the gap, courage, and cunningham's law

2022-08-11

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~3 min read

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411 words

James Clear writes:

“In the beginning, your skills are raw, your knowledge is sparse, and you lack experience. At best, you will be able to produce work that is “just okay.” And even then, you’ll only manage to reach “just okay” by giving your best effort.

Nobody wants to produce something that is “just okay.” You’ll feel like it’s beneath your standards. You’ll worry about what others think of you. You’ll wonder whether you would be better off taking a different path. But it is impossible to reach that stage unless you are willing to work through your current stage.

And so, one of the main obstacles between who you are and who you could be is courage. The courage to keep trying even if you’re not yet as good as you hope. The courage to keep trying despite your fears of what others may think. The courage to keep trying without knowing how the future will unfold.

Your great work is on the other side of your early work. The only way to be exceptional later on is to have the courage to be “just okay” right now. This is how it is for everyone.”

Clear is describing Ira Glass’s Gap without naming it. He argues that in order to keep going, to push through and close the gap, you need courage. Courage is what allows you to keep going despite your fears.

Clear’s probably right, but I find that overcoming your fear is challenging. An alternative is to reframe it. Instead of being afraid that what you’re putting out into the world isn’t good, relish that fact. Relish that when you put something out you get a gift in return: feedback. Even silence is feedback. I’ve found Cunningham’s Law to be particularly useful in helping to reframe what would otherwise be scary. If you believe that you’re pursuing truth - in whatever form that takes to you - than you’ll get closer by letting others see your current position.

Yet another reason why I believe so strongly of learning in public. It works. Yes, it’s scary. Or, it might be scary. But that’s a matter of perspective. You can either lean on your courage to face down the critics. Or you can turn them from critics into inspiration. Their feedback is fuel for the next go. Their feedback is how you get better. That’s less scary. There’s less need for courage now.


Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!