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When action meets accident

Monumental art is accidental.

Art isn’t found by creating. Art is found once you get all the junk out. Garbage is endemic to our condition. It’s the first thing we all produce. Our first drafts, our first ideas, our first thoughts are all trash. Picasso made about 50,000 pieces of art. 50,000 final drafts. How much trash do you think he had to get out of his system before he produced something he was ready to share with the world?

Art isn’t found by action. It’s found by accident. We stumble across ideas, happen upon epiphanies, and run into people. Whenever we try and produce our life’s work, we run out of gas. Let’s put this in perspective: when’s the last time you had your best idea when you wanted to? If you have an answer, it’s probably not your best idea.

In fact, humanity’s best ideas form when we combine action with accident. The invention of graphene illustrates my point perfectly. Andre Geim and his friend Konstantin were using Scotch tape to rip thin layers of graphite from pencils — for fun. Their hope wasn’t to invent something great. Their hope was to have fun and take aimless action. By accident, they invented graphene, a material 100,000x thinner than a human hair and 200x stronger than steel. Their accident won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2010.

So, the next time you set out to produce a great work of art, try less. Take action but be open to accidents.

Have fun and don’t work too hard.

I write daily about personal development, productivity, and flow states. To pay the bills, I write marketing & sales copy for B2B tech companies.