More Pots Make Us Better

Hacker News LinkedIn Facebook Twitter by Abby Fichtner

PotsWriting and software are my passions, but I’m always looking for new creative outlets and so a while back I started teaching myself how to draw. Not, mind you, that I was thinking of quitting my day job (I had absolutely no illusions of greatness – which you’d of course understand if you’d seen any of my previous drawings), but just something to do for fun. And, at first I really enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong, I was miserable at it, but I was having fun.

However, right about the time I started getting past stick figure phase (hey, I’d had a lot of practice with all those use cases!), I found that I’d started putting so much time and effort into each new drawing that they were losing all their fun – the whole reason I was doing this! And so, I shared my woes with some others and one of them told me a story…

Once upon a time, it seems, there was a pottery class. And the teacher of this pottery class divided the students into 2 groups. For the first group, she told the students that their final exam was to make the best pot they possibly could anddrawing they’d be graded on its quality. For the second group, she said that for their final exam they were to produce as many pots as they possibly could. Quality didn’t matter, their grade would be based solely on quantity.

So, the semester comes to an end and the teacher is grading the assignments and wouldn’t you know but the absolute best, most exquisite pots were created from that 2nd group – the ones who were told not to worry about quality. You see, in creating so many pots, their skills improved at an alarming rate, they got better and better with each one – without even trying!

Well, of course, I was making the 1st group’s mistake with each new drawing – trying to make it a masterpiece, which was pretty darn silly if you think about it as I probably wouldn’t even know a masterpiece drawing if it hit me on the head. But, there I was, agonizing over this completely elusive perfection rather than just enjoying the act of drawing, as I’d initially set out to do.

Which, I think, pretty nicely sums up what agile and iterative methodologies are trying to achieve with the short sprints and skipping the whole quest for perfection with Big Up Front Design.

But, we smart hax0r folks are really pretty stupid when you get right down to it. You know the type, do as I say, not as I do. And, so I’m talking to a fellow hax0r the other day, and he’s explaining to me how he can’t do something at all because he doesn’t have the time to do it perfectly.

And I started wondering just how often it is that we shy away from doing things that we really have a passion for, just because we feel that we need to start off perfectly. And, what fun is that anyway? I bet if we could take a tip from that art teacher and get over our annoying quest for perfection to instead just focus on doing what it is that interests us on a regular basis that we’d not only get better, but we’d have a hell of a lot more fun at it too.