August 12

“It’s great to sit on the shoulders of giants, but don’t let the giants sit on your shoulders. There’s no room for their legs to dangle!” —Stephen Nachmanovitch

Don’t become paralyzed through comparison with your heroes.

One year, for my birthday, my wife found a complete set of posters from the Apple “Think Different” campaign. The posters featured artistic and cultural luminaries who shunned conventional approaches and carved their own path. I thought that these posters might make a nice addition to our offices, so I had them framed and placed them in strategic spots throughout the building as a way to keep the team inspired.

One day, a team member knocked on my office door. He asked a favor: could I please remove the poster of Alfred Hitchcock that was hanging just outside of his workspace?

I was puzzled because I knew that this person was deeply inspired by Hitchcock. That’s why I placed the poster by his workspace. “That’s the problem,” he told me. “Every time I edit a video I feel like Hitchcock is looking over my shoulder and judging me.” Fair point. I took down the poster.

It’s easy to allow comparison with the heroes of our craft to cause us to become paralyzed. Nothing ever feels good enough. It never feels like it will measure up to the work of others that we admire. What we forget is that all of that deeply admired work was once work-in-process just like ours. And, our heroes probably felt the same way we do.

Don’t allow comparison of your in-process work with someone else’s masterpiece prevent you from making progress today. 

Question: Are you frustrated that your current work doesn’t meet the standards you expect? How can you make progress today?

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