Take a second and watch this video. It’s of guitarist Taylor Goldsmith, from the band Dawes, debuting a new song for listeners. And before he starts, he mentions this:
“I’m going to do another new one, and this one I’ve never done before for anybody, so it makes me a little bit nervous. But if it’s no good, make sure to be honest with me, because I need to know how it is.”
If you listen to the song, “A Little Bit Of Everything”, you can understand why he’d be nervous about the new material. The song opens with a verse about a man contemplating suicide — not exactly the material that fans of an indie band like Dawes might expect.
So in this moment, Goldsmith isn’t just playing a song for fans — he’s focus group testing new material. He’s trying to figure out if there’s enough lightness in this song to make it work. And by asking fans to give him feedback, he’s giving the audience permission to react to the material — and readying himself to listen.
This is the thing about making stuff: Making it is only part of the job. You have to be willing to listen to your audience, your readers, or your fans once you put the work out into the world. You have to be willing to pay attention to what they’re saying, and adjust to what they’re telling you.
It’s not always easy to hear what they have to say. Comments can be harsh; surveys can be unkind. But if you’re serious about getting better at your work, you need to listen. If you ask them, you’ll find that your audience has something it wants to tell you.
You know enough to start. You don’t have to know everything — in fact, it’s probably a good thing that you don’t. If you knew everything that was coming your way, you might convince yourself that the obstacles ahead were too great. You might decide that what you’re doing is too big, too ambitious, too crazy. Don’t talk yourself out of this. You know what you know, and that’s enough.
You have enough to start. You have good people alongside you. You have good ideas. You have enough resources — not everything you want, but enough. You have enough to do the work you need to do.
You’re good to enough to start. You have the work ethic. You have the right skills. Those will get even better over time — but right now, you’re more than good enough to start.
If you had passion for what you did, the ability to hustle and ramp up your work rate, the right skills for the job, enough time, and an awesome team behind you, then you could make great work happen.
But great work does not always lead to great success.
If you want that, you need to follow another formula, and this one’s even simpler:
Success = Work + Luck
The output of all your work — your teamwork, your talent, your hustle — doesn’t fully determine success. You can work unbelievably hard on an amazing thing with great people and still fail.
No matter what you’re working on, you also need to be lucky.
Luck can be a combination of things: It can mean a chance encounter or introduction that leads to a breakthrough. It can mean getting the timing right: Working on the right project at a time when your industry is growing, when the tools you need to do your work are readily available, or when your audience/customers are ready for your work. It can mean taking a big risk that pays off. It can even mean making a small decision that accidentally saves you from disaster, like picking the wrong vendor for a piece of software you need.
You still have to put in the work. But to be successful, you’ve got to get a little bit lucky, too.