Anyone who wants to become a great creator is up against The 10x Creator, a creator ten times, 50 times, or 100 times more productive than the average creator.
The concept of a 10x Engineer has been around for 50 years, and today a similar dynamic range of productivity applies to creators. Like 10x Engineers, 10x Creators are valuable and rare. They’re not just one standard deviation away from the mean, they’re extreme outliers — one in 2,000,000 — five standard deviations away from the mean.
10x Creators aren’t just marginally better than average creators at one skill, they’re decisively better at three — and the combination of these skills gives them massive, compounding, and unfair advantages.
First, great creators are better at shipping valuable products and content. They have more specific knowledge, and they’re better communicators, writers, and thinkers.
They refine what they’re creating and throw that output back into the process. This makes refining ideas more efficient: the more products they refine, the more products they combine, in a cycle. The end result is a series of premium products (the product of refined products).
Second, great creators are better at building systems. Here’s how Elon put it.
Competing for attention on the internet is not just a creative dilemma demanding content production, it’s also an engineering endeavor demanding technical execution.
In recent decades, technology has abstracted away so many problems that top creators now look a lot like engineers: pulling together dozens of systems, automating tasks, removing barriers to the act of creation, and performing orders of magnitude better than the average — without code. Here’s proof:
Creators winning attention do so systematically: they stack technologies to generate and capture demand; they delegate progressively more complex processing tasks to people and machines; they emancipate their minds from clerical tasks; and they create the potential to solve harder and harder problems.
Instead of working “in the system,” they’re working on it.
Third, top creators are better at leveraging the systems they build. Their creative systems are so efficient and their feedback loops are so tight that they can’t help but produce great work. And these compounding advantages don't even take into account the next logical progression: creators continuously collaborating and investing with each other.
Great creators have the same attitude as Lance Armstrong’s brain surgeon. After Lance was diagnosed with cancer that had spread to his brain, Lance interviewed the surgeon and said, “Why should you be the person who operates on my head?” The doctor responded, “Because as good as you are at cycling, I’m a lot better at brain surgery.”
As good as average creators are at shipping, great creators are a lot better at building and leveraging systems.
Each of these skills is meaningful in its own right, but it’s the combination of all three skills, acting together within one person or one small business, that has a magical effect on top creators, filling them with ideas, letting them focus, helping them connect, and sustaining their creative process as one opportunity collides with another.
For everyone in today’s economy, it’s helpful to recognize 10x Creators are playing a different game. Most average creators try to get better at the first skill (shipping valuable content). But the best content is rarely ten, 50, or 100 times better than average content. More often, it’s two or three times as good, so it’s hard to get 10x advantage from great content alone.
The way to get better as a creator isn’t to focus on one piece of content at a time. Paradoxically, it’s to take on something bigger — and in the process create content as a byproduct of working on that larger construction project. While shipping valuable products can get you 2-10x upside, building and leveraging systems can create unlimited upside.
Great creators take this a step further, knowing they need to push as far to the extreme in their art as possible.
To quote Naval Ravikant, “Being at the extreme in your art is very important in the age of leverage.” While top creators are already five standard deviations away from the mean, even small differences between them can create outsized returns.
In Naval’s words, “Just from being marginally better, like running a quarter mile a fraction of a second faster, some people get paid a lot more – orders of magnitude more. Leverage magnifies those differences even more.”
By combining three skills — and pushing them to the extreme — 10x Creators lock in the potential for runaway outcomes. If we want the same results, we have to do the same.
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