People Don’t Know What They Want

1912-ford-model-t-2-lg

One of the most common feelings a creative person experiences is self-doubt. Even when you’re 95% confident you’re doing the right thing and making something good, there’s still that 5% that quietly questions everything.

Self-doubt is inescapable sometimes.

What I’ve noticed is that a lot of self doubt isn’t caused by our own lack of confidence in what we’re making–it’s caused by our lack of confidence that others will like it.  In the moment, it felt great to bring our ideas to life.  It’s only after we’ve finished creating and return to the “real world” that the feeling of doubt starts to creep in.

When I look back at my music career, I realize that the music I felt the most self-doubt about often ended up being the music that was the most well-received.  Conversely, the music that I had the most confidence about ended up being the least popular in my catalog. I would imagine most artists have had similar experiences. The unpredictability of people makes it tough to have complete confidence in anything. All you can do is follow your vision, execute it as well as you possibly can, and put it out there.  Because you never truly know what people want before you create it.

It may sound pretty grim at first, but there is a silver-lining.  That silver lining is the fact that, most of the time, the people don’t really know what they want either. The people cannot see into the future. They have blindspots, biases, and problems just like you. And the overwhelming majority lack the time and creativity it takes to fix most of their own every day problems.

They didn’t know they wanted Uber until it was created.

And they didn’t know they wanted an iPhone until it was created.

But once these products were brought to market, people flocked to them. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I don’t think anybody truly knew what the reception of these products would be.

I just read a quote from Henry Ford where he articulated this dilemma about as well as I’ve ever heard it. Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”  It’s a good thing he followed his vision and not the masses. While he was revolutionizing the auto industry, the person who listened to the people was breeding faster horses. We all see how that turned out.

The truth is that people don’t know what they want.  And since they don’t, the best thing you can do is follow your vision. They’ll know it when they see it. And when they see it, they’ll support it.

Word is Blog


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