I am not young enough to know everything.
This is one of my favourite quotes. Not just because it’s a clever joke about young people often believing they know better, but because of the quality that it alludes to – one I believe is really important in being creative.
When we are younger we tend to think we know much more than we actually do. As we grow up we become aware of two things: how much we still don’t know and how lots of the stuff we did know is now constantly changing.
Eventually we reach the same conclusion as Oscar Wilde. This seems like a good thing – a more mature perspective of the true state of things – but we have to be careful not to lose a powerful quality with it.
The quality I’m referring to is the willingness to try.
We come to realise that projects we once thought would take a night actually take weeks. We learn that something always goes wrong. We know that there will be hidden complexities we’re not expecting.
Knowing this isn’t a bad thing, but it can change the attitude we had from our younger days when we’d say things like ‘Screw it, I can build an OS in a weekend!’ and then try and do it. It starts to become easier to talk ourselves out of big ideas, or believe we need to read 3 or 4 books on data structures before we even attempt to solve this complex problem because it has a funky data structure.
The fact is everyone has more to learn, and in the scheme of things we all know nothing. But the last thing you want is for this to discourage you from trying. We learn best by trying, and if you start by looking for complexities and potential problems, trust me you’ll find them, and you’ll end up trying very little.
So let’s not be young enough to know everything, but let’s stay young enough to try anything. Maybe you’ll create some awesome things, maybe you won’t, but the experience of pushing yourself into those unknowns and learning from them is invaluable.