Monday, August 22, 2011

Law 8: Devotion and Excellence

Making Monday

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The Olympic motto is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger."

You might have heard the same idea, likely from a member of a previous generation giving unsolicited advice, expressed in the less trade-markable form, "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well."

Devotion is more than constancy and focus, more than doing what is necessary, and more, even, than going above and beyond. The capstone of the devotion of the makers is the devotion to excel.

Malcolm Gladwell coined the "10,000 hour Rule" in his book, Outliers. Based on a study by Anders Ericsson, Gladwell asserts that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. [The good news for writers is that with 10,000 hours, you only have to write 100 words an hour to produce the million words you're supposed to throw away.]

But it's not simply about putting in the time: it's how you use the time. More to the point, the people who become experts practice differently than everyone else. They're constantly honing, refining, stretching--it's all about a deliberate focused attempt to become better. For example, I once read an interview with a an extremely talented keyboardist who said he was working on exercises to strengthen his left pinky finger.

Makers aren't satisfied to repeat their success. Doing so puts one on the road to becoming an assembly automaton. Instead, each time they make something, makers ask themselves if they can do it faster, more efficiently, or more elegantly. And their motive in asking the question is the simple curiosity of, "I wonder if ..."

Users settle for second-rate, or good enough, because the thing only matters as long as it serves some other purpose. Makers really do believe that, "If the job's worth doing, it's worth doing well."

Image: Bill Longshaw /

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