One thing that's pretty hard to miss if you spend any time in the web/tech world is that many of the superstars/geniuses are on the youngish side, oftentimes still in their 20's.
These guys are inventing groundbreaking products, creating jobs for themselves that have never been in existence in the world before, and living lives filled with freedom, creativity and invention.
I don't think I need to give ya a detailed list of young upstarts and their accomplishments--you know who they are. Just think of the twenty-somethings Ben and Mena Trott (creators Six Apart), David Heinemeier Hansson (creator of Ruby On Rails), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (creators of Google), to name a few.
Seeing the amazing accomplishments of these younguns is enough to make anyone over the age of 21 who has not already created their history making product/site/language feel like an underachiever, but even if you're in your later 20's, 30's, 50's, or 70's don't start panicking yet.
Daniel Pink points out in his article "What Kind Of Genius Are You?"
that this early bloomer / late bloomer genius phenomenon is present in
pretty much every field of work on the planet, whether it be web/tech,
painting, architecture, economics, poetry, science or whatever.
You have your folks who come out with their groundbreaking ideas early (like Ben and Mena, David H H, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, and Picasso) and then others who hit their stride later in life (like Doc Searls, Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Cezanne, and Mark Twain).
Conceptional Innovators vs. Experimental Innovators
The big question is "Why do some geniuses burst out of the gate while others have a less dramatic rise to the top?"
David Galenson has been studying this question for over 30 years, and he says that there are essentially 2 types of geniuses--conceptual innovators and experimental innovators.
Conceptual Innovators make bold, dramatic advances in their fields and are known for doing their breakthrough work when they're young. They are known for their sense of certainty in their work--because they're guided by a big concept, they can envision the end result of their creativity. In fact, their work of art may be finished in their head before they actually pick up the brush to paint. As an example of a conceptual innovator, think about Picasso who invented Cubism while in his 20's.
Experimental Innovators work in fits and starts and are characterized by creating as they are working, which means that they do not have a clear vision of what the finished product/work will look like. As a result of their creative style, they take a more meandering approach to creativity, which explains why they're often late bloomers. They make decisions about which brush stroke to put where as they are painting, rather than before they start. Paul Cézanne is a perfect example of an experimental innovator.
I would say that experimental innovators are the types that start with a blank canvas and just start painting, and conceptual innovators are the types who sketch out what they're painting will look like before they pick up a brush.
What Kind of Innovator Are You?
Without a doubt, if you're a successful entrepreneur your success is dependent on your ability to be creative, so it helps to keep these creative cycles in mind.
I would say that in terms of pure art for sure I am an experimental innovator. Just from looking at how I do my paintings, I definitely don't have a clear idea of how it's going to turn out--I just go with it and make decisions as I'm painting. I'm a bit more "conceptual" when it comes to business--I definitely plan business stuff out based on a clear underlying idea--this makes it easier for me to get where I'm going quickly.
So how do you do your creative work--are you a fast and furious innovator guided by a big idea, or are you more of a "figure it out as I go along" creative type?
The answer that you come up with may help you 1) not feel guilty if you haven't yet created your masterpiece 2) be more patient with yourself and your own creative life cycle. I know it's helped ease my mind a bit!
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