Creating in a Vacuum

Every person needs heroes in their field. Young basketball players think of Michael Jordan (or, as Curtis—who’s very wonderful—tells me, perhaps LeBron James). Painters remember Monet and Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Cooks perhaps think of [insert famous chef name here, as I’m not a budding culinary specialist, I don’t know any . . . ], ballerinas have role models, even businessmen look up to those who have been successful before them.

Most of us would probably agree that iron sharpens iron, and that two are better than one—but why? What’s so special about working with like-minded people or studying someone who’s been successful in the past?

Because it’s nearly impossible to create in a vacuum.

Imagine yourself as a sweaty farmhand (or, if you are a sweaty farmhand, just imagine yourself as yourself). One day, your foreman brings you to a new plot of land the farm has just purchased and tells you to build a fence. He walks you along the fence line, shows you where he’s marked the corners, and wishes you good luck.

Then, he leaves. You begin to plan, but suddenly everything crashes to a halt. You have no wood. No money. No way to contact him. No pickup truck to drive over to the main farm. All you have is your lunch pail and a shovel that you happened to bring along.

Seems like you’re going to have a pretty tough time building the fence.

Creating (or doing business, or a sport, or anything, really) is just like that. If you don’t have the tools and supplies to make something, it’s pretty tough to make it.

And if you can’t observe someone correctly using a technique, it’s pretty hard to get the technique right yourself. That’s why we send children to school, and engineers to the Colorado School of Mines (BEFORE we let them build bridges and buildings and stuff like that).

That’s why it’s so important to constantly be practicing, researching, learning. It’s why athletes spend hours a day in the gym with trainers, and why musicians practice from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with instructors, and why writers should always be reading the old classics and the new ones.

If you’re always practicing and learning, you’ll find it easier to perform and speak. If you’re trying to create in a vacuum, you’ll find it hard to come up with anything to say.

*Related only in my mind: Curtis and I are in the middle of a big purchase, and it includes ELEVEN (yes, 11) vacuums.