Jeremy Côté


Amazing Accomplishments are a Byproduct

In every domain, from sports to language to the arts, amazing work gets produced every day. If some sort of extra-terrestrial civilization were to somehow look into what gets circulated online at any given moment, they could almost be fooled into thinking everything humans do is great1.

But the problem with this situation is that the extra-terrestrial civilization is only seeing the byproduct of doing good work. The reality is that the buzzer-beaters, masterpieces of music, and moving films aren’t always made. They’re the consequence of hard work and a persistence in improving the craft.

In your domain, you surely practice often. Additionally, I’m quite confident that not all of what you do is golden. There are bound to be rough drafts, or ideas that did not quite pan out as expected. Even for the work you do share, there will certainly be pieces you enjoy more than others.

In short, you have both some good and some bad work to show for your efforts.

What happens, though, is that the good work gets promoted much more than the work that is not-so-great (at least, in theory). As a result, the work that gets seen by others is only good, creating the illusion that all of your work seems good.

This is obviously false, and so it points to the underlying fact that good work is a result of doing work, period. However, bad work is also a result of doing work. Both occur, and unfortunately the bad work tends to happen more. Few pieces become truly master-pieces.

The point of this isn’t to discourage you. Instead, it’s quite the opposite. When you embark on a journey to improve in a craft, the journey needs to be your reward. At some point, good work won’t be produced, and you have to have something else to hold on to in order to keep working at the craft. In those times, it’s important to remember that both good and bad work is the result of hard work. Therefore, if you want to increase the amount of good work that’s produced, you just need to continue producing more work.

For many crafts, the quantity of work ends up creating more quality work than when the focus is only on quality.

  1. I say “almost” because a good portion of the work that gets posted online is complete nonsense.