Grant isn’t his real name, but that’s what I’m going to call him, and he was one of the smartest clients I ever had. That’s saying a lot, because my clients are really smart people. Grant and I did a lot of work together.
Grant is a powerful original thinker. Of all the people I’ve worked with in my life, Grant is the one who asks the best questions, who’s likely to connect the dots before anyone else, and who’s likely to come up with a unique perspective on a challenge. If I used his real name, you’d recognize him from references that other people have made to him and his work.
We did lots of work. Over a few years, we wrote a book to explain some of Grant’s concepts. We wrote more than 50 articles and blog posts. We also wrote a couple of case studies and started a book about Grant’s interesting life and the way his thinking developed. Except for one blog post, not a word of it has been published.
The Curse of Better
Maybe Grant was too smart. The reason that nothing ever got published is that every time he looked at the material we’d worked on, he had some new idea he wanted to try. Sometimes, he wanted a friend or subject matter expert to review the piece. So, we changed the piece based on the expert review, but then Grant would have another idea.
You’ve heard about the great being the enemy of the good, but that makes it seem like it happens all at once. My experience with Grant is that it doesn’t. It happens in a multitude of decisions to make things just a little better or add just one more idea, but if you do that, then you can be the person with the great ideas that nobody knows about or gives you credit for.
Steve Jobs Had It Right
Jobs was known for reminding people he worked with at Apple that, “Great artists ship.” That’s a short, powerful way of conveying an important truth. No book, blog post, or article that you never publish will do you any good.
Yes, you can almost always make things better, but better in your head rarely does as much good for you or for others as something that’s out in the world.
Take your ideas, and your insights, and the helpful thoughts your clients love and refine them as you write a great book. Then publish it. You can always make anything you write better, just don’t make that an unbroken chain of unpublished improvement. Great artists ship.