So I posted the best blog post ever the other day. And it challenged anyone who disagreed with the notion that it’s the best blog post to tell me why so that I could make it better. Now the point was to highlight two critical components to successful growth more so than profess that it’s the best blog post ever. I mean, is it REALLY the best blog post ever? Yes, obviously. It says so in the title, why wouldn’t it be true? But that isn’t the point of it.
The point is that growth comes from iteration and feedback. And you need to keep doing that over and over again. When do you stop? Never. Unless you’ve built a video game about digging digital dirt blocks and sold it for 4 billion dollars. At that point, you’ve won the game. You can stop.
The more often you iterate on some “thing,” and the more you analyze the results of that iteration and use it to guide future iterations, the better your future results could be. Oh my gosh, doesn’t that sound like machine learning? Oh my gosh, guess what? You’re a machine too! A squishy fleshy machine that may or may not enjoy watching SpongeBob Squarepants because that’s easier than failing over and over again. Computers don’t have an ego, so they’re a bit more open to the criticism.
But that’s simply part of the iteration process. Fucking up a lot is a great way to find out what works best and what doesn’t. Every single time you identify a crosswalk or a bus in those Google ReCaptchas, you’re essentially judging a machine at how well it was able to guess the object.
“oh, hello, random human. Look at all these traffic light pictures I’ve selected for you! aren’t they wonderful?”
And then you correct the little machine robot tried its best, and Google uses that feedback to build a more reliable robot. Wonderful.
Guess what machine? It’s the same for you. Want to get good at something. Start doing it. Try. Fail a lot. Keep trying. Learn from those mistakes. In the pursuit of perfection quantity always trumps quality.
Want to be a great artist? Start drawing. Now. Find places you can share it online. Listen to that criticism. You don’t have to agree or accept everything. And that’s part of the challenge with feedback. Not all of it is good. But if you can learn how to dig through the feedback mountain, you learn to find the gems from it. I still struggle with this a lot, but I know it’s the truth. Not everything is as simple as identifying a bus or a car in a picture. But with enough iterations, you’ll develop your intuitions, and those will help you figure out what sort of feedback can add or subtract value. Oh my goodness, the process of iteration and feedback loops works on learning how to receive feedback as well??
And I think this idea of developing quick iteration and feedback loops is critical for successful growth across pretty much everything. If you’re a software company that can push updates and then receives feedback quickly from users - guess what? You’re going to develop much better software a lot faster than companies who can’t. Another thought - guess who is going to have a better jump shot? Someone who practices every day or practices once a week? Practice makes perfect isn’t a new concept. It’s been around long before any of us have bee been born. I’m going to throw three bits of info that I think is super important for growth.
- Write shit down. Analyze yourself. Go back and read old things you wrote. Old songs you sang, pictures you drew, software you programmed, workout tapes you recorded. You get the picture. Can you spot things you can improve? Can you build a better version of your past works? Test yourself often. Stay sharp.
- Find people who share your growth interests. I have people from all kinds of backgrounds who I regularly contact for feedback, and when they come to me, I provide the same assistance. One of the areas I reach out to friends about is design. I’m a terrible designer, but I’m worlds ahead of where I was years ago. Thanks to the time they shared with me providing critical feedback in their area of expertise.
- Build your intuitions. When you’ve iterated enough on something, your brain will develop shortcuts. It can happen with hobbies, career skills, whatever. You won’t have to think as much to perform them efficiently. You will find yourself in a state of flow that allows you to jump in and complete tasks without wasted effort. That is where you want to find yourself, and you do it through iterating and analyzing those results to improve the next attempt.
You can learn a lot from yourself and others, but when you begin feeling confident in taking action, that’s when the real fun begins. But to get there, and achieve excellent results, sometimes it takes a bit of luck. But even luck can’t save you if you don’t try.