/ Elliot C Smith / blog

Clean Slate

July 5, 2019

Even the wording is alluring. Clean. New, exciting, free from all the things that were bad last time. I find my self daydreaming about clean slates more than I’d like to admit. Hell, even this blog is me starting over from scratch. I’ve thrown out code project, writing projects, daily schedules. I’ve begun to realise why it happens and why starting fresh can be a lot more costly than it seems.

A clean slate comes calling its when a project moves into the deep execution phase. When all the processes are set up. When it becomes time to do the leg work. Leg work is often repetitive and slow to give rewards. At that point, it is not a game of smarts any more, its a game of endurance. And endurance is hard.

Learning that endurance is the differentiator between good and great takes time. It’s advice that falls into the category of ‘so obvious that it’s easy to ignore’. I know, and you do too, that execution is what turns good ideas into good things. That ideas are worth nothing unrealised. Taking that knowledge and making an often multi-year commitment to stand by that is tough. You have to keep going when it’s hard after everyone you know has gotten bored of you talking about it. You have to keep going when it’s hard and takes a lot more of your energy than it’s giving back. In the end, it comes down to discipline. Making the bet that in the long term it will pay off. On the worst day’s that is hard as hell. That’s when the clean slate comes calling.

It’s easy to forget about the leg work. Once it’s done you’re stronger but the burden feels like a lifetime ago. That’s a part of what makes clean slates so attractive. I see potential and forget the mistakes, the boilerplate and the hard yards. This time I won’t make mistakes. This time will be smooth sailing all the way to the end. The sailing is rarely smooth. You hit old road bumps and find new ones. Sure passing them will make you stronger. But reliving the leg work because it’s familiar is the pathway to mediocrity. To a computer full of half-done projects, a workshop full of half-cut wood and a head full of half-done ideas. Nobody wants to be the expert of half-done work.

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