The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.
All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.
Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
Advance congratulations to Jennifer. This is amazing.
I have worked on so many projects in so many jobs that I lost track long ago. But it's always been the same: Get it done, good enough, on time! At first, I was always frustrated that I wasn't delivering product up to my own standards. But a funny thing happens when you do that hundreds (or thousands) of times: You get so good from sheer repetition that "good enough" morphs into "pretty damn good".
Don't be afraid to take what appears to be a boring, repetitious, or demeaning job. You never know what you might become.
Thanks for the great story, Derek!
And thanks for the great post and project, Jennifer. You inspire me.
Otherwise practice makes permanent in many cases. Just hope you're doing whatever it is right.
But then perfect is the enemy of good, which for anyone doing software should remember.
Until a customer or someone important actually cares about that 2px off CSS, that refactor you want to do, or your caching/performance numbers, just don't do it. Wait till someone asks and then get after it.
I love how OP put her work out there to prove her wide array of skills, or more important, her ability to learn random skills. Who else has put out 180 sites for public review?
And that's a great project, Jennifer.
Perfect practice makes perfect!
However, on the internet, there is a worship of "hard work" that strikes me as emotional more than real.
Hard work is 1/2 of the equation.
The other part is your wiring: intelligence, skill, etc.
Not everyone can do everything.
We can dumb down any task to the point where anyone can do it... but at that point, it's a bubble waiting to pop.
Is the equation 'success in life as measured against everyone else,' or is the equation 'success in life as measure against yourself'? If the question is the latter--which is the only question a person should care about--then hard work is very close to 100%. This isn't an emotional claim, it's a rational and evidence based claim.
The reason that there is a rightful reverence to hard work is because working hard is the variable we can change. Not only that, it's guaranteed to produce results. If you intentionally build 180 web sites in 180 days, you will get better. You may not get better than someone more intelligent, but you can't be that person, you can only be who you are.
Not everyone can be everything, but anyone who does nothing will be nothing.
I'd say the full equation is to find a worthwhile goal to work hard on. While learning, the 'How to build 180 websites' goal works fine.
Hard work is fruitful only when applied in the right direction. Work 16 hrs/day in a large corporate and all you will get is some middle manager taking credit for all your work, grabbing all the milk and honey for himself and throwing some peanuts at you along the way.
If you are good, find a lofty goal, which is in your best interest and work on that.
'Success in life as a measure against yourself' is only a part of the consideration, though. Another part is 'Should I be doing this?'
You allude to this in your discussion but don't come out and say it, which is why 'success [sans the "in life" bit] as measured against everyone else' is an important question as well.
After n units of hard work, how much closer will I get to that someone more intelligent than I? Close enough to be competitive, or simply closer to my potential? Is my optimum potential competitive against my peers? If the effort is to be more than a hobby, the answer to that question (borne from the first of your two potential equations) is the key to deciding if the hard work is a variable we _should_ change.
In the case of that first equation/gate check, might wisdom and intelligence be the weightier reagent?
Absolutely. I intentionally alluded to this but didn't enter into that discussion because I didn't want to draw from the point I was making, but it's just as valuable of a discussion to have.
> "Is my optimum potential competitive against my peers?"
I would say that your peers could only reasonably be defined as those people who have the same upper-bound of potential (optimum potential) as you. I'm not in the same optimum potential league as John Resig; both because I haven't worked as hard as he has up to this point (focused in the right areas) and because I don't have the same optimum potential (I would imagine). He and I are not peers in this sense, despite being peers across many other areas.
But if I interpreted the question of my success in terms of my self or my peers through the filter of that fact, I would do myself a great disservice. I can't live the life where he and I are peers and I can make changes in my life to compete with him. I can live in the life where I can make changes in my life that will affect my success compared to people in the same optimum potential as I am.
Besides that, despite the differences in optimum potential, I may still be able to reach the level he is at now after, say, twice as much work. In other words, his level is not unobtainable for me, I just have a lot further to run in the race.
And I, for one, welcome that challenge. Anyway, great point, thanks for making it!
Doesn't that seem kinda sad to imagine?
Maybe that's another variable people can change: If they can identify the similarities amongst what they enjoy doing, then they can form more abstract goals that can be satisfied by multiple approaches. If they've done that, then the ability to recognise their relative strengths and weaknesses becomes more important again.
I can't agree here. Success is measured in terms of what you accomplish, and that's not solely a personal measurement. Life is not subjective.
Then again, success isn't entirely external either.
However, I can't agree with the notion that "hard work" (a conveniently vague term) is 100% of anything. If it is, that means the work is robot-work.
More likely, it's a lot of careful thought, applied by the amount of work required to make the idea come into reality, and then the missing "fourth wall" of creation, which is: is it actually useful?
