How do we judge early ideas?

How we think about our early ideas matters.

One of the biggest things holding people back from doing great work is the fear of making something lame. And this fear is not an irrational one. Many great projects go through a stage early on where they don’t seem very impressive, even to their creators. You have to push through this stage to reach the great work that lies beyond. But many people don’t. Most people don’t even reach the stage of making something they’re embarrassed by, let alone continue past it. They’re too frightened even to start.

Imagine if we could turn off the fear of making something lame.

Imagine how much more we’d do.

Is there any hope of turning it off? I think so. I think the habits at work here are not very deeply rooted.

Making new things is itself a new thing for us as a species. It has always happened, but till the last few centuries it happened so slowly as to be invisible to individual humans. And since we didn’t need customs for dealing with new ideas, we didn’t develop any.

We just don’t have enough experience with early versions of ambitious projects to know how to respond to them. We judge them as we would judge more finished work, or less ambitious projects. We don’t realize they’re a special case.

Early Work Essay, Paul Graham


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