Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Initiative and Ambition

The two types of producers are creators and performers. Creators are driven by a composition-focus. Performers are driven by an execution-focus. I have discussed this at length in part 1 and part 2 of an ongoing essay on the terms. Here, I want to take a side path to discuss another cross section of the success journey.

A person's motivation, or drive, is what moves them from the start to the finish of any journey. The specifics of an individual's drive are as unique as the individual's life, but they fall generally into a focus on either composition or execution as a method for reaching the end results.


There is a myth that creative people don't like to take initiative. In today's execution-focused, performance-based world of work, initiative is seen mostly as an interpersonal quality which sets a leader apart from the rest. In reality, creative people simply have a less visible form of initiative. Because they compose a work as their primary form of productive action, initiative isn't seen by outsiders until the work is completed. And even then, it isn't appreciated on its own merit, but dismissed as "you have to start somewhere."

Contrast this with performance initiative. Something needs doing and a person steps forward courageously and does it. This form of leadership is visible and, therefore, obvious. Its value is not in the hard work of conjuring the form of a solution, but in breaking through fear and actually implementing the solution. An organization which has problems with obvious solutions is already too far beyond its FIT state to be monumentally productive.

We're all only human, so it is natural that some problems would mature to the point of revealing their own solutions. The trick is to compose a system whereby the greatest flaws are addressed before they become problems. In that way, the less important flaws will mature to reveal less fearful solutions. Likewise, wars are prevented by diplomatically addressing acute differences from the start, then solving smaller crises with minimal suppression.

From the smallest family to the largest international organizations, these same rules apply. However, initiative is only the beginning...


The reason we need to understand our drive type is because of the two very different ways that our motivation is connected to our ambitions, goals, or dreams.

Performers seek success (however they define it) directly—either by reaching the goal itself, or by way of a goal that opens the door to success. In other words, a performer might battle to become a leader in his field. Either this is the success he seeks, or merely the means to purchase houses, cars, free-time, etc. He can latch onto a clear vision and pull himself toward his goal despite intervening obstacles.

The diametric opposite, which would entail being pushed toward a goal, is not in the least bit motivational to creators. Of course, neither is being dragged through brambles by a runaway dream. To be driven by a composition-focus is a different sort of animal altogether. It is neither direct, nor patently indirect.

In the words of Green Day, "It's something unpredictable, that in the end is right."

A creator cannot have a clear goal on which to latch, whereby motivating himself through the trials that he will face. The ambition of a creator is the defining of the ambition itself. When the goal is defined, the goal is reached. Ultimately, composition-focus is not about knowing the end in advance, then reaching it with utmost speed and skill. In fact, it isn't even about the end at all, except to say that at the end the creator has captured a thing which is to be his legacy.

"I hope you [have] the time of your life."

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