You Do Not Have To Be Perfect
This is a submission, intended for the Soaring Twenties Social Club’s Symposium, a collaboration amongst writers of the STSC, for a monthly theme of “Work”.
You Do Not Have To Be Perfect.
Nobody is born to do great things, nobody.
You can be a complete mess, an utter mess.
Below, a freestyle about an imperfect genius.
You can be imperfect and great. 1955 A loner. Angry at times. Bullied. Argumentative with teachers. Hard to work with.
Dropout. Experimented with drugs. Loved pranks and jokes, electronics, literature, and music. Brilliant. Imaginative.
But this all happens later, you’re just a kid at the moment.
Your dad was an exchange student and activist, he spent time in jail.
Your mom was a college student where your dad was a teaching assistant. Things happened. They had to give you up for adoption. Your new parents were going to be “perfect”, college educated and wealthy but they changed their mind.
You took an electronics class. At the same time, you called the CEO of a top company for parts. His number was in a phone book. Just like that, a 20 minute chat, parts needed and a job on the line. You dropped a class to make room for it.
You had a foot in two worlds, electronics and literature.
Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, Melville, Plato, creative writing. Another teacher unlocked the door, this time to words and ideas. You skipped electronics club to do a Jazz show. You were always different and difficult, each time in new ways.
You were playing in all these different worlds, which stayed apart outside of you.
Freshman English at Stanford, making underground films, and still electronics. A friend you made back in High School liked to make things too, you both loved jokes and pranks. Like calling the Pope.
It wasn’t exactly legal but they worked.
You and your friend made and sold funny boxes filled with electronics for free phone calls. It took you both 6 months to figure out how to make them. It mashed together fun things you and your friend did with making money. To make a new thing from 2 worlds.
You always wanted your way.
You kept going to class for another year. You made friends with the class president. You learned how to do a “stare” from him, silent and scary and it worked on people. You crashed in dorm rooms, a Hare Krishna temple had free food. You went home.
1974 You can still be great. Time to begin.
A loner. Angry. Bullied. Argumentative with teachers. Hard to work with. Smart (but selfish). Try drugs. Love pranks, jokes, electronics, literature, and music. A Dropout.
There was a job promising fun.
Your friend made his own board of a game, where a square was bounced back and forth between 2 vertical rectangles you could slide up and down. It wasn’t cardboard, it was filled with electronics, soldered by hand, and then plugged into a television. Most people had to buy the whole thing, your friend did it for fun because he could.
You walked in with your friend’s board, as if it were yours, and said you wouldn’t leave until you got a job. Hired. The boss was an engineer who could sell.
You were “difficult but valuable”, not shy about rubbing your brains in everyone’s faces. You lived in a cabin with a sometime gf. Even the smartest guy in the room doesn’t have all the answers. You were saving up to go to India to get answers.
You still wanted your job to pay for the trip.
You made a deal. You go to Germany to solve a customer problem, getting you part of the way. The Ashram was deserted, the Guru died. You move on to another Guru. You return home with a shaved head 7 months later. More questions.
You returned home wearing traditional clothing.
You try LSD several times, and join a commune started by the class president of the college you dropped out of. You learn how to stare from him, and the apple orchards are lush. You still are seeking answers.
You go back home and live in the shed of your parents’ backyard.
You ask new questions. You and your sometime girlfriend study under a Zen Buddhist monk. You consider joining a monastery in Japan. You leave that idea behind but Zen stays with you.
You go back to work.
You come back to your old job.
You have to build a game circuit board. A reward of $100 for using one less chip in a design. You recruit your friend, whose answer makes $5000. You told him it was $700 and gave him half. You’re the same inside, that’s the trouble, you have a lot to learn.
You and your friend, your partner in free phone calls crime, hang out at a club.
The first meeting is to review something from a group that wants to make information more available for all. Everybody gets to play with a new kind of machine, Altair.
Your answers are coming.
Your best friend goes to the 1st meeting of a club in someone’s garage.
He sees something that grabs his mind. A computer. Companies use bigger, harder to use versions. Your friend, as usual, designs and builds his own, much smaller. Club goes wow. An idea. An answer but for whose question? You think you know for who.
You and your friend help others build copies of the machine that was “wow”.
You suggest selling the design, so others can build their own. Your friend figures out 50 copies could be sold for $40. You both sell your stuff to start a business. You promise 50 to a store. $500 each. It would cost money to make money. You sold your van, your friend sold his prize possession, a calculator to pay for making “wow”.
You traded in a van for bicycles of the mind.
200 copies. A High School class bought the first one. Wood board with a special “chip”, TV, cassette deck, and keyboard. Your partner did the dirty work. Your work was stories. You later recruited a storyteller years later. That’s when the money came.
Take the old, make new. Take new, make like old.
Your focus is double-edged.
It brings you one thing, in exchange for many things. Your sometime gf comes back from India, just like you did. You show her, her parents, the thing you made with your best friend. You’re together again but not the same. Your Zen is your company.
Your neighbors think you odd, they think old.
Your investors think you new, they think next. You want to bridge old with next. To make the new become the next old. You see a kitchen appliance. You want your next (always thinking “Next”) thing to look like it.
It’s time to build the next thing.
No more homemade wood boards. You want something that belongs in homes. Your best friend will build the inside, Your mind is about the outside. You bring it to a fair, where new odd things are shown for sale. The world takes notice.
You made something new, the world wants it.
Your focus is double-edged. One new thing, at the expense of many old things. Except your old self, so far. Your sometime gf has news, a baby. Can your old self make room not just for new things but new people?
One of the keys. Great ideas, Great people. You and your best friend have a hit.
You start a business. You convinced a storyteller to help, who wrote a wish list of 10 clients. You got them all. You’re on your way with your first plan, logo, and advertising. A retiree joins and brings money.
