Good Life

Are You a Serial Hobbyist?

April 21, 2012

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“ideas are important. Creators need an immediate connection to what they create. […] You need to see effect immediately. […] So much of creation is discovery and you can’t discover anything if you can’t see what you’re doing.” –Bret Victor

As I mentioned in last week’s Weekly Love, I recently watched Bret Victor‘s Inventing on Principle talk. It’s 54 minutes — but worth it. I wrote down a bunch of stuff while watching. Often times my take away from watching something is “that’s brilliant.” Why? “Because I thought it was brilliant. Watch it.” So marinate your brain on some of these quotes (some are a little out of context if you haven’t watched the video).

Ideas: Inventing on Principle

  • It’s important to the creative process — being able to try ideas as you think of them.
  • Ideas start small. Ideas need an environment where the creator can nurture them.
  • “Why do we have these squiggly symbols in the first place?”
  • I think about the millions of pieces that are locked in millions of heads — all kinds of ideas.
  • Why, what’s the motivation? I don’t think of an opportunity for a product. I’m not excited by problem solving or the joy of making things. Ideas are precious to me, when I see an idea die it hurts, I feel it’s morally wrong. I have a responsibility to ideas.
  • Fight by inventing.
  • Larry Tesler had a reaction to a problem in a cultural context. The problem only existed in his own head. He recognized a wrong that had been unacknowledged in the culture. The same motivation as Elizabeth Cady Stanton with gender discrimination in voting.
  • Some dedicate their lives to fighting for a particular idea with a very clear sense of right and wrong, often really fighting against a mainstream that didn’t recognize their wrong as ‘wrong’.  Like a principle/vision/goal: “Software must be free” etc Do you have a principle?
  • The world will make you define yourself by a skill. “You are a software engineer” The path of a craftsman is pursuing excellence and practicing a skill. The only path you hear about much is the problem solver. He didn’t define himself by his craft, but by his cause.
  • It can take time to find a principle -it’s essentially a form of self discovery. I would get little glimmers of what mattered to me, but no big picture. What I had to do was just do a lot of things, make many things, make many types of things, study many things, experience many many things and use all these experiences as a way of analyzing myself. ‘Does this resonate with me? Does this repel me? Do I not care? Why? What’s the secret ingredient that I react to so strongly?’
  • Confining yourself to practicing a single skill can make it difficult to get that broad range of experience that seems to be valuable for this kind of work…
  • Everyone wants to make things simple. Too vague to be directly actionable. Tesler: “No person should be trapped in a mode.” I believe creators need powerful tools. That’s nice, but… >> Creators need an immediate creation.
  • There are many ways to live your life. Every aspect of your life is a choice. […] You can choose to accept the world as it is, but you don’t have to.
  • What matters to you? What do you believe in? What might you fight for?

Are you a Serial Hobbyist?

While different things motivate me (eg. problem solving, the joy of making things, and ideas all motivate me at different points), what really resonated with me was the love of ideas and experiencing many different things.

I’m not one of those people who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up (well actually, I wanted to be a cat lady or a teacher). I still don’t. I’m a dabbler. A Jill-of-all-trades. A Swiss Army knife of {insert my job title}. A tinker-er. A serial hobbyist. An explorer of sorts. Owner of random domain names. Sometimes I’m tempted to start a new blog or Tumblr everytime I uncover another interest. Sometimes I worry that I’m 30 and I’ve been too much of a scattered experiencer thus far, but that’s often what excites me — new ideas, improving things, figuring things out. It’s kept me working for small companies, where job descriptions overlap, and you can pretty much decide what you want to do more of, instead of being relegated to a specific task in a chain of bureaucracy (oh hush, I know there are good bits of working for a behemoth too). And with that, I will leave you to watching the video. Enjoy!

What matters to you?

PS. I also enjoyed taking a look at what he worked on at Apple, in his “portfolio” section of his site. Very clever.