Learning things the long, hard, stupid way

Some years ago Frank Chimero held a talk he called “Do things the long hard stupid way” that resonated with me quite well. I found throughout my life that whenever I want to create something truly great I have to take my time. Now it is painful to write that down because I feel I never actually have the time to express or articulate my thoughts in a formidable way—I can never spend two hours only focusing on one blog post. I have to write it quick, I have to prioritise—do I want to spend five hours over two months only to publish one blog post or do I rather wing it and put it out there? I prefer the latter because otherwise this blog is dead.

But coming back to my original argument, good things require serious time and effort. Whenever I see a great simplistic website or digital product, in general I am like I could do something like that but after a second thought I must realise that a ton of time went into crafting this particular object that looks so damn appealing to me. There’s probably a quote somewhere that proofs my point, like something clever by Dieter Rahms or Steve Jobs or the like.

What also falls into that category is baking sourdough bread which apparently is a thing among designers now so I’ve learned. Well I bake bread for one and a half years now and I still wouldn’t consider my results to be perfect. There’s still loads of room for improvement. Baking good bread takes time, acquiring the techniques how to stretch and fold your dough or using the rhubarb method and so on needs practice. You simply cannot nail it the first time you do it. That’s a bummer but if you kinda turn that energy into a challenge it is very rewarding once you notice better results.

Good design needs time and practice. Cooking and baking as well. Learning a language and being able to even absorb the fine nuances a sentence can express for maximum effect is nothing that you can learn within a year of practice, well besides if you’re a natural, then fair play to you. I think it was Mozart who said to achieve excellency in what you do you need at least 10.000 hours of practice. You see Mozart might have been talented but he also started quite early and that’s why he composed great pieces at a very young age.

Don’t let yourself down because you need a little longer to perfect that skill you want to acquire. Don’t give yourself a hard time because of that. Just keep doing it and it will get better with every time you practice. And because you do things the long, hard, stupid way you’ll be an expert in the long run and you learned some lessons along the way because of the stupid detours you took.