Hope and hard work

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In a recent podcast of This American Life, host Ira Glass begins by explaining how little of what they start with ends up on the air. Each week they air three or four stories but they fully produce as many as seven. They consider and partially develop as many as two dozen.

Now and then Glass has to remind us of the rest of the iceberg so we don’t look at the three or four that make it to the air as all of the activity that needs funding. Wow, why does he need such a big staff – they only do a few stories a week?

I still think it’s the stuff we throw out that makes what we do better. I’m writing an application for kicks these days. Yesterday I took most of the work I’d done the day before and replaced it with a dozen lines of code. The app runs better and the code is cleaner. If I were getting paid by the line I would have been nuts to make the changes I made. Fortunately, I’m not getting paid at all.

This morning Brian Marick tweeted a quote by Vaclav Havel on hope which I shortened like this. "Hope is [...] the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

And so This American Life produces great stories that end up not making it to the air because greater stories did. It doesn’t turn out so great for those stories that don’t make it but it turns out great for the show and us listeners.

If we just do the things we know are going to work out, well, that’s not very interesting and is certain to hurt us in the long run.

Sure, we can’t build a business on hope alone, but a business without hope isn’t worth building.

This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.