Contradiction: Your Key to Creativity

What you create today is a snapshot — not your view for all eternity.

As you step into the airport, you shake off the turbulent flight. You made it, Las Vegas!

You grab your luggage and head through several rows of rattling slot machines, but use your better judgment and keep walking. There will be plenty of time for gambling.

As you wait for your taxi, you notice an ad on a pillar beside you.

It’s offering $20 to ladies who sign up for a new dating website. In the bottom corner, you see their slogan: “Tune in, Hook up.” Then you notice the ad is for YouTube.com. Yes, that YouTube.

What is now the ubiquitous video streaming site, and billion dollar company began as a dating website back in 2005.

What we can learn from software.

A core belief in software development is, if you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late. For every new feature added before releasing version one, the danger of not starting exponentially increases.

Products evolve, change, and grow. They can end up as something entirely different from where they started. They not only can, but they should.

We can make predictions, analyze the data, and follow our gut instincts, but until our creation is in the hands of real people, we will never know for sure how they will interact with it.

No product survives the first contact with customers intact.

Unfulfilled dreams litter the road to perfection.

As growth-minded people, we need to push ourselves to evolve, change, and grow. We need to force ourselves to start at version one.

The concept of being embarrassed by version one, when applied to software development, works magically. If this works well for software, could this also work well in other aspects of our lives?

Creating content, writing books, and creating products — all of this needs us to contradict ourselves — not just be willing to, but desperately wanting to.

Everything we create today should look, feel, and be different from what you create in six or twelve months from now. What you say within your latest article should be a contradiction of what you say in your next piece.

What you create today needs to be a reflection of how you think today — a snapshot into your thoughts at this very moment — not your thoughts for all eternity. Growth comes from change, and as creatives, we must incessantly push for change within ourselves.

Let evolution and contradiction seep into your creative process.

Think of the bands and movies you liked as a teenager, are they same ones you like today or have your tastes evolved?

The fact that adult contemporary is perhaps the most inane of musical genres — and that it’s not called teenage contemporary — answers this question for us.

Everything we create exists within time and place, and we need to be comfortable leaving this place behind. The only way for us to evolve and grow into better creators and humans is to let go of this idea of our ideal self or perfect creation.

What you create today is simply a marker on your journey. Nothing more and nothing less.

Don’t seek perfection, pursue a record of where you are today.

When you create, think of your creation as a piece of software, and launch it fast and early. Don’t worry about it being perfect, instead understand it as an iteration of who you are and what you are creating today — good or bad.

Unless of course, you are planning to put up creepy dating site ads in the Las Vegas airport. If so, then maybe hold off until tomorrow.


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