Friday, January 8, 2010

Ok work hard, but work on the right thing!

I came upon a link shared by a Facebook buddy, about why working hard is overrated. Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr, argues that working hard is not really the magic thing that leads to great inventions or successful outcomes. She says working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard. She continues:
Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen. But you can save yourself a lot of time by working on the right thing. Working hard, even, if that's what you like to do.
But just how do we know we're working on the right thing? In her followup post, Caterina says the only way to gauge that is instinct, gut feel, or the spine-tingling sensation you feel when you encounter a great work of literature, as Nabokov (of Lolita fame) says. Getting the right thing generally requires exploring lots of ideas, fleshing out a few, ruminating on them, and throwing almost all of them out. She quotes Steve Jobs, "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the many things we haven't done as the things we have done."

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