Addition over Invention
3 min read

I love creating a first draft. There is an irresistible, magical feeling that comes with making something for the first time…so much potential and possibility…

Maybe this thing is what creates my luck and really takes off!

And of course, there are major benefits to going from 0 to 1. Making something from nothing is a necessary part of the process of any successful project.

But you can get too focused on first drafts.

For years, I organized events called Startup Weekend. The idea was that over a 54-hour period, teams would create a startup company from scratch.

It was so exciting! There was so much energy, and so many great ideas came out of each and every event.

But there’s a limit to what you can accomplish in 54 hours. And even though some notable companies came out of Startup Weekend (including Zapier and Beardbrand) those companies are notable because they kept building.

The most impressive demos at the end of a Startup Weekend were barely functioning, minimal prototypes. It was impressive for the period of time that it was built it, but the market doesn’t care about that.

The market cares how useful something is to THEM.

The market is unforgiving.

The market has high expectations.

To meet the market’s expectations requires more time and effort than can be produced in a few days or with a first draft.

The most valuable companies in the world were built over thousands of people-hours all contributing to the SAME idea and the SAME goal. It’s difficult to build a better alternative to Amazon because it would take so much time and so many resources to catch up.

The amount of time dedicated to improving one idea towards one goal is what makes it valuable. That dedication, that cumulative effort, is what produces something that REALLY stands out in the market.

That’s what the market wants.

The same is true for your creative work. What will make your work really stand out as different and valuable is the level of effort and time invested into that project. It takes serious time and resources to make something that stands out!

Sure, there are examples of creative projects that were built in a short amount of time that get a lot of attention. But even those projects were a result of the time spent learning a problem, industry, or method behind the scenes. That short burst of creative energy was birthed from months or years spent creating the ingredients necessary for that creative stew.

And yes, there are exceptional projects that really WERE lightning in a bottle.

But those are the exception, not the rule. And those lightning-in-a-bottle moments are difficult to predict or set yourself up to experience.

The more predictable, intentional path is a path of addition over invention.

Your creative platform is something you’re always adding to. Your body of work, while some pieces may seem disparate, should build upon itself.

This is what it takes to be remarkable. Instead of creating a new structure from scratch, what if you added a brick to your existing structure? Or you sculpted that existing structure?

The next time you’re tempted to follow your next shiny idea, ask yourself: Is this addition or invention?

Be honest with yourself. If it’s invention, is this the starting point for something you will commit to and dedicate more time to building upon?

If not, it may not move you forward towards. It may be taking you further away from your dreams.