I just finished teaching a marketing class at LDS Business College. It was a great experience, and while I'm not the world's greatest instructor, I was glad for the opportunity.
One student messaged me about our semester long assignment to create original content. He hadn't published any material because he didn't feel it was good enough. We talked about his grade, and then I shared these thoughts with him.
"More important than the grade is this: If you want to create good art, literature, computer code, physical performance, or anything, you have to put it out there. You have to call it done and let the world see it. Athletes compete before they know they'll win. Software companies ship programs with bugs. First draft novels have typos. Every chart topping musician started as a kid making ugly noise, probably in some garage with angry neighbors yelling for them to shut up.
Even putting it that way is generous. Our first work in whatever field we choose is, almost without exception, embarrassingly bad.
There is a quote attributed to Steve Jobs. He said "Real artists ship".
That sentiment has been echoed in different words by so many brilliant creators, and not incidentally, marketers and business people.
I totally understand the desire to not put your stuff out there, especially when you start. It's bad. The stuff we're making when we start is really quite bad.
In school, I studied broadcast journalism. We did reporting exercises to prepare for careers of live broadcasting. I had one of the most epic frozen-in-the-headlights moments in BYU history. I stood petrified and wordless on camera for a very uncomfortable 20 seconds solid. Dead air. My classmates will remember, but hopefully nobody else will ever see it. I wonder if that tape still exists.
But I kept practicing. I had no choice, it was the main work of the class. Within a year, I landed a spot at the student anchor desk. A year later, I was hosting a weekly BYU TV program.
In my last semester, I got hired to produce a daily webcast for the business school. They'd come and talk business, I'd film and edit. I'd never produced before, and it was unwatchable. The production value was non-existent. I did this every day, and improvement was marginal at best.
Four years later, the same person who hired me for that job helped me finance my first feature length documentary, to be released this summer.
If I hadn't been paid for doing my first web ad, and if a brilliant video marketer hadn't pushed the thing out to the whole world, there's no way I'd ever have released the first Orabrush video. At first, I was honestly embarrassed. I didn't want to show my family or friends. The lighting was bad. The sound was bad. The humor was juvenile. I'd just completed my degree in broadcast journalism. I was supposed to be doing investigative reporting, not making stupid videos for YouTube. That's how I felt at the time.
That video now has 21 million views, launched multi-million dollar companies that just sold partial assets for millions of dollars, and set my career and many others on an awesome trajectory. I have more opportunities now that I could ever could have hoped for when graduating.
But it never would have happened if we hadn't shipped the finished, and very flawed, product.
In your creative life, finish your work. Put it out there for the world to see, and start the next thing. Repeat the process with a deliberate focus on improvement, and nothing can stop you. You will get better, and eventually, you'll be great at what you do. Every world class performer knows this, and it's what makes them who they are."
I honestly can't remember, but I think I edited this video together in 2011 after binge watching Shira Lazar's "Partners Project". I have it privately listed on my YouTube account, but can't find it anywhere else. Incidentally, the video was produced when these creators were all much less successful and talented than they are today.