Incrementalism

Day 222 Week 32 Q3 Friday, August 11, 2023

Okay, so we have one person-sized dream and also many person-sized dreams that need a team and more stakeholders. But are some of your one-person size dreams really so large that they require more than one person? It does not necessarily mean you are a control freak; you may simply be an artist who has a set of skills that is broad enough to do it all.  But there is still a problem. You can not do it all at once.

So, then what? Break things into smaller pieces, and then even smaller pieces, and if needed, even smaller ones. And also, there is the elasticity of time. Some of the time, you can get incredible amounts done in tiny amounts of time. And some of the time, this is driven by real deadlines.

When you are an artist doing it all it might be worth throwing the schedule out the window. After all, if the project is really interesting, then there are going to be unknowable-in-advance parts to it. If it were all known, then someone else or maybe an AI could do it without you. It is the nonlinear creative artist inside of you that has the greatest value, for this is how problems get solved, and yes, they take longer and cost more than expected. Then again, they can also turn out to be mind-blowingly terrific too.  

This is why we need incrementalism, and sometimes it feels like we are crawling instead of walking when we emotionally want to run. Learn to celebrate the small stuff. It is worth it. Having frequent small wins makes it a lot easier to deal with the infinitely large obstacles when they show up, and yes, they will for sure.

One day years ago, when complaining to my wife about how insane a situation I was involved in was, she casually remarked if they could do it without you, then they would not need you there to address it. It stopped my complaining right in its tracks. Almost everything I end up working on is not normal stuff. It is usually an opportunity wrapped in a mess, and then I have something to do.

So when you create big healthy messes all by yourself, and there is no one to blame, do not blame yourself, either. Simply go incremental and ensure that you are, in fact, making progress, even if it is small and even if it is slow. Research, ideating, and inventing all take more time than simply developing what has already been done before. Are you a creative outlier? Right! Would you rather have a more routine simpler job? I didn’t think so. Break it up into smaller pieces and score a bunch of easy wins. Go incremental.