What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Dear Everybody,

The output of a creative process …

… is the input to a machine.

Last week I reminded myself to focus on the machine and not the product. This week I’m reminding myself to forget the product entirely.

A creative machine has no memory; it doesn’t care what happened in the past. It simply makes outputs faster than it depletes inputs.

My college track coach, Al Cantello, put it this way:

I have to go with my horses. You have to prove it to me. What have you done for me lately? Hand your grandkid a ticket stub to the game and he’ll say, “no shit, gram-pops, who played in the game?”

“You have a natural cadence,” coach Al said, “the cadence you can run indefinitely.”

If you run any faster, you can’t sustain it. If you run any slower, you can’t sustain it. The idea is to raise your fitness level so your natural cadence gets faster.

After a while people expect it. You have to live up to yourself. What am I talking about? You can be a spectator the rest of your life. Running is the curse that saves you from being a spectator.

No one cares about the last thing or the thing before that. The main thing is the next thing.

The machine is the thing that makes the next thing — and the thing that makes the machine is you. You’re free to move one from one stage to the next.

I used to think about standalone products — finished pieces. But it’s not about one race, it’s about raising my fitness level so my natural cadence gets faster … focusing on the machine instead of the product. Making raw materials into refined materials, and making refined materials into premium materials. Leaving what’s in the past in the past.

When I revived the Everybody Letter, I knew it would take a year to accumulate dozens of letters. I looked in the past and said, “I wish I would have started a year ago.”

I thought about the box as a product. Now I don’t think about the product, I just do the things that would result in the product. I shift the box to the right and get to the first blue line.

For the people who ran the U.S. Olympic trials marathon this weekend, the race wasn’t the product. The product was years of consistent, excellent work. It was their answer to the question, “What have you done for me lately?”


Today I Learned (TIL)

Writing, by extension, is a process of knowing ... so others may know again.

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