I just returned from two back-to-back college graduations (shout out to my kids!). As expected, the commencement speeches were about pursuing one’s passions and the ability to make the world a better place. But one of the keynoters (who also happened to be the youngest speaker), Lisa Lewin, President of Teacher Education at Pearson, offered an interesting perspective. Before you pursue your passion, she advised, get good at something. Be excellent—before you try to be anything else. Think about this in our media-centric world: The Steve Jobs and David Karps, Melissa Mayers and Mark Zuckerbergs are few and far between. A lot more people are passionate than powerful. Whether it’s making simple apps, complex virtual worlds, toys, books, or entire brands, passion will only get you so far. However, a great skill can travel from project to project, even industry to industry. When I think about most of us in the media (at least those reading this blog), I realize we’ve had years to develop our expertise. And our passions (Mobile games? Virtual worlds?) may not even have existed when we started out. It made me question the value of experience vs. enthusiasm; reality vs. risk; and maturity vs. moxie. Can one exist without the other?
Experience vs. enthusiasm:
Experience yields perspective. Kinda like the forest and the trees. Experience teaches you to see 360 — not just the oak in front of your face. Enthusiasm is a gung-ho feeling makes you want to experiment. Sometimes the experiment pans out. Sometimes not. Score one for experience.
Reality vs. risk:
Creating a product, producing new media, or starting a company is risky even for a seasoned pro, but knowing what you can do, what the market needs, and what the time and costs are, can mitigate the risks and make the challenge achievable. Smart strategic thinking can direct a skill in advantageous ways. Score one for risk.
Maturity vs. moxie:
It’s the age-old clash of the young and brash versus the old and arrogant. No one really wins without the other’s skills. Score one, both sides.
Is there a winner? Pros have had the time to hone their skills and situations to practice them. Plebes come armed with state-of-the-art technical knowledge, generational perspective (most are closer in age to the kids’ audience than we are), and the desire to forge ahead blindly. Thus, those of us in a position to do so, should hire a grad (interns, anyone?). If we want our industry to thrive—even survive—we need to mentor the newbies. Give them the places and spaces to gain experience and perspective. Help them develop their skills and find their passions. In the process, they’ll hopefully channel our expertise with the sheer power of their enthusiasm. And we all win.
Let me know what you’re thinking! firstname.lastname@example.org