Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Difficulties of Success

I've been contemplating this post; Oddbit's last post finally succeeded in pushing me off the fence.  He makes a fair point about the motivations of game designers - a point that could equally be made about the creators of any project or object.  I don't believe that persons in a company intentionally create junk any more than he does (although, admittedly, Walmart does seem motivated to prove us all wrong).

However, I don't believe in the formula, hard work = quality, any more than I believe that good intentions automatically lead to good results.

Most people have good intentions; and most people are confident about their ability to provide hard work when hard work is needed.  I have been around people all my life who worked brutally hard - and often in environments where extreme stress led to life-lasting injuries.  I have worked around people for whom success was a thing wanted so desperately that they were ready to prostitute themselves; and for whom failure brought on tears, drunkedness and even attempted suicide.  The only thing I can't claim to have seen is the preparation of some to sacrifice their lives for success - but I know many ex-military read this blog, and I know they have some stories to tell.

I have worked blue collar jobs demanding heavy labor; and I've been in film and theatre, where every night a performer dies a little.  I don't think my experiences are very special.  I think every gentle reader here can remember watching human beings destroy themselves to achieve success or even greatness.

And here's the truth of it.  People do fail.  People do work themselves to the bone and people fail awfully.  Mills and mines and restaurants and construction firms fail, often because of a circumstance that couldn't be counted on, or a change in the market, or a stubborn perception that couldn't be left behind.  Films and plays crash and burn and get nasty reviews - and I can tell you from experience that no one in the theatre works at half their effort.  But sometimes a play is just bad - and all the lighting and all the acting and all the long nights spent rehearsing can't change it.

No, no one tries to make a game believing its a bad game.  No one in a company dreams up an initiative with the idea that its a bad initiative.  When your boss sets out to redesign the department or institute a new policy, it is always with the very best intentions.

Only ... people are not inherently good at innovation.  Hard work they can manage.  Good intentions they can manage.  Understanding that there's a problem and it needs to be solved, or seeing a need that has to be filled ... people are spectacular at that.

People, however, on the whole, suck at success.

This cannot stop us, however.  We must innovate.  Innovation is rewarded, and we must be rewarded if we are to better our lives and achieve our dreams.  And so we innovate.  We innovate like mad - which is to say, we apply our hard work to the one aspect of innovation which hard work can manage:  we change what already exists and make it "new."

For most of society, this is a process that most of us will recognize only if we are not personally involved in the task.  It is semantically equivalent to having the authority figure of your choice stepping up to you and handing you a shovel.  "Do you see this pile of dirt here?  We think it would look better if it were three feet to the left.  Would you please spend the next six hours shoveling all of the dirt to the new location we need it to be - and could you please be sure to pick up every last speck of dirt from the place it is now?  Every speck, please - otherwise, this project won't achieve the expectations we all have for its success.  Thank you!"

You work hard.  You pick up every speck of dirt.  The move it pronounced a success.  You feel good that hard work achieved success.  It is what makes the world go around.

It works far better in big business, where it takes decades - even a century or two - of continued purposeless dirt moving to bring down a company.  In small business, it can destroy a company in a couple of weeks.

It happens in the most benign way possible, and it happens all over the world.  This post, for instance; this post was conceived by me as something interesting.  It is designed to promote a new way of looking at things; it is designed to do more than simply spit out another day's words on a blog.  But is it new?  Or have I simply sat down for an hour and moved a pile of dirt three feet over?

When you sit and read a blog post, and it doesn't seem very clever or interesting, it isn't because the blogger didn't work hard to write it.  It isn't because the blogger didn't think it was interesting; but it fails to achieve its purpose because the blogger isn't CAPABLE of achieving its purpose.  The blogger simply doesn't have the stuff it takes to be interesting.  Oddbit's game company simply doesn't have the stuff to make a good game.  It just isn't a good play.

You're not expected to choke down this awful play, or this piece of shit game, or this godawful blog post.  You have the right to hate it.  You have the right to scream at it and rail at it ... because cheering the blogger for moving a pile three feet to the left is just goddamned stupid.

I never know for certain what kind of blog I've written.  I can't count on my own perception of my own success.  No one can.  That's why I ask other people, because they have no stake in my success.  They're emotionally free to hate or despise me.  They're emotionally free to be honest.

I can't be honest about myself.  I'm necessarily biased about myself, and every thought I have is automatically in my favour.

Don't think you're any different.

1 comment:

Lukas said...

Maybe if we keep moving this pile of dirt three feet to the left, eventually it will be a mile over. Too bad since it only moved three feet at a time nobody will notice.