If you read the obituaries of successful creators,
you’ll notice an interesting pattern in the way friends and family members
describe their legacy.
One obituary I read was about a woman named Hong, who had
authored more than thirty books, many of which were bestsellers. When she
reflected on the arc of her career, she said that the whole body of work just
felt like one long book.
One obituary I read was about a man named John, an award
winning abstract painter, whose tapestries appeared in both private and
corporate collections around the world, and whose tribute said his body of work was one long
hymn of spiritual affirmation.
One obituary I read
was about a man named Tagore, a social reformer, singer, painter, and international
spokesperson, whose life’s work was thought to be one long prayer for human
dignity, world peace, and the cultural understanding.
For prolific creators, there is no finish line. Our body of
work is the sum total of everything we create and contribute and affect and
We’re done when we’re dead.
I’m reminded of a memorable scene
in one of my favorite movies, The Social
Network, which portrays the founders of Facebook, their struggle as a tech
startup the resulting lawsuits. In a heated argument about the future of their
revolutionary website, Zuckerberg says to his partner:
“We don’t even know
what it is yet. We don’t know what it is, we don’t know what it can be, we
don’t know what it will be. All we know that it’s cool, and that’s a priceless
asset I’m not giving it up. When will it be finished? It won’t be finished,
that’s the point. The way fashion’s never finished. I’m talking about the idea
of it, and I’m saying it’s never finished.”
Mark removed the construct of finishing from his creative
process. The specter of completion never stifled him from starting. And that
allowed him to become not only a prolific software designer and entrepreneur, but
also one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the world.
And so, once we come to that realization, we’ll never create
the same way again. By removing that sword of obligation from hanging over our
heads, we relieve the pressure of perfection and accomplishment. And we learn
to trust the process of creating, not just
what the creating produces, so we can blow the ceiling off anything
resembling a limitation.
You’re never finished.
So why not start?