When I was seventeen, I only cared about devouring 1950s science fiction books, strumming an old, out-of-tune guitar, and tinkering with computers. I hadn’t envisioned my great plan for life yet. Three decades later, I still haven’t. Life isn’t that simple.
Like most youngsters, I didn’t know better and just went with the flow, so I applied to a university (this was in Peru, where there’s no distinction between colleges and universities) to pursue a traditional education.
You may have gone through the same, or are about to, and in most cases it’s your safest bet: When you go to college, a university, or a trade school you expect to be told what to do and how to do it. If you care to ask, they might even explain why.
Institutions are supposed to give you structure and a set of rules to follow; provide you with the knowledge and skills to become a productive member of society (whatever that means); and hand you a diploma to demonstrate that you are equipped for the wild world.
That’s exactly what I was hoping for in the early days of September, 1990. Go ahead, you can chuckle now.
There’s a scene in Kill Bill: Volume 2 in which Budd’s boss says to a young, lady employee, “take a hit, be somebody, baby.” I love that scene.
Many a doubtful souls among us may find the idea of being somebody, whatever that means, enticing, so I’d like to start with the obvious public service announcement: a line of cocaine isn’t the way to go. That’s just Tarantino messing with the weaklings.
So which way then? Why, of course, be the best at whatever you do, right? That’s a fair assumption—be the smartest and be the fastest, because only by being perfect and creating perfection you’ll guarantee success. Right again, aren’t I? (And I expect you to be high-fiving the screen by now.)
The end? See you in the next article?
Hold it there.
I have my doubts about this perfection business; in fact, I…admire imperfection.
I’m not going to get into the topic of success today—I’ll get back to it in future pieces—but I’d like to talk about the relationship between perfection and the road to expertise. And to help me illustrate my point, ladies and gentlemen, the Beatles.
Let me tell you how I did this website thing in the old days—that’s the mid-1990s, kids.
I cooked a bunch of HTML files, with plenty of hard-coded URLs sprinkled in, and seasoned the mix with a bloated style sheet; launched an FTP client, preferably one with buttons to click on; and then uploaded my beautiful goop to a directory on a web server—that was all I needed and could afford.
Then the web hosting company performed some black magic rituals and the universe—OK, just me—marveled at my creation.
You can still play that game, that is, if your name is Timmy and the website belongs to your cat, Lassie, but if you intend to run a website where other adults do, you know, important stuff, as loyal Tank would say: “Timmy, that is loco.”