Hard Work Isn’t Enough to do Great Work

My favorite quote about creativity is from the great Mark Fenske:

Hard work is a waste of time if your idea sucks.

As with most things he writes, it says a lot without having to say very much.

Yes, work ethic is important. And being able to work hard is an important component to making great work. But there’s a lot more to great work than hard work.

Hard work doesn’t always lead to creative ideas.

Sometimes an idea will come in 20-minutes. Sometimes it might take 20-days.

Sometimes an idea will come while sitting at a notebook, but often an idea will strike while in the shower or waiting in line at the DMV.

We see students come into the Brandcenter from some of the best schools in the country. And UVA.

They got to those schools by working really hard in high school.

They got kick-ass grades at those schools by working even harder.

Then they got into Brandcenter by working hard on their applications.

But when they get here they have to learn The Hard Lesson — hard work isn’t enough.

Teams are how the world works, and how great works are made.

Working with ideas in teams is something that many haven’t experienced. Even those who have done group work in undergrad struggle in a more realistic and pressure-filled setting.

They haven’t had to learn how to let ideas go, or yield to an idea from someone else, or how help make a group member’s idea better.

Many of them don’t even understand what a good idea is when they first get here. It’s not because they aren’t smart or because they aren’t creative. It’s because they don’t have any real experience.

This can be a struggle. And some of them get frustrated. But this is the way of the world. There are precious few careers worth having that allow for the lone genius to hide in a dark room and change the world on their own.

This isn’t something that can be learned in a few days or even a few months. It takes time and experimentation. It takes seeing what works and suffering for what doesn’t.

But at the end of it all, at the other end of the program, they are better for it.