions.

At 2:30min, Ira plays a radio news report that was aired eight years ago, when he had been in the radio broadcasting business for a long time. He criticises his own performance:
"What am I talking about? Every part of this was ill-conceived... the writing is horrible. You can't even follow what I'm talking about... ... here's a tip -- You don't underline [stress] every third word for emphasis, because it sounds really unnatural. What you want is to talk like how you normally talk.

This is year eight. I'm not a beginner. I'm like deep, deep into it.

...It takes a while. It's going to take you a while. It's normal. You just have to fight your way through that.

You will make things that aren't as good that you know in your heart that you want them to be, and you just make one effort after another."

Now that I know who's Ira Glass, the message is even more convincing. My personal take-away: We'll suck at what we do, probably for a long time. But that's no excuse to not try, and try again. There's no short-cut getting from here to good.

Winston Churchill was perhaps more succinct (the context was different but the philosophy applies): "Never give up. Never surrender."


  1. That's a great insight, and an important nugget of wisdom that all us creative types need to be aware of.

  2. Not just for creative types...everyone can learn from that :)

    Btw Ivan, its A Song of Ice and Fire...finally another person who likes the series!

  3. Oh yeah, you're right. I've corrected the post header. Thanks!

  4. Haha...i was referring to ur profile. Hai...i cant wait for the rest of the series. Quite scary, considering that David Gemell passed away without the completion of the Trojan War trilogy.


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