Could you do genius quality work?
I know the word genius gets thrown around pretty casually these days, I certainly throw it around pretty casually. But honestly, I don't think it's very hard to do genius-quality work, if you decide to try. Most people don't try. But if you did try, I think you could do some.
What's genius quality work? Hard to define. Let's try, though. "Something that makes a large, permanent impact on an important field." That's not quite right, but it's close enough for now.
Here's the interesting point, here's why I wrote this post: I reject the notion of a person who is a "genius" - you're either doing genius quality work or you aren't. Regular, normal people (you, me) who keep trying to make large, permanent impacts on important fields are likely to do so at some point, and that's genius-quality work. Yes, most people won't try. But if they did try, they'd probably get around to doing some genius quality work sooner or later.
Now, there's a whole other level - timeless quality work. That, I'm not so sure we can just do that. That's the kind of work made by da Vinci and Socrates and Tsai Lun and Confucius. That's Special Relativity and the Parthenon and things like that. Timeless work, I don't know if anyone can do timeless work.
But genius quality work? Large, permanent impact on important fields? I think we're in the easiest era of history to do that. There's so much low hanging fruit to do - just cross-reference two important disciplines that haven't talked to each other enough yet, BAM, genius quality work. Not so hard. And I mean, you've got the whole internet at your command if you're having a hard time. You've got summaries of almost everything online and why they're important, can get quick access to almost any book through history, and you can get into contact with almost anyone for free.
Timeless work? I don't know if anyone could do that. Maybe not. Genius work? Oh yeah, certainly, if you try. What are you working on these days?
You left out "eternal quality work", which is generally done in obscurity, leaving no discernible impact on society or any given field of work. Instead, eternal quality labors leave a large, permanent impact on souls, yours and others. This may seem a little off subject, but it took me a while to recognize the value of certain things (family, relationships, integrity) in the face of a capitalistic world that marks success by material gain and status. Anyways, just a crazy Catholic thought!
There’s so much low hanging fruit to do – just cross-reference two important disciplines that haven’t talked to each other enough yet, BAM, genius quality work.
Exactly what I'm trying to do. Another way I could describe it is "bringing back lessons from the past that were forgotten back into use".
I. This post outlines Patrick McKenzie - a brilliant technologist and entrepreneur - how he's done such amazing things and learned so much, and why he's getting drastically underpaid and how it's his own fault. This post will be most valuable for technologists who underestimate themselves and undervalue themselves.
II. Hacker News is the best tech community on the internet, and patio11 - Patrick McKenzie - is the best contributor there. I don't even think that's controversial, I think it would be near universally agreed by the HN crowd that Patrick has made as many or more important contributions as anyone.
If you're from Hacker News, you know Patrick already. But for my readers that don't know him, let me give you a quick overview.
III. Patrick is a multi-faceted genius, and I don't throw the word genius around casually.
Patrick McKenzie is many things - he's an expatriate to Japan, he's a talented coder, tester, metrics/split-testing/analytics user, a great writer, extremely modest and helpful. He can recruit people, evaluate talent, and manage people well. He understands ROI very well and is good at purchasing advertising. He's good at customer service. Outsourcing. Automation. Coding. Ecommerce.
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.