I want to do this because I want to do this
I’m reading the Valley of Genius, a fantastic book by Adam Fisher on the history of Silicon Valley, computing & technology. It follows the birth of the computer, from the legendary demonstration by Douglas Englebart to XEROX PARC, Apple, Microsoft, Netscape & finally to the consumer internet we see today. While I haven’t gotten too far along, there was something that I read about the success of Silicon Valley that could serve as a reasonable reminder to all of us.
Why do we create? Why do we choose to build things instead of defaulting to the status quo? Why would you want to do something “new”? There could be multiple reasons why, but, I suspect, because most of all, we can’t help it. It’s a fundamental part of the human experience.
The second order motivation behind why we’re creating, maybe reflective of our core values is what seeps into the work without us knowing it, having a disproportional effect on the outcome.
Broadly, there are 3 main values while creating something (these are more so from the Valley & a broader tech perspective, but can be appropriated to any form of creation)
- Financial Values, where the main thing is to make a bunch of money
- Technical Values, where the main thing is to do things in the “right way” & it’s really a technical way of looking at things & creating to advance the field and make things perform better
- Artistic Values, where the main thing is to create something completely new & contribute to art
While none of the values or motivations are better than the others, I find the third to be the most compelling. You create things because you can’t help it, because you want to create something new & drive change. It’s an integral part of the human experience.
Just like when you were growing up & used the following term extensively:
I want to do this because I want to do this.
When you’re creating from the third set of values, the decision is not rational, but a lot more emotional. It’s an emotional reaction to the feeling of being connected to the world in a different way & acting on it to create something because you just can’t help it.
When you look at true innovation & things that have fundamentally changed the way we operate, more often than not, it was driven by someone who just wanted to do things because they wanted to do them. This is evident across disciplines and can be seen most prominently in the tech world, where people who could be working 6 figure jobs at the best companies in the world are sharing an apartment, not making any money & building things because well, they can’t help themselves.
A large portion of them might fail, and thats okay. But the alternative would be that they never created & buried that minuscule chance of changing the world.
Which frankly, would be worse.