I took both as opportunities to find a meditative cadence to the work. I actually really enjoyed the rhythm of taking plots of large 30x42 inch drawings, marrying them with a blueprint sheet and sending it through the machine. The room was rather small - so you had to pickup a sheet, flip it over, rotate it, stack them, rotate the pair and feed it to the machine. It became a beautiful meditation in movement and was really enjoyable.
With details - I had to draw so many and build so many of the same sheets - I became exceedingly proficient and soon was an exceptionally fast cad drafter...
There is a lot one can learn through mass repetition especially if you do so with the right frame of mind - and not lament the task.
I spent many a summer day matching blue paper against printed sheets and the occasional Mylar! I found the same
zone you're talking about.
Except ... did you ever get a paper cut and then reach over the ammonia fumes coming out the back? :-P
Only down side is they kept flooding the basement having tide marks on you computer rooms walls is not ideal :-)
Another nice thing about a repetitive task is that it is perfectly predictable. You know exactly how long you should take because you've done it before and can expect very few surprises.
Much unlike any sort of difficult debugging or implementation which can be unpredictable, although enjoyable.
I find this story very suspicious.
Even theorists like to apply their work and prototype.
It sounds more like they were scared into inaction by the grade-weight, which is something I've seen in classes where one test determines the grade for the whole semester.
I would love some deeper insight into this, do you have any sources? Thanks.
However, having gone through a number of competitive schools at different levels of education... the smartest kids were not always at the head of the class. There were also people of moderate to high intelligence who suffered huge test-taking anxiety, which got worse when you had a situation where one test or one project determined the semester's grade.
It's kind of like your first driver's test to get your license at sixteen. Sometimes the stress was so much that people fainted while waiting in line.
Of course, this is a tiny sample size and there are all kinds of biases, so take it as it is -- a personal anecdote.
First, I went to a type of magnet school, so it was more difficult and required more initiative than most colleges.
The top tier of students were probably about 50-50 intelligence and labor, but it wasn't "hard" work per se so much as diligence. Leave no stone unturned and spend a lot of time on repetition.
On the other hand, I did know a number of highly intelligent people who were at the bottom of the class. The phrase "not engaged" comes to mind. These are 50-50 hackers and liberal arts academes at this point.
Is your disclaimer licensed under the GPL? The same disclaimer applies to my narrative here.
"Hey, that doesn't match my experience." -> "Sources. Now."
Most of us are works in progress, doing the best we can, iterating and making mistakes all the way through, but gradually and incrementally improving. This need to be perfect all the time is a neurosis that our society needs to lose because it results in us being perfect never.
One thing I would like to point out, however, is that there exists a difference between the set of websites that can be built in a day and the set of websites which cannot. For example, websites which require back-end technologies generally fall into the latter category. The skills learned in perfecting the former are somewhat different than the skills necessary for the latter. I would encourage Jennifer to take some time after this and explore the second category to further her abilities.
The funny thing is you already knows unbelievable amount of backend code for a beginner. (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6099489)
Absolutely nothing she's said has given the impression she is trying to mislead.
"The greats weren't great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great cause they paint a lot."
If I were in the "quantity" group, I would have just made one god-awful lump of clay object weighing 100lbs, then found other more interesting things to do for the rest of the class.
If the only object or the judgment criteria
of the quantity way is quantity, and without any deliberate practice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Practice_(learning_method)#Deli...) why the students finally not just only develop a way to produce high quantity product?
It's not the same way MacCready solve Henry Kremer's problem (http://www.azarask.in/blog/post/the-wrong-problem/), although looks similar.
However. The typewriter factory output and productivity in the soviet union was also measured solely by weight. This did not fare so well. :-)
Thankfully this ceramics teacher didn't run an entire industry of a global superpower :-)
BTW, I read the same ceramics story in "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield (which I note came out a year later). Good book.
(And that made-up anecdotes will take you pretty far.)
It also reminds me of Johnathan Coulton's breakout period - his Thing A Week project: http://www.jonathancoulton.com/category/thing-a-week/
Incidentally, this technique works. If you want to learn a creative skill, I'd argue it's about the best way to do it.
As for code, the best code is that which generates value (either for the creator in terms of learning or for the creator's customers). If the code doesn't generate value, then you might as well be writing FizzBuzz implementations all day.
I totally agree to this one.
It's a vicious cycle.
This was my problem all growing up. I did well on the first exam, then fizzled out every exam after. I wouldn't study out of fear that I wouldn't do as well again.
Anyway, I'll check out the book thanks again!
Kindle notes and highlights
3 part youtube video
After receiving your 20th "I forgot my password" email, you're sure to build that reset-password feature.
I've forced myself to forgo almost all my mail filters and "consume" the raw stream of notification e-mails (thousands a day) and start each day with picking a few of the noisiest ones and addressing the root causes (and where possible doing so in a way that can be applied more broadly), but it's oh so tempting to just waste time on the superficial symptoms that are easy and quick to deal with individually, but will eat all my time if I let them.