Your style can get better

The Nose on El Capitan rises 2,900 vertical feet off the ground. To put that in perspective, that is over a half of mile of rock climbing.

The Nose was first climbed in 1958 by Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore in 47 days using siege tactics. Basically, they would hit their high point and come back down each day until they reached the top.

Two years later, the second ascent by Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, Chuck Pratt and Tom Frost was one continuous push that took seven days. A vast improvement on the style beforehand.

It wasn’t until 1993, when the legendary Lynn Hill would become the first person to free climb (climbing without pulling on gear) The Nose in just four days. She returned a year later and climbed it in a day.

This year, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold broke the speed record by climbing the route in 1 hour and 58 minutes.

Style gets better as time goes on. When you’re a pioneer, when you’re setting the standard for the rest of us, it might not be pretty. With time, however, you can improve the standard, you can raise the bar.

Revolutions destroy the unimaginable and unlock the impossible. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about climbing revolutions or cultural ones. Forward, we can improve on the matter of how things are done.

Redefining perfect

No design is done. No blog or Tweet is ever flawless. No sonnet is ever complete.

Because it’s never perfect.

We build off the history that has come before us. Raise the bar and the standard for those who come after.

If what we are striving for is perfection and, yet, never achieved, then shouldn’t we redefine what perfect is?

Perfect is according to spec. Perfect is what we need in the moment, in the now. Perfect is having the device work the way we want it to.

And what we can strive for is solving a problem we don’t even know exists yet.

Until then, let’s hope that things like pacemakers and traffic lights keep working perfectly.

The importance of good questions

Finding the answers is easy.

In a world where access is right in your pocket, answers are instant, there is little value in memorizing the facts and formulas. We can just look it up. Fast and with extreme accuracy.

So, why do we put so much value in memorizing when the War of 1812 was? Why do we value competence over curiosity?

That’s a good question. We are seeing a shift in our economy. Slowly, we are moving from being told every step we need to take to the emotional work of drawing our own map.

With all the answers right at your fingertip, the trick is to ask questions the rest of us are not asking. The kind of questions we are too afraid/naive to ask.

Once you see what other can’t, it’s difficult to unsee it. What then? Will you have the guts to act?

Great things start with great questions. Not the other way around.

A chance to produce something great

Where do all the good ideas come from?

How come I can’t write or design or paint like the greats?

If you want to write, you must type. If you want to paint, you have to paint. If you want to design, you’ve got to design.

There’s no way around this. You must sit where your aspirations want to be.

How many hours are you willing to work on your craft?

No one bats an eye when a basketball player practices in the gym. Writing, designing, painting…all the same thing.

By sitting at your desk typing, you are giving yourself a chance to do something great and something daring. Nothing more.

A little bigger

Es Devlin didn’t design stages for Kanye West or U2 or Beyonce because she applied on Indeed.com. No, she was sought after because of her reputation. Because of her body of work.

How did she develop this type of following? How does anyone become a stage designer for the biggest acts in the world?

Like all of us, she started small. Eventually, she won an award and got some recognition for the incredible, generous work. She built trust and attention with every interaction.

And then, she got to do it again. Over time, a little bigger.

You don’t apply for your dream job, you create it.

Authenticity is overrated

Great designers understand that being completely authentic isn’t the experience most of us are looking for.

The magic of Charlie Brown wasn’t that the drawings were life-like or that you could hear everything the parents said.

No, Charles Schulz left enough room for interpretation and imagination. He gave us enough of a framework to connect. The magic was the rudimentary drawings and the muffled sounds.

The work you do doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be honest.