So according to Techcrunch, America is losing its infatuation with Silicon Valley.
I guess it was inevitable.
You see, I have a few famous friends. Not just internet-fame, but actual fame.
And they all have one thing in common: they all hate being famous.
As one of them so succinctly put it to me recently, “It just creates a lot of noise, both inside and outside. Makes it impossible to get any meaningful work done.”
To which I replied, yes, exactly. When anyone, or anywhere, or anything becomes “a thing”, it/they suddenly lose their magic.
I can think of lots of “things” that were new & amazing at one point, that aren’t so much nowadays.
Or if they are, they’ve gotten REALLY expensive and/or swamped with tourists and hangers-on, making it really hard for people with real lives and real needs to get anything truly valuable from the experience.
Star Wars sequels.
New York’s West Village.
New York’s East Village.
Tribeca’s Odeon bar.
And now yes, Silicon Valley as well, apparently.
So what happened to us, exactly?
It used to be hard to know what the next “thing” was.
Then the Internet came along, and made it much, much easier.
So now, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.
Our culture is Yogi-Berra’ing itself to death, taking your equally Yogi-Berra’d lifestyle down with it.
You thought your were blazing new trails. While the whole time all you were doing was waiting in line.
For brunch. In San Francisco.
So how’s it working for you…?
[More thoughts from my new book etc.]
PLUS CA CHANGE, PLUS C’EST LA MEME CHOSE
“The more things change, the more they say the same.”
Back when I worked in the advertising business, I spent about a third of the time working on the drawings, and about two thirds of the time working the day job.
Then after many years in the trenches, I managed to quit advertising and ended up being a full-time cartoonist.
Basically, I still spend about a third of the time on the drawings, and the other two thirds taking care of business i.e. working the day job.
So what does this prove?
Basically, that “The Sex & Cash Theory” is alive and well, that the *tense duality* of managing art and commerce is still going strong.
Yes, a lot has changed. But I’m still the same person, with the same flaws, using the same brain, doing my best to hustle.
And that will never change.
The big difference now is, I no longer expect it to.
Plus ca change…
IT’S NOT HOW MUCH, BUT HOW OFTEN.
Powerlifters (i.e. people who practice a certain kind of competitive weightlifting) have a term, “maxing out your gains”.
This means maxing out, i.e. reaching the maximum amount your body is able to lift physically.
When you first start out powerlifting, your gains will increase quickly- often the amount you’re able to lift increases by thirty, forty, even up to a hundred pounds a month.
But after a few months, the gains begin to plateau i.e. they begin to “max out”.
Instead of gaining ten pounds a week in your lifts, you’re lucky to be doing ten pounds a month, ten pounds every three months.
And an experienced powerlifter (say, somebody who’s been training hard regularly for over five years) is lucky to increase his lifts by four or five pounds a year, no matter how hard he trains. Because he has already reached the strength level that nature is ever going to allow his body to have.
“There’s a reason why trees don’t grow up to the sky,” as my friend, Doc Searls likes to say.
And what is true for powerlifting is also true for creativity.
You’re going to max out your gains, i.e. reach “peak creativity” pretty early on, often well before your thirtieth birthday. Picasso and Louis Armstrong reached their peak creativity in the 1930s, yet still stuck around, working away till the 1970s. My biggest breakthrough years were in the 1990s, in my late twenties and early throties; that’s when my cartooning skills got about as good as they were ever going to get. Everything since then has been just continuing to refine the process, not inventing the process from scratch every time.
Yes, it’s a very brief window.
Yet don’t despair when (not if) this happens to you. Though you might not be making any more quantum leaps in your work (whatever that means), the more you continue your practice, the more often you’ll be able to stay at your peak level.
This is what so impressive about top performers like say, the rock band U2. It’s not that “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is world’s greatest song (I certainly don’t think it is, they never were a favorite band of mine), it’s that they can get perform it at their highest level, in front of huge crowds, again and again, night after night, for years on end. And make it look easy.
Ditto with top basketball players or painters. Once you’ve reached your peak, the game changes from how much, to how often. That’s what “Mastery” actually means.
It may not be as sexy as the early breakthroughs, but it’s what allows you to exist and thrive over the long term.