“Move fast and break things.” That was Facebook’s motto for its first decade. It worked, but it came at a price: With decade number two almost over, the company is still busy fixing what it broke in the first.
I’ve been a writer for eight years. I wouldn’t call my experimentation phase one of “breaking things.” Everything that didn’t work out — my very first book, the anti-stress course, my Patreon, and a million other ideas — feels more like something I failed to properly assemble in the first place.
Regardless of how I arrived here, I, too, am ready to recognize: I don’t want to move fast and break things. I want to move slow and make things.
When I start a new project, I try to think not in next month’s revenue but in next year’s joy of still working on it. “Is this something that adds value to others or mainly to me? Who am I really doing it for?” I don’t always succeed, but I try to grapple with these questions properly before jumping in head over heels.
For the amateur, trial and error is the right approach. For the professional, routine is the road to success. One needs to figure out what they want, the other already knows it. Chances are, if you’ve been part of the workforce for half a decade or more, you’re slowly transitioning from the former camp into the latter.
After a certain point, experimentation will provide misery instead of benefit. You’ll feel unsatisfied having your fingers in too many pots. “Thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” in Bilbo’s words.
There’s no telling when exactly you’ll pass that point, but when you do, it’s important to reflect and adjust course. From here on out, focus will define your success and happiness more so than variety. You’ll need to slow down. You’ll need to carefully piece each next milestone together. If you manage to make the transition, however, the rewards will be extraordinary.
Move fast and break things? Or move slow and make things? Only you can know the answer. Think hard, and whatever mess you make in the process, I hope it won’t take a decade to clean up.