[What Ken Langone, founder of The Home Depot, is raging against is] the idea that understanding economics, as opposed to other issues, might involve some kind of special expertise. This is an all too common problem with the wealthy, and maybe especially among self-made men: they think that their personal financial success means that they understand the economic system, and bristle at the notion that macroeconomics may be more than the sum of individual business strategies.
From time to time I see a parallel form of false wisdom in creative circles as well. If someone has a degree of success, whether it's the modest but solid success of finding a niche audience and catering well to it, or the broader success of the wide-scale commercial variety, it's sometimes easy for them to misattribute the reasons for said success. Instead of admitting they got lucky, they think it's all about them.
If someone makes it big because he came up with some modestly clever twist on something, he may end up thinking that twist approach is all you need to mine some vein of cultural gold. And all those who eagerly follow in his wake with their One Weird Trick approach to creativity will get washed under without knowing it might well have been the timeliness of a given ingredient, or network effects, or sheer blind stinking luck.
There is a school of thought about marketing creative work that amounts to the idea that you make your own luck — that it's persistence and sheer stubbornness that have more ultimate value than talent. I respect this idea at the same time I despite it. It's true, but only in the qualified sense that it's also true that "people are selfish" — it's one tiny facet of the whole picture. It also doesn't mean that we should spare no thought as to why things are like that, or how they could be changed, or whether we think we are making things better when in fact we are making them worse.
Keep in mind, this all goes for me as well, too. I don't claim to have a formula, an instruction manual, or a set of dance steps. Hard work pays off, to be sure, but it has to be the right kind of hard work — and it always has to be tempered by the understanding that most everything we do is not going to be driven by direct cause and effect. If we can't accept that one of the prices paid for being creative is to run the overwhelmingly large risk of being completely ignored, we shouldn't be bothering.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind