Jeremy Côté


The Unwatched Laboratory

At first, no one gets visitors. We all work in obscurity, steadily running experiments and collecting data, trying to figure out what we should do. At this stage, we are free to run any experiment. When it’s only us and our backyard tools, we can try whatever we like.

However, there comes a point in which our work breaches the bubble separating the known and the unknown, thrusting us into the spotlight. Just like that, our secret laboratory is known. Now, there’s always a guest or two there, eyeing what we are doing. In general, they are admirers, happy to see what you come up with next.

But for us in the laboratory, it feels slightly different. While we know the visitors are their because they like our work, we feel a certain amount of pressure to perform well. If those visitors took their time to come over and see what we we’re doing, we don’t want to disappoint them with boring work. Therefore, we spend a bunch of extra time thinking about what would be the perfect experiment to do, instead of simply doing what we thought was interesting – what got us to this point in the first place.

As a result, our work begins to suffer. Dealing with the added pressure is no fun, and it even snuffs out the flame of passion we had for our craft. With the flame blown out, we pack up and leave our laboratory, unwilling to return.

The above situation illustrates what happens when we are recognized for the work we do. It’s nice, for sure, but there’s also an added responsibility. We don’t want to disappoint those who love our work, so we start trying to craft our work for them, instead of just doing what moves us first. Inevitably, the work doesn’t have quite the same resonance that it had when it came purely from our desires, so the audience goes away. On the other end, the added pressure reduces our own joy for the craft, which can cause us to leave as well.

It’s important to remember why you began your journey in the first place. That initial contact with the craft created a spark within you. This happens with everyone, and is why we work long-term towards our goals. Remember that initial interaction with the craft, and remember that you got known by following what you loved to do.

Whether or not something becomes successful, if you don’t enjoy what you do, your longevity in a craft will be limited. Therefore, it’s important to work in your personal laboratory as if no one else is watching. Be guided by what you enjoy, and you’ll stay in your craft for life.