A retiree becomes your partner and employee #3, to help your best friend and you.
It stops being 2 best friends who are incorporated. New money and new minds change everything. Your new employee is so good he makes your business better. You’re still imperfect.
How are things going?
Your first hit was rough and home-made, with wood. You get help to make something every home would want. Sales shoot to the moon, they double every 4 months. Less than 1 million in year 1. More than 100 million by year 4. The change never stops coming.
Your business is doing great. Doing great doesn’t mean feeling great.
You want to make something new. You push for it, and you drive everyone mad. You want something that is all yours. But you do have that, just not where you were looking. Your sometime gf has a baby. But that’s not what you meant. You have work to do to make another new thing that is all you.
Another company had something new, trouble is they grew old.
One of your hires sees the new thing (he joined your garage as #31). He knows math, music, art, & change. You listen. You go with him and other hires, who made you better, to visit an old company with the new change. It’s all there but the old ones at the old company don’t know. Alto.
You see it. The builders there know what they have, they are slow to show.
You curse a lot. You make a deal to sell a piece of your business for 3 days of visits. Your mind is on fire, you want this in your new thing. Less text, more images, less type, more click. You burn.
You cram a decade of new ideas into a year, in your style.
Your style gets you kicked out of your own project in your own business. The new thing is expensive, slow, and weighed down by so many new ideas built on old things. You named it after the baby you said wasn’t yours.
Your best friend is in the hospital. Your new thing, that was all you, does not sell.
You named it after the baby you said wasn’t yours. What do you do? You move on (it’s about moving the new thing,) to next. You take over a project started by another hire and make that yours.
You mash your mind still on fire you moved on to follow the flames forward.
You build a new new thing, in your style, driving everyone mad they do the impossible what could not be done Your ad doesn’t mention even a name. Your board of directors hates it. Everyone loves it.
Everything you love is about art, every crisis you have comes from creating it.
Your new new thing is a hit but greatness does not mean perfection, that is your weakness. You keep pushing but instead of losing a project, you lose your company You resign.
Even after you’re kicked out, you can start over.
You resigned. You forced a vote, the Board said no. After almost 10 crazy years, you were out. You and your best friend built the first 2 things, the first one, almost homemade, made names and the right friends. the second one, as friendly as a kitchen appliance, made the money.
You started again. Thank you, Next.
You made big promises about a new thing. Year 1, you need more capital. Year 3, you held a gala for the new creation. Like all your art: Beautiful. Innovative. Expensive. Early. Year 9, profit at last. Just $1M. 10 long years.
Another artist, known for stories of “long long ago… far away…”, started a business to advance his art, to tell his tales.
A year after you started again, this artist sells a part of his business. Machines that add another “D” to 2D. You pay $10M, and have to add more. Again, 10 long years
It has been 10 years since you started over. No profits. Then change.
You go forward after you stop pushing ahead one way, you move ahead by going around. Software in your machines could run other machines, Stories which added a “D” to “2D”, added heart to art.
You can start over. You can reinvent.
10 YEARS on a second business. After you had to resign from your first company. 10 YEARS on an investment, adding a “D” to “2D”. From an artist who also loved stories and technology.
You move forward after you stop pushing in just one direction.
You move ahead by going around. Your first business kept running but it wasn’t the same either.
It came up with new versions of the same things. It was early with new ideas but it was all done in old ways. It was in trouble, dying a slow death, it licensed away what was special, It tried to be like its competitors. Late.
Your old business was going bankrupt.
Your new businesses were making you broke. The world had old needs but wanted new means. An answer in the middle of that mess. Software in your machines could run other machines, Stories which added a “D” to “2D”, added heart to art.
iDEA! You and your old company save each other.
Your new software, their products. They made for many people, sold too few. You made a few, could not sell to many people. You and your old business change places. Focus on less, to do more.
Make a few, but sell many. Reboot.
And those 10 years investing in adding a “D” to “2D”?
You stop pushing 1 way. You advance by going around. Stories which added a “D” to “2D”, added heart to art. It was always about stories. They made a movie, with the word “STORY” in the title. Every new thing begins as a toy, especially ones that say “story”.
Stories can be worth a fortune. You’re not the same. You changed, inside & outside. (You’re still difficult.)
You’re still you but you added new pieces, and you can do old things in new ways, and you can do new things in old ways. You make a deal with a old rival to save the company, You hire a new designer to save an old product
You don’t just build, you also buy to your advantage. You make deals to make the tools that people who make art need, You don’t just make, you also sell. You open stores of your own, with your attention to detail and art.
You don’t stay the same, you change, that’s what saves you. 2007 In 10 years, the danger is over, the company is bigger.
From long death to new destiny, from reinvention & action. You edit the company’s name to its first name. You move ahead to a new thing. In your usual style you make a big announcement. 30 years after the first hit.
It’s rolling faster and bigger, it’s almost unstoppable.
Some bad news from the doctors.
You insist on your will power. You’ll make it okay you insist. For a while it seems okay.
You make a deal, your way or the highway, just like when you had your parents move, buy a new house, new school, where you made your best friend, and started.
The universe chose the highway.
You have been gone for awhile, you left on an October day.
The business is still running, It’s bigger than some countries. Everywhere they use what you created (some are reading these words on one of your products).
You were never perfect, maybe that’s why you did so many great things.
(February 24, 1955 — October 5, 2011)
What if we stripped away the names and stuck to the story? We all “know” the facts I am here to tell a story to “you”, the reader, as if “you” are also the main character. That’s reason for second person voice.
Does that make it any less compelling than if it were you or me living it?
The music (there’s always music in mind) that was the mood for these words.
Originally published at https://edwardrooster.substack.com on October 11, 2022.