“Being done isn't the point. In fact, being done is the only thing to fear.” – Seth Godin
Helping start a technology company has done as much to confirm (for me) that I am an artist as my MFA did. Whether building a sculpture, creating a painting, writing a blog, or trying to launch a new mobile communication product, my “approach to things” remains in tact. This was not a conscious decision, just a fact. I am an artist.
Art is iterative. The learning process is iterative. Life is iterative. It requires putting out incomplete ideas, incomplete selves, testing hypotheses, and accepting that they are just that: incomplete, hypotheses. It requires honest critique without judgment. It requires growing into the possibility of what’s next rather than stagnating in what is or was.
So, to remain artists, learners, creators, and innovators, to remain truly living, means that we can’t judge an iteration as if it were a final conclusion. We don’t judge the seedling for not being a flower. We don’t judge the child for not being an adult. Instead, we cultivate and observe and adapt as change happens and as we identify new needs and strategies for development.
Similarly, when creating a new product, offering a new service, or even just sharing a new idea, we need to understand each iteration as a point in a process, in progress, rather than a singular point for finite evaluation. We cannot judge each stroke of a painting as if it were the finished product. We will become paralyzed. When we look at yesterday’s work through the eyes and knowledge of today, just having worked on it more, it can seem woefully inadequate. It should. (It’s the old hindsight is 20-20 thing.) That’s because we have learned. But, judging rather than iterating on this moment would be like saying the first step on a ladder is a failure because it doesn’t get us to the top.
So, the successful startup, artist or life requires that, while we seek critique, we suspend judgment for the sake of learning and iteration from those inputs.
At the end of the day, as a startup or an artist, we only fail when we stop iterating. And, we typically only stop iterating when 1. We stop learning, 2. We fear failure, 3. We don’t care anymore.
So, our products and art and selves should always be incomplete. That’s really the point, isn’t it?
A hail the incomplete!