Overflow: unlimited

This morning, I read a tweet by Dave Rupert that made me smile:

I had to smile because it’s exactly the same with my son. He is seven now and has been producing drawings since he was able to hold a pen. He can sit for hours in his room and draw dragons, knights, pirates, robots, superheroes, machines, factories, or also computer games. He produces new pieces faster than we can sort them out so we decided to buy a huge box for everything he spits out. This box is now overflowing regularly and so we need to still clear it out from time to time. Meanwhile, I am honestly impressed by how skilled, fast, and confident he has become. It’s amazing to watch and in a way, he is already better at drawing than me. Most certainly, he is so much more unafraid and less occupied with what is a right or wrong way to draw. He just does it. I have been thinking a lot about how this came to be. And I believe it comes down to this: not limiting him.

Of course, you also need to have a bit of talent and a general interest in drawing. But then again, which child doesn’t? But what happens to so many kids is that, beginning already in Kindergarten, they are constantly being evaluated and teachers and parents start to tell them how to draw correctly. “Is this supposed to be a tree? It doesn’t look like a tree at all! And why is it blue and purple? Let me show you how to draw a proper tree!” And after some time, kids get so occupied with drawing things “the right way”, that they forget how to doodle and invent and explore and play and dream. What they are also told, is not to waste precious paper with careless scribbles but instead to carefully consider what to draw. But while there is certainly a time and place for conceptual considerations, by giving such narrow-minded adult advice we are limiting the scope of what our kids could create before they even started. The idea that it is better to carefully craft one fine piece of art than to produce a wealth of seemingly flawed experiments is flat wrong.

Nobody will ever become as good a painter as Pablo Picasso by painting just a handful of paintings. The number of artworks Picasso created has been estimated at 50,000. Nobody will ever become as good a composer as Mozart by composing just a handful of pieces. Mozart composed more than 600 works until his early death at the age of 35. And nobody will ever become as good a blogger as Seth Godin by writing only a handful of posts. His blog has been appearing daily for more than a decade.

What I am trying to say is: Regardless of what it is – if you want to become really good at something, you will need to do it over and over and over again. And while you are practicing, you need to realize that there is no right or wrong and only if you fearlessly explore and try out things, you will reach a state of fluency. Also, get comfortable with producing a lot of stuff that might look like junk. It isn’t. It’s the most valuable output you could ever create. Because only by drawing a line a thousand times, you will finally own it.


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