Don’t Judge “X” Against Its “Y”

A very talented friend of mine, Ben, just became an author. He has always been a writer, and a damn fine one, but today he published his first book (with more on the way) putting him in the category of "people who get things done", there are many people who write but very few who become authors. It's a very exciting time for him but also for the people around him that are rooting for this next step. We are watching someone whom we care about continue his journey into the world beyond the wall and further away from the comforts of his own tribe.

This afternoon, after an engaging conversation with Ben, I started thinking about what will happen when I put my own creations into the world (the electricity around an event like this from someone I know gets all the dream juices* going). How would I react to seeing my book, drawing, guide, or product completed and available to the world? What would I feel after seeing the first "Like", share, or purchase of it? Then I started picturing the things I would need to have in place to capture the data for any type of success. How many likes, purchases, growth or retentions per time frame, what demographic was engaged, and what were the commonalities? 

Then I felt guilty (not least because I haven't actually released anything) and I started to blur the lines between accomplishment and success. I realized that it didn't really matter because it was a hypothetical situation I created for myself and the idea that I would reason through a non-existent problem to assuage self-created guilt was absurd.

After some time later and talking with other people, who are just as happy for our friend as I am, I thought about my fictional problem again. This time I wanted to look at it as a future-state issue and one that I can attempt to define and solve now. I broke it down into little digestible (extremely generalized) points:

  • I really want to create something
  • There is a product created and completed, call it "X"
  • Completing "X" was the goal
  • I want to get "X" to as many people who want "X" (intent for creating "X")
  • People start to enjoy and talk about "X" (I am assuming growth instead of failure, and failure is another post altogether)
  • I capture "Y" amount of market because of "X"
  • How can "X" be changed to accommodate larger growth of "Y"?

I will stop there for now (mostly because my lack of statistics, marketing, and economic skills are probably painfully evident. I say probably because I can't tell) in order to say that I have no issue in growth of a product and a market, in generation of revenue for that product, or in marketing something you believe can add value to the world. The last bullet I wrote may be the right thing to do, artistically and commercially, however, before I personally go further I want to create a boundary for myself. These next bullet points are what I want to keep in mind for my own creations:

  • Does changing "X" undermine what originally made it "X"?
  • Am I using "X" now as a sole means to change "Y" instead of wanting to use "X" for the value it possessed?
  • Is "Y" a bigger focus than "X"? 

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes" then I should re-evaluate what I originally wanted from "X". The problem is not one of success, money, acclaim, or growth but one of sacrifice. Am I sacrificing the value "X" adds for the value of "Y"?

I think the best way to approach this issue is by keeping the mantra: Try always to do what made "X" valuable no matter how many "Y".