"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it.
I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."
-Henry David Thoreau
Several weeks ago I, along with several of my teammates at Fat Atom, was given a book. The book in question, titled "Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)," is written by the godfather of our industry, George Lois. For those of you that aren't familiar, he has been appointed the "Original Madman," a term he takes time to analyze and criticize in this book.
The book's title aptly describes exactly what you get. "Damn Good Advice" is packed with 120 pieces of wisdom, thought provoking stories and in many cases the madness (and narcissism) of an impassioned creative. I've taken many of these examples to heart and have even gone so far as to create a system of bookmarks by topic for the little white book.
There are many of these pieces of knowledge that come in to play during my day to day work with a team of extremely creative and brilliant people, but there is one variation on a famous Thomas Edison quote that I frequently return to and think on.
We'll begin with the thought in question. Here's George Lois...
"To create great work, here's how you must spend your time:
- 1% Inspiration
- 9% Perspiration
- 90% Justification
I don't care how talented you are. If you're the kind of creative person who gets your best work produced - justifying and selling your work (to those around you, to your boss, to your client, to lawyers, to TV copy clearance, etc.) is what separates the sometimes good creative thinker from the consistently great one."
Finding deeper meaning
While straightforward enough on the surface, to read only skin deep into this example is to do it injustice (woeful pun unintended). Many hear the word "justify" and expect it come with extreme scrutiny and potential criticism. However, the word itself is defined as follows:
- Show or prove to be right or reasonable.
- Be a good reason for.
The reasonable proof of your work is ultimately the foundation it stands on. Even a brilliant design, story, painting, song or other creative endeavor can easily be picked apart without proof of its genius to back it up. In the case of art, for instance, often the most highly praised pieces are not those that are masterfully painted or sculpted, but rather the ones that have a damn good story or concept to go with them.
that's all well and good, but why do i need this in the real world?
By justifying what you do and why you do it you achieve three major benefits.
First, you are given a chance to make sure your work is the best it can be before showing it to those it needs to impress.
Second, you then get to show others that your work is the best it can be.
Third, when accomplished correctly, others can justify your work for you once they are convinced of its quality.
It serves as a foundation that shapes you not only to look better, but to legitimately be better.