The Power of Being Really, Really, Extremely, Very Inefficient

Success favors those who ship. If you want a spot in the consciousness of people, it sure helps if you’re shipping often, too. You should blog regularly, you should tweet regularly, and you should crank out lots of podcasts. That way, when someone gets bored, and they decide to see what you’ve made lately, there will always be something fresh.

But there’s a paradox within this: shipping often doesn’t necessarily make good product. This mentality comes from software, which can be iterated, and iterated, the same pile of code gets better and better. This doesn’t work so well for creative pieces such as articles, podcasts, and thoughts-in-general. Once they’re shipped, they have a half-life that’s a function of their quality.

With these things, the more mental energy you’re putting towards shipping, the less mental energy you have to put toward making things great. But, shipping often has enough power to offset any ill effects of compromising quality.

There’s a famous video you’ve already seen of This American Life host Ira Glass, where he explains that if you have really good taste, you have to go through years where your work doesn’t meet those standards of taste.

To have a GOOD chance of mediocre success, you should be okay with shipping work that doesn’t meet your tastes. To have a SMALL chance of stratospheric success, you should be okay with being really, really, extremely, very inefficient, until your work does meet your tastes.

It’s only through that extreme lack of efficiency that you can have a good chance of creating something that separates from the pack. Your chances of success are lower, but the limits of your success are exponentially higher.

I remind myself of this when I work on my podcast, Love Your Work. Years passed, thinking about what I wanted the show to be like, before I released my first episode. I listened to thousands of hours of other podcasts, and other interviews. I wanted to know what was out there. It wasn’t until I had listened to a lot of stuff before I had some sense that I had something unique to say.

Meanwhile, I was stacking skills. Smaller projects where I worked on audio, and experimented with sound equipment, or did little interviews helped me build micro-skills. I even spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours taking improv, storytelling, sketch-writing, acting, and voice lessons.

When I do produce an episode, I do hours of research behind each guest. I listen to hours of their previous podcast interviews. I condense pages of notes into a few questions I write with my bare hands in a notebook.

It’s really just some podcast: some guy talking to people, but behind it is years of preparation and thought.

I haven’t reached my own standards of taste. I don’t know that I ever will. I’m okay with being really, really, extremely, very inefficient until I do.

New episodes of my podcast, Love Your Work are produced inefficiently, and are released, sub-optimally, on Thursdays. Listen to the interview with Jason Fried, or subscribe on iTunes.

Written by

Bestselling author of “Mind Management, Not Time Management”

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