RokStories, self improvement — February 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Ugly Pancakes


Merlin Mann talks about how people get to do the awesome things that they do (on Back to Work with Dan Benjamin). How is it that Dan Benjamin or Leo Laporte have great podcast networks? How does John Gruber (who Merlin lovingly…and jokingly refers to as “an angry alcoholic”) have an amazingly popular blog that is considered one of the top tier Apple news and opinion outlets? How does Merlin Mann get paid to “tell dick jokes”? (roughly 0:10:20 into the linked episode)

We can all say these guys get to do these things because they have these careers, but thats a circular argument. The reality is, that people get to be good bloggers, podcasters, etc. because at one point they were bad bloggers, podcasters, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, no one is telling you to go out there and be horrible at what you do. But the key is to do something.

Its what Merlin refers to as the “First Pancake Problem“. Anyone who has made pancakes knows that even if you make pancakes all the time, that the first pancake you make in the batch is going to be the worst of the bunch. Its the one where you are messing with it, trying to get the heat of the pan right, the flip, the timing. The second one is always far superior to the first. (this goes double for crepes). But what if you never wanted to make a single bad pancake. If you just stressed out about how you had to understand the heat of the pan, timing, etc. everything before you made a single pancake? Then you would never have pancakes at all. Not the ugly first one (which is still pretty tasty by the way) or the third or fourth ones that are actually quite nice looking.

Its never easy to just dig in, say “fuck it” and make something. But realistically, that’s the only way anything ever gets made. Is there a book you haven’t written because you haven’t really thought out all the details, or  podcast or blog you haven’t started because you haven’t really nailed down your topic to your specific “niche”. What you need is the shitty first draft. Start writing your book, and it will evolve as you write. Start your blog or podcast, and you will eventually fall into your niche.

There are only two requirements for you to make something great:

  1. Find something you REALLY want to do. (when your heart’s not in it, thats when you begin to “procrastinate”)
  2. Make something…ship a product.

Then look at your product (novel, podcast, movie…whatever). See why it didn’t live up to your expectations, and make it better tomorrow.

Rinse and repeat.

Thats how you get to awesome.


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