Archive for December, 2010
I agree that perfectionism can be treacherous; hours spent worrying over the most minuscule details of one’s work or life. At the same time, a life of “just good enough” can be miserable. Imagine going through life without passion, getting through every day with just enough effort to pass the time and survive.
The irrational pursuit of perfection is what makes the world what it is today.
Imagine Thomas Edison not spending hundreds of days trying to invent the lightbulb and instead accepting that kerosene lamps were good enough. Imagine Michael Jordan not spending thousands of hours perfecting his signature fadeaway. Imagine an iPod or iPhone without Steve Job’s perfectionism (and those demanded from his employees).
We can’t be perfect at everything we do everyday, and we shouldn’t try to be, but to say that we shouldn’t be perfect at anything is depressing. We all have the opportunity to be spectacular at something; seize the opportunity be a perfectionist for at least one thing you do, even if it may seem irrational to most people.
Before the internet, widespread dissemination of any media content was incredibly expensive and as a result, massive industries were created. Now that the internet has decreased the cost of content distribution to a fraction of what it used to be, and the tools of content creation are becoming cheaper and more widely available, the amount of content available for consumption has increased exponentially.
While I have no scientific data to back this up, I intuit that sometime over the last decade, at least in the developed world, the time spent creating content has surpassed the time spent consuming the content. Not so long ago, TV shows were created by tens of people spending hundreds of hours which were watched by millions of people spending millions hours in total. While that still happens today, now people are spending hours to create a one minute YouTube clip which might be watched by dozens of people (welcome to the far side of the long tail). In many cases, the total man hour spent creating the content is now greater than the total man hour spent consuming the content.
I probably spent 30-60 minutes writing this blog post, and I probably have about 20-30 readers. Assuming each reader takes 2-3 minutes to read this post, the total amount of time spent creating this blog post is roughly equal to the time spent reading it. In other words, in a phrase I’m coining, this post has reached the content neutral point.
For no particularly good reason, I consider this content neutral point to be the separator of worthwhile and worthless content. If more time is spent creating it than consuming it, then what’s the point? This is of course preposterous as the purpose of creation is not just consumption but also creation itself. Personal journals are classic examples of media (though not mass media) that is more about creation than consumption. The time and money I’ve spent on my personal photo project is clearly beyond the value I created for other people’s enjoyment. That won’t stop me though.
Addendum: I just reflected on the above statement from a different point of view and realized that there is no way time spent creating content is greater than the time spent consuming content. If that was the case, the average person has to be spending more time creating content, and while the world now has its fair share of amateur bloggers, hobbyist photographers, and casual videographers, there are also many who don’t participate in any form of content creation (and watch hours of TV everyday). Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that the internet has not drastically changed the ratio of creation to consumption.
We don’t want the same as our parents. We want to define our own generation, and we’re still trying to figure out how.
Most of our parents were born after the war in a world that was rebuilding from two world wars that destroyed much of the world. People yearned for stability and responded with an incredible half century of growth and productivity. Deaths from wars decreased drastically, child mortality rate declined rapidly, and life expectancy increased significantly.
People settled for the secure 9-5 jobs that allowed them to own the family car and the house in the suburbs. They were happy to be alive and to live a prosperous life even if that meant fitting into a certain pattern of life. Sure many in our parents’ generation had their moments of rebellion in the 60s and 70s, but most decided to be part of the system.
We want something different.
We don’t know war. We don’t know what a world looked like when people were driving tanks and flying bombers. Instead, we came into a world full of rigid social institutions and a clearly laid out ways of life. Stability was for our parents, it’s not for us.
We are going to do something different. I don’t know what it is, but there are too many of us who aren’t quite sure of what we want to do, but what we are doing isn’t it. We are leaving perfectly stable jobs for that elusive thing that defines our lives.
It may seem ridiculous or crazy judged from the values of yesteryears, but this is who we are. Ready for us?
While traveling in Zurich, I caught this great scene that captured the essence of what I believe design to be (if it’s hard to tell from the picture, some kids were cooling their beer using the ubiquitously available water fountains in Zurich). If I had to describe it in words, it’s fairly simple: It’s what we do to accomplish what we want.
What is your definition of design? Is it as confusing as this:
(Taken in my hometown Kyoto when I was there for Christmas and New Years 2009-10)
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